Saturday, November 26, 2016

Great Book And Brooklyn Exhibition

During an impromptu 24 hours in New York last month, I enjoyed a brief opportunity to revisit the Brooklyn Museum for the first time since 1996.

The draw? In addition to longstanding curiosity about Georgia O'Keefe's 1949 canvas "Brooklyn Bridge" and other permanent collection works, I was enticed by online promotion of the current exhibition "Who Shot Sports: A Photographic History, 1843 to Present" organized by returning guest curator and author Gail Buckland.

Georgia O'Keeffe,
via Brooklyn Museum Shop
On site I learned that Buckland also created a beautiful new book -- in her words, via one of several email exchanges, "... not a catalogue but a self-contained trade book of the same title" -- featuring the 230 or so images credited to 170 photographers.

Both the exhibition and book include images from several A-listers not necessarily know for their still camera work, such as Andy Warhol, Stanley Kubrick and Leni Riefenstahl.

The museum displays, arranged in four galleries divided by a small exhibition-centric gift shop, are organized across eight themes like the chapters of the 300-page volume published by Knopf (with thanks to the author, a review copy arrived at my door not long after we established contact; thanks also to the museum for a review ticket).

Thomas Pelham Curtis,
via Brooklyn Museum
Looking back, it's certain I did not follow the suggested flow of the exhibition, quickly skipping to the Olympic section. It impressed me several photographs snapped at the first modern Olympiad at Athens in 1896 appear steps from images of Beijing 2008 and London 2012.

Rare images captured by members of the first Team USA, and Buckland's wall-text pointing out early cameras used at the first Games, set up a theme described later in this exhibition section: The Olympics are the place at which the latest photo technology is often introduced.

It was fun to spot Sonja Henie skating on a frozen lake in St. Moritz, stills from Riefenstahl's "Olympia" (specifically, elements of an album the filmmaker presented to Adolf Hitler), the original negative of Bob Beamon's record-breaking long jump, and an action shot captured a millisecond before Greg Louganis' head made contact with a Seoul diving board. Buckland's hand-picked images in this five-ringed section, and across most other sections of the exhibition, include more than 60 Olympians or Games-related participants.
Carl Yarbrough, via Getty Images

Most breathtaking? Carl Yarbrough's mid-crash image of an airborne Hermann Maier competing in Nagano.

Most famous: Neil Leifer's overhead and ringside images of Muhammad Ali (see below).

One of the largest images on view is from London 2012's beach volleyball venue. The photographer, Donald Miralle, lined up center court just beneath a painter at his easel on the far side of the outdoor grandstand.

By chance, in the press room following Rio 2016's beach volleyball competition, I secured a photograph of the painting by that artist, whose name is Spens. For those who look closely at the images below, some may notice the canvas has grey speck, perhaps representing Miralle in the purple field atop the media seating area (in the photograph, Spens is visible above the window at center):
Donald Miralle, via Brooklyn Museum

Spens, photographed by Wolaver

Buckland's assorted selections reminded me of familiar sports images while introducing new material. I spotted fresh-to-my-eyes photos of Michael Jordan, Carl Lewis, Jesse Owens, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Gabby Douglas and Dorothy Hamill.

Annie Leibovitz,
Though a Leibovitz image of an Olympic and NBA star appeared (see left), I was surprised that none of the photographer's 1996 Olympic images made the cut. Readers of this blog may recall my half-day on set with Leibovitz in Colorado Springs detailed in this 2008 post.

My hunch -- that some of these sponsor-commissioned works may no longer be Leibovitz's to contribute -- was sort of affirmed in an email exchange with Buckland.

"I do know and like Annie's Atlanta Olympic photographs," wrote Buckland. "With her, there is always many to choose from but she isn't always ready to let an author pick his or her favorite. Saying that, I always loved this picture of Magic Johnson and so do the people visiting the show. I am very pleased that I had permission (with some difficulty) being allowed to reproduce it and exhibit it."

In the book I appreciated Buckland's inclusion of a "Technology Timeline by Nigel Russell" in which the history of sports photography is summarized by decade or year from the earliest image-capturing methods to digital works captured by drone-mounted lenses. Another handy appendix titled "The Beginnings of Sports Photography" takes readers from the first known sports portrait (featuring a posed tennis player) to high-speed action images as technology and the artistry of camera work advanced.

