dimanche 23 janvier 2011

It might be lonelier without the loneliness

In the corner of a bar in Kreuzberg, a woman with white blonde hair sits back in her chair, the faintest of smiles on her lips as her friend takes a picture. In spite of the dim lights, she is wearing tinted glasses in thick plastic white frames to match her pullover. The waiter has just set a large glass of some exotic cocktail on the table whose blue colour contrasts perfectly with the surroundings and the roughness of the bare walls. Next to her, a young gay couple whisper sweet nothings to each other, oblivious of her presence. Did they strike up a conversation that evening? The ashtray is still empty and the drinks haven't yet been touched so perhaps the night is young. This could be New York in the 70s with its party scene and wild nights but instead it's the O-Bar or Oranienbar where gender boundries blur and new encounters are made. In another city, Bea might look out of place but here, nobody even bats an eyelid. I like to imagine her as a faded disco queen who once hung out with Warhol at studio 54. The Berlin of the 90s is a refuge, a city finding its identity after being isolated for so long and both she and the photographer, Nan Goldin feel at home.

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An evening out at Hackesche Höfe cinema to see Tamara Drewe and then drinks

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A photograph is all that remains of a moment, something to remind us how we were feeling that day or how the light was. Nan Goldin says she started taking pictures so that she never had to lose anybody again but today the pictures only remind her of what she's lost after many of her friends died of AIDS or drug overdoses. I remember going downstairs and coming in on part of a conversation between my mother and my aunt in the USA where my mother had to tell her that my grandmother had died. I wasn't supposed to find out that way and ran to the living room where we kept the boxes of slides. In the slideviewer, I looked at a recent one taken of my grandmother and wondered how a person can be so alive and then gone, that it seemed cruel that all that remained of someone's face was set in a small plastic frame or printed on a piece of paper.

Yet I still love taking photos because it makes me notice the little things or go out and explore, because I can always get better and ultimately, it's the only thing I have to remember the reflection on the water or the shade of red of a person's coat.

January has never been my favourite month, Christmas makes it easier to accept the cold wind and darkness at 4pm but I'm missing the lights and fun of the holidays. Perhaps the best thing is just to accept that sometimes I get the blues or the "mean reds" as Holly Golightly would say. I'd like to find my own equivalent of Tiffany's, a place that always made you feel safe. I guess the closest I can come to that is with the books and films that fill my apartment. My brother gave me Edmund De Waal's The Hare With Amber Eyes for Christmas, a book I'd been curious to read for a long time. It first caught my eye while flicking through a copy of the New York Review Of Books somebody had left in the teachers' room. At first I thought it was simply about one of the real life models for Proust's Charles Swann, a collector called Charles Ephrussi but actually, it's much more that that, a memoir of the objects the author inherited called netsuke and their journey back through his family history via Paris, Vienna, Tunbridge Wells and Japan. It's a truly magical book filled with images from the Belle Epoque, the craze for Japonisme, Manet sending a painting of a single asparagus, the facades of the Ringstraße in Vienna with the Emporer driving past in his carriage and a black gloved hand waving to the children, the terror of the Nazis breaking down the door and a journey to Japan in ruins. It's a truly wonderful book, one which I'll be sad to finish. When I feel too tired for the netsuke, I pick up Sam Wasson's Fifth Avenue, 5am about Audrey Hepburn and the making of Breakfast At Tiffany's. It's the kind of book you could wolf down in one sitting but I try to take my time, imagining that period when New York was dazzling and full of glamour, dreaming of little black dresses and cocktails with Truman Capote.

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In Eberswalder Straße last week

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The caption reads: who's going to pay for that?

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Another cure for the blues is spending time in my kitchen, enjoying the first rays of sun and the pink and orange splendour of the sunsets. I feel a need for pizza on Friday with a film noir and a pudding on Sunday afternoon. When I was little, my father used to make his own marmelade and large pot bubbled away on the stove before sifting away the skin and pips and hearing the whizz of the blender. Once he even forgot to put the lid on , covering everything with orange peel but never mind. Anything with marmelade makes me feel nostalgic and when I saw this pudding recipe with it in Nigella Lawson's new book Kitchen, I knew I had to make it soon. It's amazingly easy and everywhere smells of oranges and butter which is comforting on a day when thick grey clouds haven't let through a single ray of sunshine. I'm going to curl up on the sofa to watch I Capture the Castle and hope you have a good Sunday.

