December 27, 2010

FSA christmas

It's not popular to admit, but I'm not always drawn to documentary photography. There's often a perception that labeling a photograph as "documentary" automatically makes it truthful and without bias, ulterior motive or specific intent. I tend to feel quite the opposite about many "documentary" images - particularly in photography's current age of digital capture and easy accessibility.

I don't feel that way about photographs from the Farm Security Administration project. A few months ago, the marvelous and uber-talented Candice @ Sea of Tea posted some beautiful colour photographs from the FSA project database. This one has really stayed with me - there's something so pure and simple about it.

children asleep on a bed during a square dance

I spent a few minutes searching the collection the other day and found these pictures documenting Christmas scenes. The colour images are beautifully nostalgic - I like to imagine (fantasize) that it was a less commercial and more magical time. The austerity of the black and white images have a certain beauty about them though my heart aches at the thought of those families then and so many today who struggle to provide their children with the most basic of necessities.

December 22, 2010

have yourself a modernist little christmas

Growing up, gingerbread houses always featured prominently in our holiday traditions and lately I've been thinking about resurrecting the tradition for my household. Wouldn't it be great, I thought, to make a modernist version? A brief internet search revealed that many many others have been similarly inspired - with remarkable results.

Check out this phenomenal Eames house version found on Raymond Adams flickr page

And these fantastic submissions to a charity auction sponsored by Vancouver's Creative Room. In their words "... a candy-filled homage to The Case Study House Program organized by Arts and Architecture Magazine from 1945 to 1964. We asked the entrants to do away with ubiquitous veneer of jujubes and smarties in an effort to re-interpret the gingerbread house within a modern context."

Along with a few other random grabs. Stay tuned to this site next year for a Yukon modern version...

December 20, 2010

it's the most wonderful time of the year

With those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings when friends come to call. It's the hap-happiest season of all.

Martin Parr, have I told you lately that I love you?

December 10, 2010

santa school

Whether you like it or not dear Readers (if you've been here before in December, you'll know that I surely do) the holiday mayhem is upon us.

Having trouble getting into the spirit of the season? Here are a few of my favourites from Diane Arbus to help put some stuff in your stocking and jingle in your bells.

Santas at the Santa Claus School, Albion, N.Y. 1964

Xmas tree in a living room in Levittown, LI, 1963

October 24, 2010

stahl house

The tell-tale markings of winter have been upon us for some weeks now but it doesn't get me down because very soon we'll be California-bound again. We're trying to line up as many art and design adventures as can be allowed while still accommodating for pesky nap times. One I'm most looking forward to - in fact I get downright giddy at the thought - is a tour of the one and only Stahl House aka Case Study House #22. Perched high in the Hollywood hills, the home was designed by renowned mid-century architect Pierre Koenig (though reading this article, one wonders whether Buck Stahl himself doesn't deserve at least a co-credit). Even if you haven't heard it referred to as the Stahl House, it's likely you'll know it by that oh so iconic photo (see below) taken by Julius Shulman, the godfather of architectural photography. Case study house #22 is viewed by many as the pinnacle example of mid-century California modernism.

Here's that most famous photo along with one of the master himself at work.

I'm not at all fond of the term "bucket list" but I must say the chance to tour both the grounds and the interior of the Stahl house next month certainly ticks a major must do off my proverbial life list!

August 20, 2010

post cerealism

Today's bees knees award goes to the clever, the witty, the oh-so-magically-delicious Ernie Button. Even his name is cool.

Some images from his cerealism series. (Visit his site to see them all.)

(french toast canyon)

(cheeramids #3)

August 18, 2010

mossy delight

Got an email this week announcing that the long awaited moss bath rug by designer Nguyen La Chanh has finally gone into production. Normally the mere suggestion of fungus in the bathroom would be enough to send this recovering germophobe back into intensive therapy (I prepared it as I bathed) but there's something so comfy and organic and not at all gross about it. Add it to the reno source list.

So far the only place to get one is here.