Tim Clayton, via Brooklyn Museum
The book also includes a bit more detail (building upon the wall text in the exhibition) about special approaches to sports photography, such as early underwater and other aquatic imagery.

"Who Shot Sports" remains on view at the Brooklyn Museum through January 8, and I highly recommend a trip to see the exhibition as well as checking out Buckland's book.

Book cover image provided by Brooklyn Museum. Two in-exhibition images below by Nicholas Wolaver.

Neil Leifer, via
Herb Ritts, via Brooklyn Museum

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Leonard Cohen: That's No Way To Say Goodbye

Whoa -- what a week! My brain is still wrapping itself around election news, so my vote for now is to forgo a political post (notes on the president-elect and his victory coming soon).

At the end of a fun client dinner in Orlando on Thursday evening, I read the sad breaking news of Leonard Cohen -- a.k.a. the "godfather of gloom" and the "poet of pessimism" or "the prince of bummers" and composer of "music to slit your wrists to" (according to CTV's obituary) -- who died on Monday in Los Angeles.

Just last week, "Fresh Air" aired a critical review of the poet/singer/songwriter's latest release "You Want It Darker" and, man, it sounds like a Grammy contender (it is dumbfounding Cohen has all sorts of honors but does not have a single Grammy already).

The segment and dissection of some of Cohen's later life lyrics took me back to my introduction to the Canadian during the late 1990's -- at that time my Uncle Scott requested a CD copy of "The Best of Leonard Cohen" (the 1975 greatest hits compilation) and after one listen I was hooked!

Of course, hearing that CD helped me go back with a new appreciation for Cohen's "The Future" and "Waiting for the Miracle" (both aptly chosen for the soundtrack to "Natural Born Killers") and "Everybody Knows" (remade by Concrete Blonde).

When the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic opening ceremony rolled around and k.d. lang performed the heck out of "Hallelujah" there was not a dry eye in the dome, as noted in my post from just hours after the event (the previous year I also wrote about Cohen's literary work of the day). Here's the live Olympic broadcast:

In general, "favorites" are something to avoid, but one of Cohen's songs that made a great impression was "In My Secret Life," discovered in the music collection of my 2010 Winter Olympic apartment landlord (only a few days after the Opening Ceremony performance).

I smile when I'm angry, I cheat and I lie. I do what I have to do to get by. But I know what is wrong, and I know what is right. And I'd die for the truth In My Secret Life.

The simple guitar and storytelling in Cohen's cover of "The Partisan" also stuck with me.

But the Leonard tune that makes me most misty-eyed is "Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye" -- one of several songs used to describe the better parts of a 13-year long-distance relationship.

Last year, there was an opportunity to experience Leonard Cohen live in concert on his visit to Atlanta. Sadly, it was an event I chose to skip at the last minute, thinking "maybe next time he's in town." The new album release gave me hope that opportunity may come in 2017. Oh, well.

Borrowing from another of his works, "So Long, Marianne" (about which Cohen and his muse shared a remarkable correspondence, according to the Associated Press -- see last few paragraphs of this report), "You left when I told you I was curious. Did I ever say that I was brave? So long, [Leonard]. It's time that we began, to laugh and cry and cry and laugh about it all again."

Photos from various Leonard Cohen fan sites that did not provide attribution to original source material. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

With Her For 24 Years (And Counting)

Photo by Annie Leibovitz

Four years ago, on the approach to election eve, I made time to write about Mitt Romney's Olympic feats and political record that was not right, and too right, for me.

This year, this "rock the ballot" post comes from a first-time early voter, eager to explain more than 24 years of #ImWithHer support for Hillary Clinton.

Somewhere along the way, maybe in the late 1990's, someone (perhaps a character in a film, or a political science professor or friend) suggested folks "should never vote for someone they have not met." This struck me for options are generally very limited for plain folks to shake hands with every candidate, especially at The White House level. 

Good timing and good fortune afforded me not one by three personal interactions with Candidate Clinton, starting on October 30, 1992, when the future first lady Hillary stopped by my alma matter Mankato State University with Minnesota-born former Vice President Walter Mondale. 

