Friday, January 11, 2013

The Skinny: Martin Munkasci

I had planned to write about Richard Avedon. I will, someday. But today is all about the man who inspired Avedon, Martin Munkasci.
"Woman on boulder with bicycle", 1936

Multiple sources cite him as "the father of fashion photography." I had never heard of him before today. It turns out that a lot of people have never heard of him. In fact, after his death in 1963, his archives were offered to multiple museums. Nobody wanted them.
1940s Harper's Bazaar

He was a Hungarian Jew (actually born in Transylvania) who got his start as a sports photographer in his native country for a newspaper called Az Est. He was an adventurer, often called "Crazy Angle" by his colleagues. Instead of standing behind the fence to photograph the races, he would be on his knees in a puddle on the side of the track. One source claims that he strapped himself to the side of a race car in order to photograph it in motion around the track.
Munkasci, on a car

European motorcyclist, 1920s

Martin moved to Berlin, where photography was booming, and ended up working for several German publications in the late 1920s and early 1930s. He even photographed Hitler (no small feat for an Eastern European Jew in Nazi days). When the atmosphere in Germany started to get a little rough for people of Munkasci's roots, he took an overseas assignment in America for Biz, one of his German magazines. While in New York, he agreed to do a photo shoot for Carmel Snow, budding editor for Harper's Bazaar, and that was the day he made history. Not only was it the first outdoor fashion shoot, it was the first motion fashion shoot. Until then, models were posed and primped on carefully regulated sets in carefully regulated studios. With Carmel Snow, Martin Munkasci shot his model on the beach. He didn't speak English, and his interpreter was having a difficult time of it, but the model, Lucile Brokaw, understood perfectly. He wanted her to run. To move around. To splash. Looking at the photographs, you would never know that the day was actually miserably cold and damp, the model shivering.
Lucile Brokaw, Harper's Bazaar 1933

The shoot was such a success that Carmel Snow offered him a job. The next year, he moved to America to become one of the most groundbreaking photographers of the time. He was one of the first photographers to put nudes in a mainstream magazine (tastefully, of course).
Harper's Bazaar, 1935

 He continued to pioneer the art of motion photography for Harper's Bazaar, Life, and Ladies Home Journal before turning his eye to Hollywood. His work gave us one of the most well-known pictures of Fred Astaire in motion. At his peak in the mid-1930s, his annual salary was $100,000. He lived in a Long Island estate with art from the Masters on his walls.
Fred Astaire; Life, 1936

Katharine Hepburn

In 1939, his luck took a hike. His wife (the second of three) divorced him. He lost a lot of money. Then, his daughter died of cancer. While he was still in mourning, Ladies Home Journal gave him a cross-country series assignment called "How America Lives." The stress of driving from city to city, day after day, caught up with him, and his pictures weren't good anymore. They fired him. He had  a heart attack. Another wife, and another divorce, led him to poverty. He was finally reduced to loitering in the hall outside Harper's Bazaar, hoping for some work. He finally had to pawn all of his camera equipment. His last published photograph was for that magazine, in July of 1962. A year later, he died of a heart attack. The only food in his refrigerator was an open can of spaghetti with a fork sticking out of it.
1936, "Peignoir in Soft Breeze"

New York World's Fair, Harper's Bazaar 1938
People finally came around, and several decades later, interest in his work renewed. Someone discovered a series of undeveloped negatives, and an exhibit of "lost" photos was born. A few books were written, with quotes from photographers that Munkasci inspired, including Henri Cartier-Bresson and Richard Avedon. I think my favorite is Avedon's remembrance of his 11-year old self discovering  Munkasci magazine cover and gluing it to his bedroom ceiling: "His women [strode] parallel to the sea, unconcerned with his camera, freed by his dream of them, leaping straight-kneed across my bed."

