Monday, August 31, 2009

Further Proof That My Camera Is Smarter Than I Am

So here's my advice to any other would-be photographers such as myself out there: Put your camera on the ground. The idea came to me in a funny way actually. One morning I was chasing after Lilly when suddenly I wondered what it is she actually sees when she's crawling around. Duh, I thought. Your camera can tell you. I put my camera on the floor, shot some pictures and here is what I got:

Look how huge those toys look! And the electrical outlets are also so enticingly strange and within reach (Opps. They actually aren't in this picture and I erased the other one. They are to the left of the pipes and, trust me, they look oh-so-enticing!) No wonder babies always go for them....Anyway, a couple of days later (Sunday to be exact) we took another trip out to Sakrow (if you are
new to this blog, you can read an earlier post about the history and loveliness of the Heilandskirche in Sakrow here). When we reached the church I thought, "Hey, why not put the camera on the ground again just for fun?" Here is what I got:

I really love the change in perspective. So many pictures are taken at full height, why not mess with it a little? What I found really amazing were how many things I managed to capture without even meaning to.

I basically just put the camera on the ground and pressed the button without thinking, but I somehow managed to capture this couple in a tight embrace, looking off into the distance and walking away with the woman looking in my direction (probably thinking, what is that freakish woman doing with her camera on the ground??) I couldn't have planned it better. Further proof that my camera is, indeed, smarter than I am!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

And the Photograph of the Day is....

As you can see, I've been having photographic adventures again. It's late here in Berlin, but I couldn't resist posting this one of Baby Li right away. A few weeks ago she started doing a "Praise the Lord!" hand motion where she would put both of her hands up in ecstasy and throw her head back with an exhuberant smile. Although she hasn't done it in a couple of days, I thought this photograph captured her apparent baby religious fervor. ;)

More to come, so stay tuned!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Berlin Fashion Police Report: Crime Scene, Zoologischer Garten

Yes, the Berlin Fashion Cop is back and she's cattier than ever! Actually, I never really went anywhere. Taking shots anonymously of people whose style I plan to later diss on my blog has just gotten trickier since my camera has gotten bigger. Luckily, at Berlin Zoologischer Garten (the zoo in the heart of former West Berlin) EVERYONE has a camera and, so I found out yesterday, no one pays any attention whether you're taking shots of monkey babies or bad-idea spandex. Luckily as well, there was many a crime being committed. Here is my police blotter:

1. Two-Toned Hair

So here's the thing: from the age of 15 to probably about 27, whenever I felt like I needed a change in my life I often just went to Walgreen'
s and picked up a bottle of hair dye and then went at it. Dying your hair can be fun, it can be cool and, no, it doesn't necessarily have to look natural. But, like my mother always said, nothing says "stripper" like two-toned hair. Please, ladies, unless you are applying for a job over at Big Al's, spare us the distressed tresses!

Note: the two young girls (admittedly, only one of them has a two-toned 'do) get extra points for actually looking good in short shorts, but have a few marks added to their records for the tan-in-the-can and the silver lame shoulder bag.....

SENTENCE: A two hundred Euro donation to a (classy) hairdresser of their choice.

2. Comfortable, Outdoor Sandals

I realize I might get some flak for this one. "But Officer Schlieffen," some citizens might say, "A lot of these people are probably tourists who do a lot of walking. They need comfortable sandals!" My answer: "Poppycock, my dear friends, poppycock!" There are plenty of comfortable sandals to be worn that DON'T make you look like you are about to embark on a creek-walking expedition. Officer Schlieffen's advice? Nix The North Face! Toss out the Teva! Comfort and style CAN be combined, so go out and make it happen.

SENTENCE: Six months of community service

3. Yes, matching DOES matter!

Ok, I am about to be very, very hard on this girl. Her dress is actually quite cute and nicely accessorized with the metallic belt and bag. I am still, however, pretty p.o.ed about the keds-without-laces incident, so the terrible, 80s revival glasses just didn't get us started off on the right foot.... Bad mood aside, I still have to wonder what inspired her to combine this (sans glasses) nice outfit with pink and purple stripped socks and beat up tennis shoes. I'm not saying she needs to go all dainty or, god forbid, slip on a pair of heels, just wear shoes that actually do SOMETHING for the overall look instead of drawing immediately "Opps. Someone forgot to look in the mirror!" attention like a long run on a pair of pantyhose.

SENTENCE: Life imprisonment without possibi
lity of parole (told you I was going to be hard on her!)

