Photograph: Marta Hallett and Princess Alfrieda by Douglas Kirkland.

Photograph: Marta Hallett and Princess Alfrieda by Douglas Kirkland.

Illustrated book publishing is an art. It requires an exquisite sensitivity to detail that is balanced by an understanding of the big picture and its many moving parts. To be a publisher of printed matter in its most luxurious form is found in the ability to master the balance between picture and word. It is in the ability to perceive the book as the whole greater than the sum of its parts, and that each book on the list plays a role in the larger program in which it sits.

In the twelve years since Marta Hallett launched Glitterati Incorporated, the company has come into its own as a purveyor of luxurious books befitting the modern age. With the win for 2014 Lucie Award for Publisher of the Year for Photographer’s Paradise: Turbulent America 1960-1990 by Jean-Pierre Laffont, Glitterati pays its respect to the primacy of photojournalism in the history of the United States, and its enduring ability to bare witness as nothing else ever could.

Photographer’s Paradise is the first photojournalism book on the Glitterati list. Hallett instinctively understood the photographs she saw, and how to assemble the book. From a preview of just twenty prints, Hallett told Jean-Pierre and Eliane Laffont that the book would be organized by decades, and that it would need to be large. There would be no skimping on a volume of this magnitude. The end result was 392 pages. 359 four-color and black-and-white photographs. 2 gatefolds. And the book was sized at 10 x 13.5 inches. It weighs 10 pounds. It comes in English and in French. Sir Harold Evans wrote the introduction. And Jean-Pierre Laffont traveled the fifty states in a powerful and provocative examination of the American Dream—the good, the bad, and the beautiful.

It is this search for beauty and the pleasure that it brings that compels Hallett to publish as many books as she sees fit. She observes, “To publish a great book—a classic—I need to feel as though I can’t not publish it. I just cannot allow someone else to publish a book that I see completed in my mind’s eye from the first moment I chance upon the raw material, or to ignore those encounters that because of someone’s innovative work, I am inspired to see the world in a way that I didn’t before I met that gorgeous original material.”

Read the Full Story at THE CLICK.

Artwork: An Aldo Tura ice bucket on an Aldo Tura presentation table. Both covered in dyed parchment (goatskin). Aldo Tura’s parchment dyes are unmatched today. The Kay Bogensen penguin has an articulated neck and the grain of the wood is incorporated into the sleek form of the bird.

Artwork: An Aldo Tura ice bucket on an Aldo Tura presentation table. Both covered in dyed parchment (goatskin). Aldo Tura’s parchment dyes are unmatched today. The Kay Bogensen penguin has an articulated neck and the grain of the wood is incorporated into the sleek form of the bird.

On a quiet little street in Clinton Hill sits Guild Greene Gallery, located in the original 1890s headquarters and laboratory for Bristol Myers. This century, the building has been reimagined as a gallery, tucked gently into the local scenery, the kind of gem you casually come across in Brooklyn more often than not. This holiday season, Guild Greene hosts “Give Joy,” a salon exhibition of art, objects, furniture, toys, and holiday decorations, now through December 21, 2014.

The collection includes works by furniture designers Charles & Ray Eames, Florence Knoll, Milo Baughman, Edward Wormley, Vladimir Kagan, Harvey Probber, Ward Bennett, and George Nelson; painters Kris Krohn, Kamilla Talbot, Robert Goldstrom and Louis Donato; jewelry artists Lori Kaplan, Mary MacGill, and Lisa Jenks; toys and wreaths by Kathy Urbina, barware by Aldo Tura, and prints by Lloyd Miller, among others. “Give Joy” is curated by design team Marla Dekker and Kevork Babian, the proprietors of townhouse.bz.

An online boutique and appointment-only salon based in Brooklyn, townhouse.bz supplies mid-century furniture and decorative art to architects, interior designers, and collectors. Dekker and Babian could be called “mid-century moderns” themselves: born in the 1950s, they were educated by modernist masters during the 1970s. The company was was born in 2010, when Dekker designed a website to put a public face on the business and expanding the market beyond private appointments. And in a twist fit for the Digital Age, the desire to show work in real time and real space had finally taken hold when Kris Krohn of Guild Greene Gallery invited townhouse.bz to participate in a group show in spring 2014.

