Category Archives: Designer/Architect In You

Snowmance

The storm that never was. As you may have heard: Winter Snowstorm Juno was a non-event (or non-snowstorm). Of course, the only time we got an official “snow day” to stay home from work, where the subway was closed for an historic overnight period, I happened to be out of town! Whereas most people get rather upset or concerned, me coming from a warm and temperate climate city like Sydney, I happen to find snowstorms extremely exciting!  Aptly, Snowstorm Juno was supposed to hit on Australia Day – January 26th, 2015! However – it didn’t quite eventuate – and so instead people just got overly critical of the public authorities and their (rational) excessive preparations! Seriously though, it’s crazy how living in New York in the winter makes you intensely aware of the impact that extreme weather has on your ability to go about your daily business.

This reminded me of last year’s Snowstorm Pax which took me and much of New York by surprise in early Feb 2014. It was my first experience of an extreme snowstorm – it was tough to get out of your house, let alone commute to work! In my excitement at being unable to get to work, I enthusiastically took to the streets with my camera at 7am and begun taking photos of the beautiful streets…now enshrouded in white. Purified and cleansed by the powdery clean snow.  The grey building and streets illuminated. People running through the silent streets became blurred figures of color standing out against the ice-queen whiteness.

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West 10th St and Waverly Place – the intersection with one of my favorite bookstores in the city (Three Lives) covered in a layer of powdery whiteness.

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More snow covered Christmas and pine trees than you’ll ever need!

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A heavy snowfall…enough to envelope your car!

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A gift from from the Snow Gods

It would have been fine if I hadn’t been supposed to take a flight to Australia for a wedding!! Yes – on the biggest snowstorm of the year last year, I literally ended up crying on phone to the Qantas flight representative (not something I would ever usually do…but in desperation I didn’t quite know what else to do!)…and so I was kindly passed onto a helpful customer service rep for the first time ever! The story has a happy ending – I somehow managed to escape the city via a completely rerouted flight and made the wedding (in case you were worried)! But more importantly…I also managed to take some fun photos of the snow storm; amidst a city quietened in a romantic snowfall. Enjoy these pictures of the West Village in the misty whiteness: a snowmance.

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The entry to my old apartment building romantically covered in sideways snow 

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The cast-iron gates outside my old apartment, wrapped up 

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Running for cover: pink and red masked in white. White marked by red and pink.

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Not going anywhere anytime soon – wheels buried in the snow on Waverly Place, New York City

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Quickly escape into the red brick house!

M xxx

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Perpetual Motion

I sustained a hip stress fracture injury late last year.

Diagnosis: too much motion.

Symptom: pain.

Recovery plan: s-t-o-p.

I was basically overdoing it. I was training for a marathon and I was simply running too much for what my body could handle. A bit like a repetitive strain injury. The immediate need to stop walking, stop running and generally limit the weight-bearing activity I did was rather depressing for someone who loves being active and wandering around like me. It also highlighted how hard it is to accept limitations to our mobility – I was grateful not to have a chronic mobility issue. Especially in a city like New York where the public transport system is NOT geared to the mobility-challenged. Suddenly I became incredibly aware of how much I loved walking around everywhere, how much I missed having a car, how much more I was going to be paying for cabs over the coming months – not a happy thought!

It also made me realize that the big cities we live in are hives of activity. Constantly in flux and transition. Tiring – no, exhausting! A grand tide of movement we cannot control. Overwhelming even. High density living above all creates this effect: bustling shops, packed streets, trafficked avenues, cramped subway carriages, much opportunity for human observation and interaction. Much of the power of cities – the energy they create, the vibe and reputation they develop – comes from their population density and the ability to encourage ideas to flow and interact, to integrate into new ways of thinking, innovations and creativity.

Crazily enough, at work this topic seems to have come up in one of the many chat sessions I observed, one day discussing the percentage likelihood of dying of the flu (a happy thought, right!? I believe in response to the free vaccination option during a cold winter!). This raised (somewhat randomly) the fact that New York does not even arise in the top 100 most densely populated cities – so while it is plenty dense by developed world standards, it doesn’t feel as tightly wound up as it could be! Another talk I went to with a well known architect spoke about population density as an opportunity for effective resource management: indeed, if the population density of Manhattan (sprawl up, not out) applied to the world…all 7 billion population in the world could fit into the State of Colorado – crazy! Check out this cool website for more info: whatismissing.net!

