Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I have not done a movie review in this blog for a long time and I am a little bit rusty... But I since I read the book before seeing the Movie, I thought it might be the perfect opportunity for me to restart.

Most are aware that "The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo" is a bestselling novel before it was adapted for the big screen. Legions of fans are also anxiously awaiting the screen versions of the second and third books in the series -- "The Girl Who Played with Fire" and "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest."  I am a little embarrassed to say that I am one of those fans.  Ever since I finished the first book, I wanted more.  I am now on the third book and I have to admit, a bit hesitant to finish it because it would be the end of a great adventure and the wonderful character of Lisbeth Salander. 

Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander

Stieg Larsson, the Author of the Trilogy, was a controversial journalist and activist in Sweden.  He was a pro-communist political activist who trained female guerillas in Africa early in his life; he was also a photographer for the Communist Worker's League; and he was the editor of extreme left-wing publications like the Swedish "Trotskyist" journal Fjärde internationalen and Swedish Expo Foundation's (established to counteract the growth of the extreme right and the white power-culture in schools and among young people) Expo Magazine.  When he was not doing his day job, he did independent research on right-wing extremism in Sweden, which resulted in his first book Extremhögern (Extreme Right). Larsson was instrumental in documenting and exposing Swedish extreme right and racist organizations.  He was also an influential public debater and lecturer on the subject, reportedly living for years under death threats from his political enemies.  He died in 2004 from a heart attack, but there have been rumours that his death was in some way induced, because of the regular death threats he received as the editor of Expo.  Like all good writers, his characters were sketched from real life and are slightly autobiographic -- Writer/Publisher Blomkvist and Researcher/hacker Salander.

After Larsson died, three unpublished manuscripts of three complete novels (written as a series) were discovered.  The Salander Saga, published posthumously, has sold more than 65 million copies worldwide and have been made into movies (a Swedish version of the trilogy was made before Fincher's).  He wrote the novels for his own pleasure and did not attempt to publish them before he died.  Larsson actually had plans of writing more novels for the series beyond the three currently in print, because three quarters of a fourth novel was found in his a notebook computer, as well as synopses or manuscripts for the fifth and sixth books.  But alas, he died before finishing any of them. 

Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Pre-Oscar Inspirations

Douglas signing his prints for the exhibit

Douglas Kirkland's special new exhibit for the Oscars (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences), "Out of Character" opened today, Feb. 11 at the AMPAS's Grand Lobby Gallery.  One of the most prolific celebrity/movie-set photographers in the history of Hollywood, Douglas was commissioned by the Academy to photograph all 20 of the Best Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress nominees for this year's Oscar race.  Only three sets of the exhibition prints will be produced, with each nominee receiving a signed copy of their individual photos.  The images will also be featured in the Oscar Awards telecast this year.  The larger than life portraits will be on exhibit at the Academy’s headquarters at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills until March 18.  “Out of Character” will be open Tuesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and weekends from noon to 6 p.m. Admission is free.  After the exhibition, one complete set of the large-format portraits will become part of the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library photograph collection.

Douglas in the AMPAS Grand Gallery among his prints

Douglas' work has been a constant inspiration to my own portraiture work.  He is and always will be one of the great ones I look up to in both technique and artistry.  Please come and visit his new Oscar portraits if you can.

Here are some words of wisdom about photography, from some of the artists that inspire me:

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Wynn Bullock's "Color Light Abstractions"

The Exhibit at the Center for Photographic Art in Carmel, California

The first time I came across Wynn Bullock's "Color Light Abstractions," I literally gasped at the simplicity, breath and magnificence of this largely forgotten, ground-breaking body of work.  In 2010, the Bullock Family Estate started a traveling exhibit of the newly scanned high-resolution prints of "Color Light Abstractions" from Wynn's 35mm Kodachrome slide originals.  The transcendental beauty of Wynn's images have finally been printed in the way they were originally photographed in the transparencies.

"As sounds in a musical composition can be used not to express physical objects but ideas, emotions, harmonies, rhythmic orders and most any expression of the human mind and spirit, so light can be used visually to express the mind and spirit." – Wynn Bullock

One of the great American Photographers of the 20th century, Wynn Bullock discovered photography in Paris in the 1920s while pursuing a career in singing.  After discoving the works of Man Ray and Lazlo Moholy-Nagy, he bought his first camera and began taking pictures.  It took more than 10 years before he decided to pursue it seriously.  He graduated from the Art Center College in 1940, where he experimented with alternative processes like solarization and bas relief.  His early experimental work was exhibited in one of the L.A. County Museum’s early solo photographic exhibitions. 

In the early 1960s, Wynn Bullock started experimenting with color and light.  According to him, he was always facinated by light -- "As long as I can remember I have been fascinated by light…light as a force and an entity in its own right. I recall as a boy finding pieces of glass on the California desert. Some pieces were of recently broken bottles. Their colors were familiar and didn’t excite me. Occasionally, however, I found pieces of very old glass with beautiful prismatic colors. I thought only light and time could have created these colors and I was deeply moved." 

Playing and experimenting with pieces glass shards and crystals, he came up with his own process of directly capturing light and color in film -- "I discovered that I could take a piece of crystal or glass – very fine optical glass – and crack it up. A large piece can break into thousands of little pieces and each one of them comes out with just a beautiful fracture. I would put a few little pieces on a contraption of 8 or 10 layers of glass and I’d have a light underneath. And then I would use other lights. As I moved the pieces around against colored materials [e.g., shards of stained glass and colored cellophane], the fractures would begin to show up in different ways.  It was such close-up work. You couldn’t identify the glass, but by being that close and out-of-focus, all kinds of strange and beautiful optical shapes and effects would form in space. To me that’s real, that’s no illusion. I could move one of these little pieces and it would change the whole character of the picture. I used every kind of light – prismatic light, lights under, lights to the side…. I could move the lamp, I could move the light underneath – I could control the form of the optical image. I wouldn’t use them all at the same time, I would just use them creatively.  When making these pictures, I use light not to make objects recognizable, but to create beautiful pictures in color, line, surfaces, texture, forms, and space dimensions through the action of light as it strikes objects."  The "Color Light Abstraction" series was created using this simple technique.