Babian notes, “We were pleasantly surprised by how many of our pieces were well-received there. Kris invited us to do our first solo show. We were initially hesitant to produce a solo show in August, because that’s when everyone goes on vacation, but that show, ‘Faux Real’, was very successful. We got to know so many people in the neighborhood, and so many people who came over from Bed-Stuy. They would come to eat at Speedy Romeo’s or Mariettas and made Guild Greene Gallery their own little destination place.”

Read the Full Story at THE CHIC.

Stars, 2014 by Dennis Busch

Stars, 2014 by Dennis Busch

Dennis Busch works in Germany, making his own brand of readymade photography, cutting and collaging and writing charmingly rude messages in white paint over many of the images. He constructs his images from photographs, revising our references until each work circles in on itself like a dream.

Busch’s work is a striking display of nihilistic collage art, absurdist sculpture, and abstracted photographs—many with messages for the public. An image of a medieval coat of armor, placed against a lavish red-orange backdrop, is casually adorned with the work iPhone. Juxtapositions seemingly so meaningless they make one pause in wonder, only to discover there is no “Why?”

Balancing this image is a photograph of an apple that has been given an unfortunate set of teeth. Well, only the top teeth, and those are not too fresh. The apple sits against a white backdrop, enjoying its time in front of the camera with a goofy grin you won’t find anywhere else.

Busch’s provocative iconography is at once awkward, edgy, aggressive, sexy, silly, and sometimes a little sentimental. Published in Back to Normal (Airbag Craftworks), Busch does not ask simple questions or offer easy answers, but happily thumbs his nose at convention, beauty, and formality. His work is a collection of imperfections, and a love of the absurd. Dada for your nerves.

Busch most recently published The Art of Collage (Gestalten), a survey of contemporary work that is as rich as it is inviting in its layering of aesthetics, one a top another. He speaks with The Click about his singular life in art.

Busch observes, “I consider myself a human being. I don’ feel like an artist. I see myself as a ‘metaphysical bomber’ bombing boundary after boundary. I am kind of satirist, critic, truthfinder, surgeon, dreamer, nutter, lovemaker, killer, pathfinder, astronaut, politic, maker, watcher, etc. Who cares about that? That’s part of the only game.”

Read the Full Story at THE CLICK.

The Hug; Eyes Closed and Smile, 1982 ©Harvey Stein 2011

The Hug; Eyes Closed and Smile, 1982 ©Harvey Stein 2011

Coney Island is a world unto itself. It is a time and place that exists independent of everything else. Situated where South Brooklyn meets the Atlantic Ocean, it is an urban fantasy of beachfront life. It is equal parts escapism and entertainment, strange and seedy and strikingly American at its core. It is a fantasy world of populist delight: rides, games, and half-naked girls.

Harvey Stein has been photographing life in this inimitable stretch of land since 1970 and the result is Coney Island: 40 Years 1970–2010 (Schiffer), and it features a carefully curated selection of images that take us there. From the boardwalk and the pier to the amusements and the Mermaid Parade to the workers and the beach, Stein’s photographs take all that is original and iconoclastic about Coney Island and puts them in arm’s reach.

While Coney Island is available to all, it is home to Brooklynites. It is a place that breeds its own kind of people and attracts them in kind. It has a “you tawkin to me?” kinda vibe that allows its denizens to live in the public eye with a kind of shameless nakedness of spirit that makes its inhabitants unlike any other. It attracts exhibitionists and voyeurs, the people themselves being the greatest part of the show. And whether they are participating or simply kicking back, they make for what, in Stein’s eye, is undoubtedly, a memorable photo opp.

There is a spirit of love and acceptance that surrounds this neighborhood, and part of that comes from being a place for escape—what goes on in Coney Island stays there. There is an urban edge to this slice of paradise, a way in which the bright sun casts a long shadow and there is a sense of something else lurking within this distinctive world. It is that the stress of New York is not quite forgotten but simply put aside, and it lingers and it floats and it makes one wonder just who these people are. How did they get here and how did they get this way? Stein’s photographs do not provide answers so much as they provoke question after question with each turn of the page.

Mr. Stein observes, “Coney Island is about people, it’s the people that intrigue me and what I am always drawn to photograph. All sizes, shapes, races, ages, religions, behaviors. The amusements, the sea, the open air, the sun and the sand all impart a kind of freedom of behavior that I don’t see anywhere else. And I am interested in the contradictions and ironies present in its social world. I am always impressed with how we all get along at Coney Island.”

Read the full story at THE CLICK.