All this is to say – we live in a world of perpetual motion. Of unmitigated change. So why not allow our photos, our art, to sometimes show this? Rather than pretending that the world stops for us to capture a moment, why not embrace the blur? The imperfection, the fleeting stance, the transient moment, where the characters within our story are not still, but in the process of completing some action, some movement. The below are some of my experimental shots taken while meandering the city – some in coffee shops, some hidden behind poles near Central Park trying to carve out space from which to capture shots, some in public parks. They are all imperfect. They were all taken while I was not perfectly still – no tripod – just my shaky hands. They are an authentic touch of real life in action.

More on the need for meditation to come…and thank goodness I am mobile again!

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Green Tea Layer Cake at Lady M, UES

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Undecided – chocolate eclair or mont blanc? Lady M, UES

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Opposites Attract or Matching Moment – Black and Pink, Pink and Black? Lady M, UES

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Uncertainty – who’s doing what? Unsure where to look… Lady M, UES

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Pink shirt on generic subway platform

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Pidgeons waiting for the next carriage patron, Central Park

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The Plaza, The Pole and That Yellow Cab #1

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The Plaza, The Pole and That Yellow Cab #2

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The Plaza, The Pole and That Yellow Cab #3

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Dimlit brunch, UES

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Play me a song Mr Piano Man, Washington Square Park

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Pink jacket stands out in the Bloomingdale’s crowd

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Cycling through, Central Park South 

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Move on – crossover; 5th Avenue

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Quiet amidst the storm

M xx

And the best street art goes to…!

Yesterday marked the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. It was 1989: I was just a small tot at the time. A baby, unaware of the significance of this event in 20th century history.  I was actually most probably sitting in my Mum’s, or my Aunt’s lap, in a small town in Italy, visiting family in the beginning of wintertime and savoring some dessert or drinking some coffee too rich or strong for my young age! Nevertheless, my Mum liked to point out many years later that I had been within closer to proximity to these powerful and moving moments in history than many others, and most definitely than where I was at the time of the recounting. But then, anywhere is closer to Berlin than Australia!

It was many years later, as a 21 year old on my “gap” year traipsing around Europe with an oversized backpack that I got to actually visit the incredible city of Berlin. Filled with history. Overflowing with self-expression. Bubbling over with a liberal dose of grunge and change. It was most definitely an artistic, whimsical, fascinating city – weighed down by the history and calamities of the 21st century, but buoyed by this renewed sense of freedom, liberty, passion, and reformism.

It is well known that Berlin has some of the best art, distractions and street or urban art. Alley ways filled with graffiti, posters and artworks. Walls which become modern graffiti galleries. The East Side Gallery is maybe the most famous though, touristy but historic parts of the Berlin Wall now dedicated as a long quasi-cinematic insight into the German psyche of revolution and change. It is like one extended film negative of upheaval and emotion. It really made me experience a sense of awe at the resilience of the human spirit. Hope. Desire. Freedom. Love. They remain at the centre of the human condition in spite of repression, oppression and gloom. It sounds like a cliche, but Berlin really does inspire. It makes you appreciate and value your own freedoms.

Its street art is just a manifestation of the urban renewal that followed the human spirit’s revival in this city in the 1990s and onwards. Often on dark, grey concrete and in a cold, windy city, the street art can appear sombre and intimidating. But it can also be uplifting and political. Interesting and insightful. At the least, it makes Berlin distinctive among cityscapes with its architecture to boot (will have to cover that another time!).  Here are some of my favorite shots from my trip in 2008 (some of which may have been taken by my sister, so I also want to thank her for having been a wonderful travel companion!!), and I apologize as I did not have the best camera by any means at the time, but my angled shots remain a trademark favorite!

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Takele’s was big when I was there for the graffiti staircases!

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Portrait in pink

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Too much to ask for a kiss?!

