Nikon D3x, 35mm f/2 MF Nikkor.
Nikon D3x, 35mm f/2 MF Nikkor.
Below the Golden Gate Bridge.
Nikon D3x, 24mm MF Nikkor.
An honest memoir.
In the sciences and technology, success is highly correlated with raw brainpower and a good education. There are thousands of STEM graduates, unknown to the public at large, cleaning up economically, as they should be. That seems largely fair to me. Effort and intellectual acumen are rewarded.
But cross the divide to the world of sales and marketing, where there is no obvious educational correlation with success, and you are in the land of the flim-flam man (and woman). Examples of occupations where reward is unrelated to education, but highly correlated with an ability to lie (‘spin’) and cheat your customer include real estate, stock brokerage, popular broadcasting and car sales. I have yet to understand why an individual’s ability to enter a home into a database to show a prospect the bathroom merits a 6% commission.
And it’s that world which Grace Coddington has been a large part of for 50 years. Coddington is a fine example of the exception that proves the rule in the world of fashion, peopled as it is with mediocre talents and lax scruples which mostly sees the ill educated opportunist succeed to the detriment of true talent.
Long the Creative Director at US Vogue magazine, Coddington is a heart warming reminder that even in this most back-biting of industries – the purveying of clothing and scent – talent does occasionally rise to the top.
In an honest exposition of her life, and without any sense of self-aggrandisement, Coddington relates her life from a start as a beautiful model with a pre-Raphaelite face, to the top of her industry. Her many failed marriages – she definitely needs to avoid the altar – are related with no trace of self-pity as this young woman from a remote Welsh village makes her way from what we now call a ‘supermodel’ to the creative management of the industry’s bible. Along the way she works with the creme de la creme of the world’s greatest photographers many of whom, as I have written time and again here, work in the world of fashion. And what distinguishes photographers from the bunch of talent-deprived hangers-on in this industry is that if you are a quack you will not remain employed for very long.
They are all here, from the early masters like Penn, Beaton and Parkinson, to today’s best, the likes of Testino, Leibovitz and Elgort, via original geniuses like Bailey, Donovan and Bourdin.
There’s no ‘kiss and tell’ here, just a straightforward exposition of Coddington’s experiences with more photographers than most could ever name.
If nothing else, there’s a skilled explanation of why any ambitious person needs to come to the United States, enshrined in an insightful comparison of European and American work ethics. It’s a strong confirmation of the wisdom of my decision to leave England some 35 years ago, making America my home.
Highly recommended, not least for her charming sketches which copiously illustrate this wonderful memoir. When I finished I found I could even forgive her a life long love of cats, those most odious and self-serving of creatures, much as are the mediocrities Coddington has had to suffer during a long and successful career.
The best thriller ever.
In mentioning some essential Blu-Ray DVDs the other day, Hitchcock’s North by Northwest was naturally in the list.
The reasons are simple. From Saul Bass’s opening titles superimposed on the UN building with a reflected First Avenue gradually coming into view to the oh! so suggestive closing shot of the train entering the tunnel, this is the perfect thriller. Bernard Herrmann’s score of yearning beauty complements two equally beautiful leads, Cary Grant and a 25-year old Eve Marie Saint.
But it’s Hitchcock’s love for the vastness and variety of America, perfectly realized in Robert Burks’s cinematography, which are the real reasons to see this outstanding movie. Some examples:
A perfectly poised Eve Marie-Saint in the railway sleeper.
Cary Grant runs from the United Nations building.
Grant at Prairie Stop 41 in the middle of nowhere.
“Are you Mr. Kaplan?”
“Cain’t say I am ‘cos I ain’t.”
One of the most famous images in the cinema.
Grant is chased by the crop dusting plane.
At Chicago’s Union Station the cops try to
find a disguised Grant in a sea of Redcaps.
An image worthy of a latter day Edvard Munch.
Grant now doubting Saint’s motives is torn between
caressing and throttling her.
Saint shoots Grant. Owing to the many takes,
the little boy at the right got tired of the
noise and wisely stuck his fingers in his ears.
Grant climbs Mount Rushmore to avoid the bad guys.
The Blu-Ray version improves markedly on both video and sound compared with the regular DVD; maybe not as much as Lawrence of Arabia does, but enough to make it worth the very modest outlay.
iPhone 5 snap.