Friday, 24 September 2010

Le Pouf: Claudia Style

Some eye candy for Friday afternoon! Photography magazine Stern Fotografie commissioned Karl Lagerfeld to produce a series of images for their 60th anniversary issue. The result is a whole series of photographs featuring supermodel Claudia Schiffer. As soon as I saw this one of her sporting an eighteenth century pouf hairstyle, I knew I wanted to share it. If like me, you long to try this hairstyle out one day (just once, just to see what it was like), then enjoy!

Image courtesy of

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Sliding Into Memory

Some weeks ago, a small package containing a solitary roll of film found its way from England to a laboratory in Switzerland. Just the other day, a sleek little box came back. Why send a roll of film all the way to Switzerland just to get it processed? Well, because this wasn't just any old roll of ordinary film; this was colour slide film by Kodak, otherwise known as Kodakchrome. In a truly digital age, I know it might seem odd to some that this much trouble and time was gone to in order to get a few images, but believe me when I say, this was worth it. Kodachrome film was finally discontinued last year after spending 74 years on the Kodak product list. In a way, I can see why. The film really is a bit of a dinosaur, especially given the fact that it has to be sent to Kodak directly in order to be processed (due to the complex nature of the film). Other slide films have been developed that give beautiful results without the long waiting time, but perhaps more than that, film as a medium of photography is being used much less.

It's sad, but it doesn't mean that we still can't enjoy the inimitable qualities of film. Lately, I've been experimenting with different types in a way that I never have before. My boyfriend has been more than experimenting for years now, and has been teaching me all about its subtle complexities and nuances, both in colour and black and white. I'm very happy to learn through the view finder of my brother's Nikon film SLR (on a laid-back, long term loan period!) and now that the slides from my first roll of Kodachrome have returned, I'm even happier to see the results. (We managed to buy three rolls a few months back in Boots, but I think it would be virtually impossible to find now).

Steve McCurry, Sharbat Gula, Afghan Girl, at Nasir Bagh refugee camp near Peshawar, Pakistan, 1984.
So what makes Kodachrome such a wonder? In the words of my boyfriend, it has "just right saturation, fine grain and smoothness over the whole dynamic range." The richness of colour renders that view you captured even more impressive. Bursts of colour all but explode from the little slides as you hold them up to the light. Over the months that I've been shooting away onto Kodachrome, I captured mist and snow on the moorlands in Yorkshire, gardens in the last throes of summer; dahlias, box hedges, golden sunlight. There are blue skies, grey skies, even inbetween skies and texture of amazing depth.

Now all that remains is to find a high-resolution scanner that will do these slides justice and to keep on shooting until the rolls are spent. This final dance with Kodachrome will be a lot of fun...

Image shot on Kodakchrome by Steve McCurry, courtesy of the Kodak 1000 Words Tribute.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

A Home For Your Books

Today I wanted to share a few images of bookshelves and home libraries I've been looking at online. The reason? For one, a house move is not on the far-too-distant horizon, and for two, books at home seem to multiply at a rate of knots and I like to stare covetously at pictures of lovely bookshelves. It's nice to wonder and daydream about how you envisage any future space that you might live in, and because books are some of my favourite things, daydreaming about about a home library is of paramount importance. (!)

How about books in the dining room? (this is the current arrangement at home for me, so isn't too out of the ordinary at all). Not only that, but black walls and shelves. By the light of the crystal chandelier, I imagine this space is warm and inviting. Black isn't always an oppressive colour, but maybe this is a little bit much...

...At the other end of the spectrum then, how about a light-filled, white room to house your books? A big table to read upon and a ladder for the hard to reach heights. (Perfect if you're not so very tall, like me). What I like about both the black room and the room above is the fact that the neutral colours on the walls, floors and shelves make the books the colourful focus...

...nobody could say that the books aren't the colourful focus here. Taken one step further, these tottering stacks become works of art in their own right. It's a quirky room, but with the warm exposed bricks and beams, it's welcoming...

...Finally, this is my idea of a perfect home library space. Floor-to-ceiling shelves in a bright but not stark room, crammed with years and years worth of collecting and soft looking chairs to sit in and get lost for a good few hours...

Images courtesy of Elle Decor and Canadian House & Home.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Wandering In Oxford

War Memorial Gardens at Christchurch

Last weekend, my boyfriend and I took a day trip to Oxford. It was a beautiful, warm day and the crowds were out in force around the main shopping areas of the city. Leaving the crush behind, we wandered into the lovely expanse of the War Memorial Gardens that skirt around Christchurch College. We admired the expanse of green space (rugby pitch included) and took sneaky peeks through wrought iron railings into immaculately kept college gardens and up warped and well-worn stone steps. These are the secret spaces off limits to the public (and always more tempting because of it).