Citizen's Choice Awards

1. The Italians

To be fair, the first woman here would normally be ticketed in the "Dump the Frump" category. That skirt really has to go and the mocassins are also rather questionable. Still, I love the green on her, which is off set nicely by the scarf and besides, she just seemed so darn nice. Her friendly vibe combined with the fact that she was speaking Italian was enough to merit the award.

Normally I don't really go for this rastafarian-cum-hippie-cum-punk style, but I thought this woman (also Italian) really owned the look and still managed to look elegant. Plus, she smiled a lot at my kids (always a wise decision when trying to get on the good side of an officer of the law!)

2. A Whole Lot of Granny Going On

Snow white hair is oh-so-much more stricking than a mere distinguished gray. This old lady matched her outfit to her hair right down to the shoes and purse (how does she keep so much white so pristine?) The kitty cat tote is also a nice touch to her overall granny groove. Three cheers for grandma!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Photograph Pairs: This Verus That

1. Monkey Love -versus- Sibling Rivalry

2. Swimming Seal -versus- Abandoned Wheels

3. Men of Stone -versus- Mother Love

4. Crone of White -versus- Colorful Babes

Which one of each pair do you prefer?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Found Objects: The Beauty In Bones

Until a few years ago, the only person I had ever heard of who did taxidermy was Norman Bates in Psycho and, well, that's probably not the most positive example....Then one day, while wandering down Valencia Street in San Francisco on a trip to see my family, I ran across the shop Paxton Gate. Although there are a variety of oddities displayed in the shop window, Paxton Gate starts harmless enough: books, gardening tools, children's toys. But when you start to go further suddenly you notice other things, things like bones; creatures that used to creep and crawl; stuffed animals wearing clothes, only these stuffed animals were once alive. In the very back are even full animal skeletons, also dressed in clothes like this one, Sister Mary Muskrat.

"Hmm. I guess taxidermy can be quirky and fun," I thought the first time I saw this. Only it didn't really feel like fun. It felt spooky and sort of sacred, like the finger bones of a saint wrapped in faded velvet and enclosed in glass at some Spanish or Italian cathedral. This is, after all, how we will all end up....

While the folks at Paxton Gate may have seen the irreverence in bones, Ariel, who runs the
shop Material Merchant, has seen the beauty in them. When I decided I wanted to do a regular series on my blog on found objects and people's stories about them, I posted something about it on the etsy forums to see if anyone there would be interested. Ariel was the first person who answered. Here is what she wrote: "When I started hiking and exploring the woods around my house I found the giant whitened ribcage of a cow. It set into motion a chain of events that eventually led to my etsy shop." Needless to say, I was intrigued. I contacted her to tell me more. The answer I got was so vivid, I decided to post it in her own words. This is her found object story:

A little over three years ago I was fifteen and adventurous. I had hiked along the golf course with m
y dog Punkin before, feeding horses and watching sand hills cranes when I saw them. Behind my house there was a run-down barbed wire fence beyond which strange sounds often emanated in the early morning hours; it was back there that I found it.

There were gopher holes and tortoise dens, trails from the blackberry bushes, deer prints and cacti. We hit a fence line and hiked on until the sparse trees opened up into a gray, sandy field with brown grass. There, off in the distance, was what looked like a rocky outcrop. As we got closer I saw that it was actually the giant, bleached remains of a cow. The skull was crushed nearby, and most of the larger bones had been carried off by coyotes, but it was so magnificent. In hindsight, it occurred to me it was just some dead farm animal, but it reminded me of those popular depictions of elephant graveyards or what real graveyards should look like. I didn't really want to touch them too much and there were too many of them to carry back easily, so I took off my t-shirt and loaded them in it like a sling. Within a week I was back with my taxidermist friend (to whom I owe much in the way of helping me see the beauty of the dead) and we both carried two more bundles of bones back to my house.

I don't remember what we planned to do with the bones; I just wanted them. They have been there ever since, damaging my neighbor's opinion of our household and reminding me of where we all might end up some day.

Ariel also told me she realizes that there is a stigma around animal products in general, but that people also don't really make any differentiation between, for example, a fox fur from a fur farm or a fox fur from an old hunting cabin. In her shop, she tries to foster a "found" mentality rather than a "demand" one. Thanks Ariel for sharing your truly fascinating story!

Do you have a found object story? Have you ever found anything, no matter how apparently strange or worthless that somehow had meaning to you or that inspired to you create something? If you do, then please tell me about it. :)


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