The Puddle Jumper

Bathing Beauties

Information obtained from:;

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

On the Radar -- Quilted

Whether it's an actual texture, or just a pattern, quilting is showing up in both fashion and home decor.  The puckered texture has, of course, classic appeal, but when you combine that texture with modern patterns and shapes, the effect is quite different than your normal homespun quilt or matelasse.  Not that there's anything wrong with old quilts -- I'm a sucker for them -- but the graphic appeal of this "new" quilting is really fun.

Not sure who the designer is...from
Trompe l'oeil quilted patterns are out there, too, but, personally, I think they read a little flat.  The true beauty of quilting is that pucker, whether it's just lightly quilted or extra lofty.  The trend in quilting has been going more contemporary lately -- look at the Oh, Fransson! blog for inspiration -- but these new patterns are to die for.  Can I just say...chevron?

Ted Baker Purse
Topshop skirt

Patterns in new quilting don't have to be just geometric, though.  I love this more organic design:

Rachel Comey 2013
Even if it's not soft and squishy quilting, you can still get the same effect.  LOVE this mirror with a quilted mosaic finish.

From Serena and Lily

And as always...go vintage!!  We've got a groovy 1970s maxi skirt in the shop--->

From our Etsy shop

Monday, January 7, 2013

Junk Love Monday: Game Night!

We are addicted to vintage games. We love the dice, the game pieces, the spinners, the boards--pretty much any part of a game that can be put into a bowl, used as jewelry, or propped up in a bookcase. But sometimes, instead of hinting at how wonderful its parts would be as decor, a game just begs to be played.

We both come from game-playing families. My childhood was spent in a rotation of Uno, Monopoly, Clue, Rummy, Life, and Checkers (both traditional and Chinese). I was an occasional player of Careers and Girl Talk (oh, those pimples!), an undefeated beast at the Sweet Valley High board game and Scrabble, and spent many nights with my grandparents learning the subtleties of Oh Heck (or variations on that name) and poker (which I then taught to my friends at school, much to the consternation of a particular administrator who shall remain nameless). My partner in crime grew up on a diet of Phase 10 and Payday, along with the other games listed above (we had very similar childhoods in some respects). And so, we have an enormous collection of board games. When we have time, we like to have a good, old-fashioned Game Night.

I suggest that it was the Blackbird girls, in the kitchen, having Game Night!

Game Night means no television. We clean off the kitchen table, each select a few games from the stack, gather a ridiculous amount of snack foods (often involving cheese) and cold Cheerwine, and play each game once until we've made it through the stack. We eat. We get silly. If we like a game, we keep it. If not, we put it up for sale and hope that it finds a more deserving home. Our most recent Game Night was a mixture of duds and gems, with the real highlight being a 1960s Barbie, Queen of the Prom board game that I found (complete!) at a thrift store. The box has seen better days, but the board is fabulous. After a hard battle, my compatriot earned the title of Prom Queen (I was Prom Princess, which is almost as good!). I demand a rematch. [It just proves that the wrong boyfriend really can keep you down.]

Get the boy, get the dress, get the crown!

We also played a round of Sorry! (another thrift store find). That one wasn't our favorite, but the box is so classic that it's hard to part with. can't keep them all.

Not so fun...

Scavenger Hunt is a board game that involves going to houses to find items on  your list (while avoiding dogs and angry neighbors). We just knew that this game was for us--a board game for junk-loving people. But, with 12 years of college between us, we eventually concluded that the game makes very little sense. It just has too many flaws. I think the rule-writers might have been hungover that day at Milton Bradley. That game--not a keeper.

You get to find things in other people's attics!

The Magnificent Race is a 1975 spin on Around the World in 80 Days. You have to travel by various methods (boat, hot air balloon, etc.) to make it around the world before the villain, Dastardly Dan. Beware! Dastardly Dan is automatically entered in every race, and with an advantage over you. This one was fun, but took a long time to get through. We might try it again when we haven't already been at it for 4 hours....The graphics are fun, though.

You have to beat Dastardly Dan!

Now we just have to find this one, The Great Wall Street Board Game, just because it looks so cool:

I must have this board!