Be Original

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Super Don.Ki Are You?

I heart Don.Ki in Tokyo. 24 hours of virtual insanity. Go for comic relief and to buy whatever you might need at 2 in the morning--balaclavas, a genuine Birkin bag, collagen drinks, french maid outfits or just a plain old beer.

And that's just one corner.

Fuck shelf arrangement--just put the rice next to the hair dye already.

The kawaii thing on the left? Those are eye patches for--wait for it--panda eyes.

That's a face-lifting beauty you know why Jason Voorhees and Hannibal Lecter have it on all the time.

Got a blonde ambition?

Hey, it's 2.30 in the morning. Let's buy a Birkin, just for fun!
No wait, there's a whole shelf of Chanels.

That's not what you think it is. Don't get Grandma any Pop'n Candy.

Stuck In The Cab, Canal St.

WTF is Malaysia Beef Jerky? If anyone has a clue, lemme know.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Happy Birthday, John

On 8 December 1980, Annie Leibovitz took a picture of John Lennon and Yoko Ono lying on the bedroom floor of their apartment. Hours later, John was shot by Mark Chapman just outside the Dakota.

He would have been 70 today.

This is the story of how the picture was taken, in her own words:
"The picture of John Lennon and Yoko Ono lying on the floor together a few hours before he was murdered was ten years in the making. The first picture I took of John was my first important assignment from Rolling Stone, in 1970. Jann Wenner was going to New York to interview him, and I persuaded Jann that I should come too, mostly by explaining that I would be cheaper than anyone else. I flew youth fare and stayed with friends. Yoko said later that she and John were impressed that Jann let someone like me photograph people who were so famous. They were used to the best photographers in the world, and this kid showed up. But John didn’t treat me like a kid. He put me at ease. He was honest and straightforward and cooperative. That session set a precedent for my work with well-known people. John, who was a legendary figure, someone I revered, taught me that I could be myself.
I was carrying my three Nikons, with the 105mm lens on the body with a light meter. At one point, while John was talking to Yoko, I was using the 105 to take a reading and John looked up at me. It was a long look. He seemed to be staring at me, and I clicked the shutter.  That was the picture Jann chose for the cover when we got back to San Francisco. (below)
Ten years later, John and Yoko’s album Double Fantasy had just come out, and Jonathan Cott had done an interview with John for Rolling Stone. I photographed them at their apartment in the Dakota early in December, and then a few days later I came back with something specific in mind. John and Yoko were exchanging a kiss on the cover of the new album. It was a simple kiss in a jaded time. I thought about how people curl up together in bed, and I asked them to pose nude in an embrace. They had never been embarrassed about taking their clothes off. There was frontal nudity on die cover of Two Virgins, the first record they did together. They were artists. John had no problem with my idea, but Yoko said she didn’t want to take her pants off for some reason. So I said, “Oh, leave everything on.”
I made a Polaroid of them lying together and John looked at it and said, “You’ve captured our relationship exactly.” He had just spent live years being what he referred to as a house husband, taking care of their young son, Sean, and the new album was his return to a musical career. He took me aside and said that he knew that the magazine wanted just a picture of him. On the cover but that he wanted Yoko on the cover too. He said it was really important.
The photograph was taken in the late afternoon in a room overlooking Central Park. We were going to get together later to go over the transparencies, but that night, as John was returning home from a recording session, a deranged fan shot him. I heard the news from Jann. John had been taken to Roosevelt Hospital, and I went there and took a few pictures of the crowd that had gathered. Around midnight, a doctor came out. I stood on a chair and photographed him announcing that John was dead. Then I went back to the Dakota and stood with the mourners holding candles.
The picture looks like a last kiss now. Jann decided to publish it on the cover with no type on it except for the Rolling Stone logo. When I went to John and Yoko’s apartment to show Yoko a mock-up, she was lying in bed in a dark room. She said she was pleased with what we had done."

The Dakota

The Dakota was also where Polanski filmed Rosemary's Baby.

Brooklyn, Baby

Takes my breath away, every time.

Walked it to Brooklyn only to get lost in Flatbush :) but I got this great shot.

Wanted a really graphic picture like someone drew it from memory.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Great Day In Harlem

Did a hip hop walking tour of Harlem. While it may sound rather touristy (ignore the opening picture on the website--it just got a revamp and looks horrendously commercial and cringeworthy, not at all what I experienced), the guide books don't show you where Grandmaster Flash performed or the significance of the some of the places that have sinced evolved into other things. I've been to Harlem but this was something else altogether. The best part is that the legends themselves conduct the tour-- JDL from the Cold Crush Bros, even Kool Herc and Kurtis Blow!

For more, read Jeff Chang's stupendous Can't Stop, Won't Stop. For those still going "Huh?", a quick crash course:

Kool Herc is the godfather of Hip Hop. Here's a great vid of him inventing loops:

Any self-respecting hip hopper has to know the words to Kurtis Blow's The Breaks 
like it came from the good book itself.

Rap ensembles? Before Wu Tang, there was Cold Crush Bros:


This schoolyard is hallowed graffitti ground, so famous,
 it's been officially acknowledged as a historical landmark.

The tour wasn't just about hip hop. It was so nice to see junkyards now converted into pocket playgrounds for kids. There is a real sense of community in Harlem.

You'll recognise these gates in New Jack City and American Gangster.
In real life, it's prime real estate with the likes of Ruby Dee and Spike all owning property here.

Ray Charles penned a famous song in one of these apartments. 

Guess which song, guess which apartment.

Midtown, NY

Rush hour on the A train.

The aim was to get a classic shot of Radio City Music Hall complete with yellow cab.
The fact that Vampire Weekend was performing kind of added to the picture.