Several thousand fellow students and I listened with interest to Mrs. Clinton in a gymnasium.

As inspiring and forward-thinking as she projected to the crowd, my vote went to Ross Perot in what was my first election experience. 

During Hillary's remarks, my friends Susan Sorenson and Heather White joined me in making our way to the stage, where we attempted a film "selfie" decades before pointing a camera at one's self earned that nickname.

If memory serves me, Susan got a high-five from Hillary while I attempted a close-up photo gone bad. 
Flash forward to winter 1993. Working to make good on their healthcare reform promises, both President and Mrs. Clinton made numerous return trips to Minnesota (then a model state for their ideas), and this guy was on the healthcare beat for the MSU Reporter newspaper.

No photos this time. Instead, my Hillary interaction came in the form of chasing her motorcade all over the Twin Cities, eventually earning a handshake after her appearance on KTSP-TV (my first time donning a press pass). She answered my question about healthcare, leaving me happy and impressed with her plans. 

Unfortunately, those plans did not come to pass and we had to wait two decades for healthcare reform. 

Photo by Simon Bruty/Getty Images
I did not have another opportunity to speak to Mrs. Clinton for nearly 20 years, but over time, her actions started to impress me. In 1995, she was graceful as First Lady helping the bereaved at the Oklahoma City bombing memorial service. 

In 1996, her motorcade passed my assigned zone at the Atlanta Olympic Village, and we saw her (on TV) in the neighboring Olympic Aquatic Center cheering on Team USA (sadly, she had more post-bombing duties in Georgia as well). 

Photo by Paul J. Richards
One of the most interesting photos of Hillary was published just a few days before news about Monica Lewinsky started -- the Clintons appeared dancing in a candid beach vacation photo, and the famous "Tammy Wynette" interview of 1992 seemed like ancient history for about a week. 

If folks asked me in 2000 whether the Clintons would remain married after the Gore:Bush election, my response generally was "no."

Simon & Schuster
As soon as the 1998-99 impeachment process played out, the dust settled, and Hillary announced her run for U.S. Senate, my knee-jerk reaction was that's why they're still married ... she is going to run for president someday

Listening to her Grammy-nominated audiobook for "Living History" reinforced these notions. 

Sure enough, she did. We all know how that panned out, with her eventual appointment to Secretary of State. 

I financially supported Mrs. Clinton's run with a modest donation in 2008, only to feel like it jinxed her run!

Which brings me to my most recent interaction with Mrs. Clinton. As noted on this blog post from the eve of Barack Obama's first inauguration, Hillary received honors from The King Center in Atlanta, and during remarks that evening, several speakers seemed to wish for and predict a Clinton For President run in 2016. 

Hearing the likes of the King Family, Ambassador Andrew Young and others praising Clinton sold me again on supporting her, and I have not looked back since. No Bernie for this guy. 

The recent screening of "Michael Moore In Trumpland" only reinforced my perspective: Hillary will make a great 45th president.

Now, some may ask, what about her opponent? I indirectly met Donald Trump as well when a handful of Edelman colleagues invited me to tag along for a Trump real estate event in Atlanta during early 2007. Most of my interaction was with his very smart, friendly and business savvy daughter, Ivanka -- I dig her. Donald was not shaking hands with anyone except potential investors, however, so the closest we got was 10 feet or so, but that was enough for me to surmise what was already my POV from his early days on "The Apprentice."

To wit: He was, and remains, pompous. 

That's obviously putting it lightly given the candidate's ever-growing list of crud

The whole scene with Ivanka, Donald, colleagues and I later appeared in the then-glamorous/now-defunct Peach Magazine (that's me with Ivanka and Donald to the left).

Like the magazine, Trump Atlanta plans vaporized once autumn 2008 rolled around, and I don't think the city saw Mr. Trump again until early this year on an election stopover. 

My views on innumerable issues match closely with Hillary's. I voted for her, and think you should, too.

Indulging in one Clinton political fantasy, imagine in Hillary's victory speech her announcement that after all the years of Bill's shenanigans, as part of her acceptance she's decided to announce her intention to divorce (haha -- no more worry over what title to give Bill in office). 

Photos by Nicholas Wolaver except where noted; topmost image by Annie Leibovitz.

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