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Berlin’s version of Pablo Picasso’s famous masterpiece of the Spanish Civil War, Guernica

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A crack in the wall. The way to freedom.

The tide of desire for human freedom that overtook Berlin and East Germany is a reminder to enjoy and appreciate freedoms in our own countries that were fought for as recently as 25 years ago in a modern, developed country.

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A short history of the wall…

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Delivery of love. Even in chains.

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Haunted

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A long time. But long enough?

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It’s intense. But it’s also a beautiful patchwork artwork of humanity. I love it.

M xx

Textile monochrome

Black and white photography captures the imagination. It distills a picture into shades of grey, into shadows and reflections. I often convert my favorite photos into black and white, to extract the essence and enjoy the underlying contrasts and colors in their most simplified form: shades of lightness and darkness.

I mentioned how much I love scarves in an earlier post, and here I integrate my love of the scarf and textiles, with 5 reasons why I also love monochrome:

1. Black and white is timeless

Our culture sees black and white as speaking of the past. It has connotations of history, of all things vintage, of reaching into a long lost memory. Somehow, black and white now makes a photo look ageless and timeless. That is a great quality.  And if you like history, black and white makes a photo even more beautiful because every moment in the present will someday be part of someone’s story and history.

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Paisley Mountain

2. Contrast heightens impact

My favorite shots are often those with some contrast to highlight or heighten either an emotive response, or an aesthetically satisfying combination. The contrast of light and dark , shadow and brightness, is the ultimate. It makes an impact on the eye and the response to an image.

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Scarf overload

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Tassels in the middle

3. Color matching no longer matters

Not every color looks good together! Not every combination works. But when distilled into light and dark rather than colorful hues, then it no longer matters!

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Overlap

4. Composition is key

Related to matching colors; when we remove the element of color from the equation, the satisfaction we feel when we look at an image also becomes all about the composition. The movement. The placement. I love the below photo of a patterned silk scarf because the placement almost made it look like a wave. The curves and curling motion of the fabric reminded me of a whirlpool. Never mind that the scarf itself was super colorful, with purple, red, white and yellow – the placement and overlapping folds made it fun to look at even in b&w.

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Charybdis, the textile whirlpool

5. Focus on texture

Just as composition becomes more important when a photo is stripped bare into monotone, so too the texture of the photo becomes valuable. Here texture is so visible because we are talking about fabric, textiles. But even with a landscape, or a portrait, the texture of the land or nature, or a face and skin, becomes heightened and a central part of the photo. I love that the creation and construction of the materials in the photo become more evident. Just look at the thin threads that you can see so much more clearly in the righthand scarf below…so beautifully textured!

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Floral interruption

M xx

Scarf Symphony

Can you ever have too many scarves?  Not in my view!  This principle has been one of my guiding lights in life.  And I hear you thinking: what a ridiculous statement!  And maybe it is.  But all I can say is that scarves have been a great asset in my life.  Probably a lot more productive than many others, actually!  I buy them everywhere.  Each scarf in my wardrobe has a story.  Some share a bulk story, like the 10 scarves (or possibly more) I bargained hard for in the final hours of a Nepal trip with a great friend, huddled into a dark corner of a shop in Kathmandu.  I think our “street cred” was slightly damaged though when my friend B pulled out her amazing hot pink Visa credit card at the end of the negotiation (can you imagine!?)!

In any case, scarves are maybe one of the most sumptuous, beautiful of the female accessories. They keep me warm in winter, they add color to my wardrobe, they brighten up my room, they can serve as improvised Halloween costumes (seriously…”hippie” with a headscarf was my improvised costume when I arrived at a Halloween party after work last year, only to find that people actually take  fancy dress / themed parties seriously in the US!).  They can last a lifetime (unless you lose them when they fall out of your bag)!

In my obsessive stage of looking for abstract artworks and macro photography inspiration I literally pulled out some patterned scarves from recent travels, arranged them on my bed and started snapping away.  Funnily enough, the fact that I was doing it at about midnight on a school night, and was trying to keep the light down to avoid waking up my parents in the next room added to the mood lighting and shadow effects.  I highly recommend.

