Meb Byrne

Archive for the ‘photography’ Category

Smitten Kitchen

In blog, dessert, food, photography, website, website wednesday on September 19, 2010 at 10:38 pm

Too often, food blogging descends into the excesses of self-gratification and food porn, slobbering over the decadence or high-end appeal of its dishes. One blog that steers mercifully clear of this self-congratulatory style while still maintaining simple beauty and charm, is The Smitten Kitchen.

Besides having the cutest name ever, the Smitten Kitchen is a neat, no-nonsense answer to Baroque bloggery. Each post features a new recipe, with a prose description punctuated with snapshots, showcasing delicate ingredients coming together in each dish. The authors, Deb and Alex Perelman, operate out of New York City, and focus their highly lauded blog on “accessible” food, steering clear of high-end ingredients and fancy equipment.

The site contains a lot of things below its well-photographed surface: a well-organized database of all recipes featured on the site, several conversion tables, and extensive blogrolls. You can browse the site by most recent posts, season, ingredients, occasions, and even by random posts. Browse during your free time, or use this great go-to when you’re scouting for your next new recipe.


Bannerman Castle

In historical, nyc, photography, tour on July 23, 2010 at 10:01 am

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When you step off the MTA train in Beacon, NY, an hour north of Manhattan, you enter another world. A small brick path with well-labeled signs leads you from the train station to the edge of a lake of molten glass, lapping a green-tinted wooden dock peacefully and bordered by an immense sky. After a short wait on the dock with your fellow out-of-town travelers, mostly middle-aged and sweating in their T-shirts, a low, flat-topped boat arrives and everyone piles in. The vessel glids you through the waves, with the sun glinting off the dingy aquamarine depths.

Bannerman’s Island divides the waters of the Hudson River, with sloping, viridian mountains on the surrounding shores. Bannerman Castle , built in the late nineteenth century, is tucked away on the northern shore of the island, mixing darkly with the distant foliage. The castle is all rust-colored brick and greige cement, topped with tall turrets and the phrase BANNERMAN ISLAND ARSENAL embossed on the northern side of the structure. Originally seven stories high, it is now an empty shell and a safety hazard; visitors must keep their distance, and if the wind picks up, must back away even further.

Upon docking, our merry band was met by volunteers dispensing cheery-colored hard hats. Our mud-splattered tour guide was a fast-talking font of information, and jumped into his rambling, repetitive spiel with little preface on the castle’s history or purpose. The hour-long tour was an explosive mashup of US  and world history (some of which was factually questionable), Mr. Bannerman’s life, and fun snippets of information. Our guide randomly displayed period photographs taped to Styrofoam boards. Once, we were treated to a basic zoological history of the cormorant.

I’ll spare you the details of the castle’s past (military surplus warehouse, trading point) and its creator (jack-of-all-trades businessman, novelty purveyor). The castle is in severe disrepair, thanks to explosions and fires over the past century, and, most recently, two bouts of nasty winter weather that took down two thirds of the castle walls. When you become lost in your guide’s exposition of the island (and you will), focus instead on the natural beauty surrounding you. The space is remarkably quiet, but for the tromping of feet on dirt paths and the occasional speedboat. Subsidiary buildings, built in the same style as the castle, dot the rest of the island, along with small gardens and a covered flowering grotto. Try to stay out of the sun; the heat can be oppressive if the tour is in the middle of the day.

The Bannerman Castle Trust hopes one day to restore the island’s structures to their original grandeur. After the poorly planned tour, I was left unconvinced that such a restoration would be worth it without several big changes. The Trust needs a clear mission statement, a lot of organization and a few wealthy backers to supply the millions needed to stabilize the castle. The Trust is planning several innovative events for later this summer, including a Victorian tea party in August, and a dinner for forty guests in September, prepared by the former chef at the Governor’s Mansion. I wish them well; they have much work to do before Bannerman Castle can really shine.


In art, fashion, food, inspiration, photography, treasure trove, website, website wednesday on May 26, 2010 at 8:34 am


Luxirare bills itself as “a weekly webzine dedicated to clothing and cuisine.” This photographic gem is that and so much more.

Luxirare posts blogs infrequently, around once a week. Each post consists almost entirely of photos, and is dedicated to a topic within food or fashion: assembling a boot, say, or making egg nog. Don’t let the mundane titles fool you, though- this is egg nog like you’ve never seen it before. The photographer and blogger behind Luxirare, a young woman named Ji, uses hyper-close zoom lenses, simple compositions and crisp, bright shots to track the progress of each unlikely project.

The result is a creation story told through pictures, beginning with raw, disparate pieces and ending with some jaw-droppingly gorgeous thing, a journey that us peons at our desk jobs can only imagine completing. Ji’s skill and imagination as a sewer and a cook make her photographic results even more special. (When was the last time you saw someone make crayons out of Heath bars?)

Ji occasionally features herself in her fashion photos, a lithe, faceless form with long black hair twirling about a white studio. Generally, though, she is very careful to keep personal details, including any identifiable physical characteristics or personal details, away from the camera, adding to the mystery of the site.

Ji often puts her creations up for sale after she blogs about them, but her livelihood beyond the income Luxirare generates is unrevealed. Whatever her methods are for affording the expense and effort put into her blog, I hope they sustain her creative genius for a very long time.

Avedon Fashion (1944-2000)

In art, exhibit, nyc, photography on September 16, 2009 at 9:01 am

Avedon Fashion, billed as “the most comprehensive exploration to date of (Richard) Avedon’s fashion photography during his long career at Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, The New Yorker, and beyond,” is logically presented and well-described. Low glass cases displaying original magazines and prints of fashion photography demarcate the various decades of Avedon’s work, and large wall plaques explain Avedon’s career and the world which shaped it. The International Center of Photography has devoted almost all of its space to the impressive exhibit, and is also showing a smaller set of fashion plates, which dovetail nicely with the main attraction. The space is clean and bright, save one inexplicable yet dramatic black room with a striking white backlighting the photos, and is spacious enough to accommodate all patrons.

Richard Avedon is at his best when he is in his own world, photographing beautiful women the way he wants to photograph them. His work with the willowy models of the post-war era up through the 1960s is exquisite. Too rich to grow old, too young to know better, the ethereal girls create dramatic lines and artistic curves with their clothes and with their bodies. Their eyes and smiles speak of the hope of tomorrow and the dawning 1950s. Fashion was beautiful then, and Avedon captures and cultivates that beauty extremely well.

Avedon’s later fashion photography is not bad, but it doesn’t thrill, either. Avedon came to maturity as a photographer at a time of renewal and grown in the US. America of the 1970s had changed, and its clothing had changed with it. When fashion stopped being beautiful and became scary or provocative, as we see today in everything from H&M ads to obscure exhibits at the Costume Institute at the Met, it passed Avedon by. His action shots are confusing and do not stand the test of time. His final series of photos from 2000, juxtaposing a model with a skeleton and discussing the heavily-laden symbolism therein, tries too hard for attention.

All is not lost. Avedon’s ability to reach into a seemingly simple shot (girl, dress) and extract passion, movement, and (most importantly) personality is the reason that his career did not remain confined to fashion. His later shots of famous figures and celebrities, not included in this exhibit, show them as they saw themselves and as we see them now; he strips the soul to show the beauty, or the ugliness, within. Similarly, Avedon’s later passion with photographing coal miners and cattle ranchers in the US Midwest shows humans simply, reaching into their history while showing nothing but their faces. Their origins are distinctly shown here in Avedon’s depiction of high fashion and the rebirth of America, when everyone was beautiful and everything was just beginning.

Avedon Fashion is displayed at the ICP until September 20.