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My Paddington, another Christmas present

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New cookbooks for 2011

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Nigella Lawsons Marmelade Pudding Cake - you can find the recipe here.

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24 commentaires:

  1. Thanks for showing us your world! I always enjoy looking at your photos and through your eyes...

    Nice books, earrings and"terrific pudding (I love Nigella)!



  2. More soon, Vanessa. I'm moving slowly on Sunday morning but I wanted to say I loved reading this...& seeing primroses tucked in amongst the photographs. (I love Nan Goldin...those pix definitely remind me of NYC in the 70s - I was pretty young but in latter part of decade I did visit on my own.) xoSusan

  3. I am working on a project all about those Proustian characters and their hyper-aesthete world... must read that book!

    What a beautiful post, Vanessa. January is indeed one of those months that need extra light pumped into them to keep one from the 'mean reds'. Looking at your photos and those wonderful reveries of yours surely does the trick for me!

  4. What exquisite photos. I love the blonde women in her white glasses. Everything in the photo is so right and sets her off perfectly. They should have this on their walls in the cafe. Beautiful post!

  5. The mean reds, huh? Me too. Trying to keep my chin up but the endless swathes of white seem to me, barren and uninviting though I know for many, it's very beautiful. Hope the pud and film help x

  6. @Rosa - Oh thanks! I got the amber earrings plus a necklace too and that seemed to fit well to the book. That pudding has to be one of the best and I'll defintely be making it again soon.
    @Susan - I hope you stayed cosy this weekend with ginger tea and some Downton Abbey. Actually, I've never seen it but have to try an episode soon. Cool that you were in NYC in the 70s - it must have been an amazing time.
    @Deana - What an interesting project! The book is defintely for you and it's so beautifully written that it's hard to put it down. Your posts have a good effect on me too when I'm feeling down so I look foward to more soon.
    @Lisa - Hi Lisa, long time no see. Hope you're well and working a lot. The whole exhibition is great but this photo has to be one of my favourites and like you say, the blue just sets everything else off so beautifully.
    @Sasa - Oh, I feel for you, especially after returning from a hot summer. I love snow but not for months when it turns into slush and black ice like it does here. Stay cosy and warm inside!

  7. I know what you mean about the winter blues. I too find such comfort while standing in my kitchen. Sometimes, I find myself just standing in the tiny yellow room, hands on the counter, thinking of what to create next. The pudding cake sounds perfect. I love your Paddington bear, and am happy to see you received 'Plenty' for Christmas. It was on my list as well. Enjoy your Sunday!

  8. Beautiful post, thank you! I've been eying "5th Ave. 5am" in Victoria book stores for weeks now, but I'm not letting myself buy it until I make a progress on my other stacks and start research on my dissertation. Let me how you are liking it! It looks like a great book, and I'm interested in any theories on the modern woman.

    You got me thinking about places that make us feel good, like Tiffany's was for Holli. There are places like that in most cities, and my goal is to find enough of them for a blog post.

    One is my favorite cafe and bookstore in Prague, called Globe. If you're there next, check it out. http://www.globebookstore.cz/

    I love your pictures, as always! Thank you for bringing Berlin to me, where-ever I am!

  9. What lovely photos you have. My favorite would be the winter view out side the window pane, looks so dramatic. Also the pudding looks yummy-licious.

  10. Je crois que tu as trouve la bonne facon de lutter contre le "mean reds". Confort, lecture, gourmandise. Hummm, j'irais bien me recroqueviller sur le canape moi, ce matin.

  11. @Nicolette - Oh I have the same feeling in my kitchen, or am simply content to stare out of the window at the rooftops. Paddington makes me smile and Plenty is a really wonderful book so I hope you also got a copy.
    @Kat - I read about this book a few weeks ago but when I saw it on your Good Reads list, I knew I had to have it so thanks for inspiring me :-) I finished it last night and so enjoyed reading it and will write you more in an email about my thoughts. I've been to Prague a few times but never to this bookshop so promise to check it out next time. Thanks for all the tips and your lovely comments. I'll be in touch soon, xx.
    @buyffxivgii - Thanks a lot.
    @Gracienne - Alors ça, c'est une très bonne idée. J'aurais bien aimé rester à la maison au lieu de sortir sous la pluie.