One of my favorites is the deep pink paisley patterned foulard that I picked up second hand at Le Puces markets in the north of Paris.  A silk number.  It never fails to feel stylish on me in the winter months tucked around my neck.

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The below dark blue number was a long delicate scarf with gold / beige detailing that my cousin bought for me, I believe either from India or on one of her many trips to Indian fashion stores that she was so passionate about!

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The above was actually a detail on my favorite vintage dresses from the 1950s that I bought at a wonderful vintage shop, Mint Condition, in Rozelle, Sydney. It made me feel so feminine and looked like a lolly pop in a dress.

The below was a beautiful silk scarf I bought from El Cortes, a big chain department store in Madrid. The colors reminded me of Spain – vibrant, crazy, passionate. I continue to wear it to this day.

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M xx

Cityscape Central

Cities are amazing places. Especially the big ones. High rise buildings towering over us, targeting the heavens and inspirational examples of creative design. I love the mix of old and young in the architecture of American cities like Chicago, Philly and New York. They harbor the historic art deco buildings that heralded the era of the metropolis, and they now evidence 20th century utilitarian sensibilities with skyscrapers and glass reflections abound.

I recently visited Chicago in the summer…and what a beautiful, majestic city! It is obviously famous for its architecture, so that came as no surprise that it was so imposing and grand as a city, with creative geometrical patterns and shapes, tessellation designs. The classic boat tour along the river was a wonderful insight into the city’s proud architectural heritage. Even better though was the quiet meandering of the streets and discovering the old metallic bridges which speak of the industrial age, the art deco and belle epoch signs of theaters and concert halls. Surprising was the fact that there are even grand buildings with pieces of other famous buildings – like the Parthenon, Colosseum, Goethe’s house and more, as if the city’s heritage alone were not enough! The physical environment is just one aspect of what becomes an interesting intertwining of environment and human politics as well – the hubbub that came out of the TRUMP tower was incredible as proud Chicago folk angrily spoke out against the eyesore of the city’s skyline in headlines. The city’s beautiful outdoor concert spaces are also a pleasure to visit, but unbeknownst to the summer tourist the blizzards of Lake Michigan will ice over these warm bright spaces within only a few months!

You’ll see that I particularly love getting shots of buildings at strange or alternative angles, so the building becomes part of the photo’s geometry in itself, slicing the photos into parts. I hope you enjoy some of my shots – just one of viewing cities already filled with diverse perspectives. The black and white filter made me imagine what Chicago must have been like in the 1920s…

Wandering around these cities on travels is a recipe for tripping over or walking into a pole, but I wouldn’t have it any other way! It is a feast for the eyes when you loop upward…and that’s before you turn your head again to witness the bustling streets filled with a cornucopia of people!

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This is me

Daughter of a New York-born father and Italian-born mother that met in a chance encounter on a train from London to Paris on New Year’s Eve, brought up in Sydney, Australia, and now having found my way to New York City…I feel I was destined for a life of travels, creative whimsy and exploration! I am now 27 years old  and having searched out the intense novelty of new experiences and the feelings of awe that come from exposure to diverse cultures and vibrant landscapes, I have added all 7 worldly continents to my life’s storyboard.

I also love art.  Art and all things artistic. Trips to galleries, concerts and museums filled my childhood, my already abundant conversation and my travel itineraries as I searched for creative inspiration, collected way too many brochures and sought out friends with whom I could share my enthusiasm (including for the occasional ‘crafternoon’). Art, like travels and travel advice, I believe are meant to be shared.

The areas around NYU, Washington Square Park and Central Park in my new hometown, New York City, are part of what has inspired a love of shared entertainment and public artistic expression in me. Grand pianos on the sidewalk, saxophone concertos in the park, bookstores overflowing with quirky titles and self-reflective memoirs. How great does it feel to be surrounded by this positive energy? It is impossible not to feel the optimism that comes from participating in the street life of this city.

And so now, I too am deciding to follow my creative passions and to share them with you, because that’s what I love to do!

Art. Photography. Travel.

Inspire. Admire. Wonder.

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Artward. Outward. Upward.

M xx