Monday, September 30, 2013

Photo Journey: That time I photographed a ghost in Prague

A few years back, whilst completing our Masters degrees in England, my friend Mollie and I took a jaunt through Eastern Europe for Spring Break. We stopped in Berlin, Krakow & Prague. I was taking photos with a wonky Lomo camera - figuring I'd capture Eastern Europe with a camera from Eastern Europe. Upon arriving back in London, and getting my photos back from Snappy Snaps...I spied something utterly creepy in one of my photos - A GHOST!!!!! I convinced myself that my Lomo had truly captured a ghost or ghoul. The ghost photo came just after a series of photos I took at Prague's Old Jewish Cemetery where the tombs are layered upon one another (sometimes up to 12 graves in one plot).  Perhaps this crowded situation caused the souls entombed within to feel somewhat claustrophobic. Maybe one had escaped.  And I had the photographic proof...

Tombstones - Old Jewish Cemetery - Prague
Crumbling tombstones - Old Jewish Cemetery - Prague
The Prague "Ghost"

I called Mollie when I got the photos back. She was also convinced I captured a ghost. I showed my flatmates. They were hard-pressed to explain the image... Did I really capture a ghost? It took months of frightened thoughts before I realized that the photo was one of the hundreds of handmade puppets in the market stalls of Prague. When I was young, we had a "kitchen witch" in our kitchen and seeing a similar witch puppet, I took a quick picture. It was the only puppet photo I took. And even though I finally figured out what I had captured, it still freaks me out. Have you ever taken a mystery photo? Any spooky tales to tell?...

Sunday, September 29, 2013

DIY Delight: A Binoculars Vase

On nearly every jaunt to the flea market, I find an old pair of binoculars or field glasses. And how can I not be enchanted by them? Were they used on the field of battle? Aboard a ship? By children glancing into the great unknown? By a peeping Tom?... Most often the binoculars are a bit banged up, cracked, missing lenses..etc. I've taken to re-purposing these portals to far-away places by adding feathers, flowers, stems, and even here a vintage lion-shaped decanter spout. If you are lucky enough to find a set (like this one) with screw-top eye lenses, they can easily be fitted with your favorite finds. Most are even wide enough to support a small test tube if you'd like to use the binoculars as a bud vase. 


Friday, September 27, 2013

At the Nickelodeon: Dames (1934) choreography by Busby Berkeley

I hope your weekend includes drama and decadence on par with the elaborate and amazing spectacle created by master "cinematerpsichorean" Busby Berkeley in this clip from "Dames". This film just squeaked into release before the restrictive Hollywood code was implemented in July of 1934. And how would the world have ever survived without the bathtub sequence from this dance number???!!!

Monday, September 23, 2013

The look of clandestine love - Georgian eye portrait jewelry

One of the most tortured love stories in this history of the English throne involved George, The Prince of Wales (eventually George IV) and Maria Fitzherbert (a twice widowed Catholic). 

Enchanted by Maria, The Prince of Wales was determined to marry her. Sadly her Catholic faith proved a severe impediment to the star-crossed lovers as neither the king (Mad) George III or the Privy Council would ever consent to such a union. At first Maria spurned his overtures of affection, but following his suicide attempt (he could not live without her!!!) she accepted his doomed marriage proposal. The very next day Maria fled to Europe where she remained for a year in an attempt to distance herself from the smitten Prince and perhaps cool his adoration. However this separation had the opposite effect on the distraught Prince. He wrote to her, begging for her to reconsider - and along with his love letter, he included a token of his amour - a portrait of his eye painted by Richard Cosway. Maria relented and returned to England to marry the Prince in a clandestine ceremony on December 15, 1787.  She later commissioned Mr. Cosway to paint a portrait of her eye that she in turn gifted to her husband. As with all star-crossed love stories, theirs was not destined for a happy ending. Maria was informed by letter in 1794 that her relationship with the Prince was over. The Prince was married shortly thereafter to his first cousin, Duchess of Caroline of Brunswick, and upon their union, his 600,000 pounds worth of debts were paid off. Yet shortly after the Prince and Duchess's baby was born, the Prince drew up a will bequeathing all his "worldly property . . . to my Maria Fitzherbert, my wife, the wife of my heart and soul." Upon his ascension to the throne, George IV turned (at least publicly) against Maria, yet when he was ill he slept with her "Get Well" letter under his pillow. Before his death, he requested that he be buried with Maria's eye portrait around his neck. His wishes were followed and he now sleeps for eternity with Maria's eye gazing upon him... The gifting of eye portraits became common practice amongst the members of the Aristocracy in the decades that followed...

The glorious Wintherthur Museum in Delaware is currently exhibiting "The Look of Love: Eye Miniatures from the Skier Collection" (thru January 5th).