August 12, 2010

i want to ride my bicycle

People who know me would probably be surprised to hear me express enthusiasm for biking. The truth is I adore bicycles. It's the uber sporty, hard core dude, Lance Armstrong loving, spandex wearing school of cyling that I don't care for which is sadly the norm in my corner of the world.

When I was a teenager I spent a year in Germany as an exchange student. One of the best things about that time was the euro bike I was given to tool around the town. Over the cobblestone streets I rode to school, the market, teetering home from the pub... good times.

There's something so civilized about those sturdy yet stylish euro bikes. I love this one - the dutch city bike from Vancouver's Jorg & Olif.

These days, I've got my heart set on the idea of somehow importing a Christiana bike from Denmark. Almost more plentiful than cars in Copenhagen, you'd see these put to use in any number of ways - to pick up the kids, groceries, de facto delivery vans... even the post office uses these to deliver the mail.

Here's one we spotted at Amsterdam's Foam Gallery on our last visit.

I'm not sure how exactly I think I'd be able to make my commute to town with such a bike (it involves a trip down the Alaska Highway which is bigger and busier than you might think), but if anyone out there has a lead on a Canadian or North American importer, drop me a line.

August 8, 2010

so hip it hurts

Our brief northern heatwave has passed only to be replaced by the return of the August drearies. ho hum.

There is a bright spot shining through the drizzle with this morning's discovery of Unhappy Hipsters. Reminds me a little of my favourite Martin Parr series, Bored Couples.

Stare all he might, he couldn’t wrap his head around how to panel the interior of the fridge with plywood.

Though the hike to town was back-breaking, they both agreed that installing a road would have ruined the juxtaposition of the built and natural environments.

Add this to the rotation along with Regretsy, Awkward Family Photos and Cake Wrecks.

August 5, 2010

everything i ever needed to know about photography i learned from duane michals

Like Magritte, Duane Michals' work tweaks something in my brain. I've tried before to explain the response his work elicits in me. The best I can manage is that somehow when I look at his images it's as though discovery and primal recognition converge and I am immediately taken to my happiest of happy places.

(from "a visit with magritte"

Whenever I'm feeling adrift, I pull out my beloved copy of Sequences. It calms and anchors me again.

And when I'm seeking creative guidance, I re-read this incredible 1969 transcript of a discussion between Michals and a group of students at New York's MOMA. Some of my favourite excerpts below.

On spontaneity
"Why does it have to be spontaneous? Ah, you see you're operating under the point of view we've been functioning under the last 20 years and that's the Robert Frank, [Henri] Cartier-Bresson point of view. The reality or the truth of the street. "Something really is valid only when you catch the instant that the thing happens in front of your eyes," you know. You get locked under a question of "reality." That's one kind of reality, there, but you know reality is really a fantastic problem. I mean you really get into this with photography. My pictures are as valid, or may be even more valid, in their contrivedness; they have their own reality. It's two different points of view. But all I'm saying is that people should start considering this point of view as being as valid as the "truth of the street.''

On pretty pictures
"...the fact that you were there to respond to something—that's not enough. Also, when you look at it, it all depends on what you want out of your photographs. If you look at a photograph and you think, "My isn't that a beautiful photograph," and you go on to the next one. Or "Isn't that nice light?" so what! I mean what does it do to you or what's the real value in the long run? What do you walk away from it with? I mean I'd much rather show you a photograph that makes demands on you, that you might become involved in on your own terms or perplexed by. Or I'd much rather suggest something that explains something. I think that, so you see a picturesque picture of a lady standing on a corner with a grumpy face wrapped up in an American flag . . . well that's an interesting photograph; but two minutes later it's not an interesting photograph. Ah, where are all those private head images that are all sitting here at the table? You know, everybody's waiting for something outside to happen for them to record. You know, what's going on inside of you? Why are you ignoring yourself?"