  12. I liked Fifth Avenue. And was surprised none of my friends had even heard about it. Have not read The Hare with Amber Eyes though.
    Living in Florida, I don't often get the winter blues, but I sure do get lonely. Missing my kids, my grandkids. (there's always Skype...a most marvelous invention for parents) And my parents, who have both been gone 12 years now. But I have their photos, memories (once, annoyed when my camera broke, my daughter pointed to her head...meaning don't panic, you will always have it in your memory.) and they're all dear to me.

  13. January blues. I feel you my friend. Ever since I moved to Holland from Greece, I have been experiencing them in great depth. Cooking, reading, watching movies, my guy, make them go away. Finding comfort in the things you love the most like marmalade and pudding cakes, Paddington bears and good books is the remedy to those blues.
    I so love your photography.

  14. Your photos are beautiful. They are full of expression. The first photo of the woman with the thick white glasses really caught my attention after your description. Love all of your photos.


  15. I've been dying to go to the Berlinische and check out the Nan Goldin exhibit. Beautiful photos! I should get out more and take photos to cure my January blues.

  16. @Barbara - Oh I'm glad you enjoyed Fifth Avenue too but highly recommend the Hare With Amber Eyes - it's really well written and the author has an incredible lightness of touch. Even if the photos can make us sad when we see those who are no longer with us, it's the best we have. I love your daughter's idea and frequently tell myself that!
    @Magda - Yes, it must be so different from what you grew up with but good to hear you have your own ways of getting through the grey days. A cheese soufllé is planned for this coming weekend so fingers crossed mine will be half as good as yours.
    @Velva - Oh thanks, it's lovely to hear that. The first photo is really a favourite of mine so I'm pleased you like it too.
    @Christine - Yes, you definitely should go. They have some other interesting exhibitions on there too so it's reallly a place to spend a few hours. I haven't been taking as many photos as I'd like because of the rain and snow but am hoping things will brighten up for a small trip somewhere on Sunday. Take care.

  17. J'ai relu puis regardé encore Breakfast at Tiffany's le mois dernier. J'adore Audrey Hepburn ! Je lirais bien ce livre. Je vais jeter un oeil sur Amazon ... juste après avoir fini de me délecter de tes photos ravissantes ...

  18. PS : Ce week end est celui où je ferai ma marmelade d'orange ... Je prends donc l'idée du pudding de Nigella, qui ets monstrueusement tentant ! ;o)

  19. I've been wanting to buy that fifth avenue book, you've reminded me about it!

    Also, about what you said about photographs: I think we're so used to them being around that we forget what a truly magic thing they are. Remnants of the past, and tokens of lost people. What can have more meaning than that?

  20. What a dazzling tour of your photographs and I love the book picks. Happy weekend!

  21. @Hannah - Thanks so much for stopping by!
    @Hélène - Oh moi j'adore le livre autant que le film et je suis ravie que cela te plaise aussi. Je suis sûre que tu aimeras Fifth Avenue. Tu fais la marmelade toi-même? Chapeau! J'espère en voir le résultats très bientôt sur ton blog.
    @Hila - I'm sure you'll love the Fifth Avenue book. Photography is so fast and easy now that we acquire all these images without thinking too much about what that represents. The Goldin exhibition made me feel the passing of time very strongly and it's amazing what she does.
    @Alexandria - Thanks so much. You're a wonderful photographer so I take that as a great compliment. Have a great weekend too!

  22. Oh, I want that book... Probably makes January a bit easier to deal with? I'm also not a big fan of the month: I don't know which is worse, November or January, but still, I'm also deeply looking forward to March, more light - and higher temperatures. Good to read you again...

  23. je me permets d'écrire en français, j'ai vu que tu avais habité Annecy et d'autres villes françaises ;)
    je tombe ici par hasard, et je suis franchement charmée par l'ambiance suggérée par tes photos, cette sensation de bien-être et de bien-vivre fort agréable ! merci pour cette douceur