Dining Hall at Jesus College

After lunch and more wandering, we found ourselves inside the walls of Jesus College. With just ten minutes before the doors closed for the day (to the public at least), we wondered if we would be able to have a look around. "We're only a small college," the reception porter told us with an almost apologetic smile. "It won't take you very long." And she was right, Jesus is small, but worth seeing nonetheless. The floorboards in the dining hall creaked as we walked around, gazing up at the portraits of Deans and benefactors of years gone by. Pride of place is given to the portrait of Elizabeth I, founder of the college. 

Radcliffe Camera

More happy sauntering in the long shadows of afternoon brought us to Radcliffe Camera, where we stopped to admire it's beauty from all angles. In the afternoon sun, the building stones seemed to glow.  

Final stop of the day was made at Albion Beatnik (made at Polly's suggestion), poring over the crammed shelves before we made our way home. (Thank you, Polly!)  

Photos by André.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Weekend Daydreaming

Whichever way you dress it up, summer is unfortunately winding down. But that's not to say that there isn't the chance for some warm, golden and lingering days ahead. I always see September as a transitional month that begins its change slowly at first before picking up the autumnal pace and chill towards the very end. Warm days, however, are not unusual at the start of the month (and are very welcome). I'm sitting here contemplating the weekend ahead, including spending tomorrow in Oxford. What are you up to? Whatever you do, have a lovely time...

Photo by me.

PS- Any suggestions for good places to eat in Oxford are gratefully received! :)

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

The Habsburg Lip

I know it's a little bit of a strange thing to have been considering at any great length, but I've been thinking about the physical phenomenon of the Habsburg Lip and all it's associations. This has a lot to to with my recent reading (a re-read of Antonia Fraser's Love & Louis XIV: The Women In The Life Of The Sun King). Reading about the dynastic inbreeding of seventeenth century royalty cannot fail to bring the Habsburg Lip to anyone's attention. This wasn't a seventeenth century occurrence: hundreds of years of intermarriage between close relatives brought with it a whole gamut of problems, ranging from high infant mortality to chronic health problems. The Habsburg Lip was simply the most recognisable physical manifestation of an extremely shallow gene-pool.

A Mandibular Prognathism is, quite simply put, the lower jaw extending further than the upper, thus resulting in the appearance of a jutting chin. It was particularly prevalent in the royal House of Habsburg (or House of Austria).

 Velazquez, Infanta Maria Teresa of Spain (later Queen Marie-Therese of France), c.1652
Velazquez's portrait of Queen Marie-Therese of France (wife of King Louis XIV) shows that she had the Habsburg Lip. Such a physical trait was not seen as an unsavoury by product of inbreeding, but rather an honourable indication of royal pedigree and status. 

Juan Carreno de Miranda, King Charles II of Spain, 1685
Following the death of Marie-Therese's mother, Elisabeth of France, her father King Philip of Spain married again, selecting as his bride his fourteen year old niece Mariana of Austria. This ghoulish sounding union produced the much needed male heir, Charles (thus his own mother was also his cousin). As a consequence of such close interbreeding, Charles was born both physically and mentally disabled and with acute medical problems. His Habsburg Lip, coupled with an over-large tongue meant that he could barely speak or chew, and he did not learn to walk until he was eight years old. Although heir to the Spanish throne, Charles' education was only flippantly pursued, and his infirmaties meant that he was indulged to an even higher degree than was usual. At the age of eighteen he married Marie-Louise d'Orleans, niece of Louis XIV. Charles' physical deformaties, illnesses and behavioural eccentricities were common knowledge at the French royal court. The prospect of marriage to Charles caused the devastated Marie-Louise to weep at the knees of Louis XIV, begging to be spared such a fate. Louis did not yield and the pair were married. Unsurprisingly, the couple had no children and Marie-Louise died aged twenty-six.

Jacques-Louis David, Marie Antoinette On The Way To The Guillotine, 1793.
King Charles' difficulties were certainly extreme, but sadly unsurprising given the circumstances. The Habsburg Lip usually took a noticeable but less debilitating form, as seen in Queen Marie-Therese. Perhaps the most famous royal connection for Mandibular Prognathism is Marie-Antoinette. Some artists took great pains to lessen the severe effect of her jutting chin and aquiline nose in her portraits, and Marie Antoinette herself bemoaned the fact that her facial features gave her the appearance of haughtiness, and did not fit at all with eighteenth century ideals of feminine beauty. Unlike her predecessor Marie-Therese, Marie Antoinette viewed her Habsburg Lip not as a source of pride, but as a barrier to how she wished to be seen by the outside world. There are official portraits of the French queen which do show her strong features, but arguably the most accurate reflection is to be found in David's hastily rendered sketch of Marie Antoinette on the way to her execution. She is haggard and aged beyond her years, but the jutting Habsburg jawline is evident. Within the all too closely knitted blood lines of European royalty, it is worth noting that such rampant inbreeding was regarded as normal. After all, how else could political alliances between countries be cemented, and what better method to ensure the purity of a supreme royal bloodline? Sexual relationships between a brother-in-law and sister-in-law, although not related by blood, were seen as incestuous, but to marry uncle to niece and first cousin to first cousin was an entirely acceptable and necessary facet of dynastic ambition.