On cameras
"I think photographers should use what a camera can do, like a painter uses what the paint can do. I mean cameras can blur, you can double expose, you can do all sorts of things technically with the camera. People don't use that on purpose, you know what I mean? And I think you should use all the things that people consider as mistakes or the negative aspects of the camera. I think you should keep yourself open and work with blur—you can do many beautiful things. Outside Ernest Haas, that sort of thing, but using it, not accidentally the way he did. Using it for your own means, to suggest a vague impression of an event. So I think people should use the camera as a machine. I hate cameras myself—I don't really like cameras. I'm not a camera buff; I'm not interested in cameras. I always feel like a writer "hung up" on his typewriter. The camera is just . . . like you should know your camera thoroughly and then you should forget about it completely. And it should not be a thing between you and the person or what you're doing."
There you have it - THE definitive master class if you ask me.

July 29, 2010

bob's yer uncle

Ahh she does it again.... "Ode to Bob Ross" by the one, the only, the I-wish-she-lived-next-door-to-me-and-we-were-bff's elloh aka ellen lohse. Visit her here.

Limited edition of 100 - did I mention my birthday's coming up?

July 25, 2010

eames house blocks

There are a lot of toys perched on high around the house and in my studio, the majority of which are off limits to little people. Cruel, I know. If only there were a happy marriage between horrendous kid-approved stuff and my precious vintage treasures...

Enter the newly released Eames House Blocks by the marvelous folks at House Industries. With this set's cool design and solid construction, we may just have stumbled upon a thing of beauty that's actually built to survive drooling and chewing. Happy days are here again.

While the price ($175) isn't exactly cheap, I think I may just make an executive decision and bypass the purchasing committee on this one. After all, as Charles himself said, "toys are not really as innocent as they look. Toys and games are the preludes to serious ideas."

July 11, 2010

kool in de skool

One of our visits to Holland was in August during the height of back to school season. Signs everywhere pronounced "kool in de skool" or something along those lines. It's a phrase oft repeated in our household ever since.

It's not a subject I care to delve too deeply into in this particular forum (slippery slope to the world of the mommyblog, yikes!), but since we've entered that certain phase of life, I've been horrified at the general hideousity of most things kid. It's been a bit of a learning curve finding the balance between sucking it up and graciously accepting pre-loved yet oh so aesthetically-challenged baby gear with shelling out ridiculous amounts of money for short-term items that will not cause our eyes and ears to bleed. Aside from an incurable addiction to danish baby clothes, I think I've been showing remarkable restraint - so far.

Designed for Kids is a neat sourcebook compiling some of the best of the best in the way of design for smafolk. A number of the featured items are sure to become classics - like one of my favourites, the Sleepi crib by Stokke. I had my heart set on one initially but in an uncharacteristic fit of fiscal responsibility was convinced to go with a lovely wooden hand-me-down instead. Fortunately, a girlfriend's mom gifted one to her so I will be able to drool over it in person whenever we visit. Perhaps pop the wee one in for a photo op - who'll be the wiser?

June 26, 2010

personal values

Rene Magritte is one of my favourite artists. As a young teenager, his work made me sit up and take notice of art as something that had the potential to be intelligent, political and witty - not just pretty pictures people stick up on their walls. I've seen many of his pieces in museums over the years and was thrilled to find this painting on exhibit at the San Francisco MOMA when we visited in April. Something about his work just tickles my brain.

Les valeurs personnelles, 1952

June 10, 2010

living room

Plans are finally afoot for a rather substantial addition to our house. Come next spring, we'll be adding a whole new structure pretty much replicating the main living space in the marvelous Eames house, aka Case Study House number 8. Don't quite know how we'll pull off any kind of R-value out of all those windows, but that's just pesky details.

April 10, 2010

san francisco

Heading back to one of my favourite cities.

Love this hand printed map from delaflamant. Limited edition of 50.

March 16, 2010

bow-wow haus

Phillipe Plein dog bed

Design Public's Pet Pod

Eddie's Room by Pet Project

An etsy find

February 6, 2010

something new under the sun

I've been cooped up in the 'Horse for so long now that new discoveries have been few and far between - until this happy day. I'm in love with David Graham Baker.

Thanks Paul for the find.

January 16, 2010

cha cha cha changes

it's a new year. it's a new world.

(image copyright the marvelous Sloane Tanen)