Photograph by Douglas Kirkland

Photograph by Douglas Kirkland

Marilyn Monroe is a star cast to earth, a spirit in the flesh, and on camera, that’s ethereal. Eternal. Forever a star glowing bright in the sky and we watch as it burns, burns everything in its wake until one day, it’ vanishes. Explosions of sorts, and things leading in that direction, and stories and legends and myths. And Marilyn was the greatest star of them all.

August 5 marks the 52 anniversary of her death, a death that has become as iconic as the legend herself. Less than one year before she died, Monroe posed for Douglas Kirkland, who was then a young photographer on assignment for the 25 anniversary of Look magazine.

The date was November 17 and as Kirkland recounts in his book, With Marilyn, An Evening/1961 (Glitterati Incorporated), “My greatest difficulty during that meeting was telling Marilyn exactly how I wanted to photographer her. As I’d looked into her eyes, which seemed especially warm and virginal to me that evening, I felt as though my two older colleagues were sitting there in judgment, like two ancient schoolmasters, as I tried to gently seduce her into doing the picture I had envisioned, I felt conflicted: one part, the masculine, photographer side, just wanted to say, ‘You’ll get into this bed we’ll have, with nothing on, and we’ll figure it out from there. Period!’

“However, the Sunday School-side of my background wouldn’t let the words come out. Marilyn, with her sweet intuitiveness, made it easy. She simply said, ‘Okay I know exactly what we need. We need a bed with white silk sheets and nothing else, and it will work. But,’ she added, ‘the sheets must be silk.’ She had done the biggest part of my job for me: understood my ideas and articulated them better than I had been able to—bless her.”

In Kirkland’s photographs from this historic sitting, there is an energy, a spirit flowing through the ether, captured forever in these images, a force that floats through our fingers as we page through the book, which is page after page of Marilyn wearing nothing but Chanel No. 5 in bed. It is quite literally exquisite.

Read the full story at THE CLICK.

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Debra Shriver, a 12th generation Southerner, Francophile, passionate preservationist and jazz devotee, is the author of two books on New Orleans: Stealing Magnolias: Tales from a New Orleans Courtyard (Glitterati Incorporated) and In the Spirit of New Orleans (Assouline). Although she is an inveterate New Yorker, living and working as a media executive here in the city, her heart belongs to New Orleans.

Shriver recalls, “Creating both books was a labor of love. Each was written in less than a year. I’d been collecting clips, photography, and books on New Orleans for years. I have always been a student of the city. Both volumes are a great mix of old and new, of vintage, historical, and contemporary street scenes, portraits, landscapes and still lifes.

The first book, Stealing Magnolias, was a very personal book. “There were many intimate vignettes taken throughout the house, like a café au lait served in the morning or a beautiful banana truffle adapted from a recipe I remembered as a child.

“New Orleans feeds all the senses,” Shriver said. “For me, ‘chic’ is another word for beauty. It could be the scent of a perfume, or a bottle of wine just poured, or the color of flowers on the table, or a person walking down the street with a bigger-than-life attitude.

“I opened Stealing Magnolias with a beautiful quote by Roald Dahl: ‘And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.’’

Read the full story at THE CHIC.

Photograph: REVS / Photo © Jaime Rojo/BrooklynStreetArt.com

Photograph: REVS / Photo © Jaime Rojo/BrooklynStreetArt.com

Steven P. Harrington and Jaime Rojo are Brooklyn Street Art (BSA), one of the most successful and influential websites dedicated to the underground ART scene that has taken the world by storm. Since 2008, BSA has been documenting the creative energies that take root and flourish in the street, like an insistent flower spouting through slabs of concrete.

Street Art is public art, usually unsanctioned work, which is executed outside of traditional art venues. Because much of it is posted illegally, it exists as a conversation between artist and audience independent of traditional realms for making, selling, and displaying art. With Street Art, there is no product. There is simply the idea made visual and expressed in physical form for all the world to observe.

Today, artists who choose the streets as their gallery are sharing their work in every corner of the globe, which makes BSA one of the most important hubs in the publishing world. BSA documents the trends in Street Art, covering the new hybrids, new techniques, and new mediums as they continue to expand our understanding of public art, speaking at length with The Click about the way in which photography and publishing preserve what is amongst the most ephemeral of all the arts.

Mr. Harrington and Mr. Rojo recall, “BSA started as an abbreviation for our first book Brooklyn Street Art (Prestel/Random House) and a way for people to quickly refer to us. The site initially was a simply page to give people an online location to learn more about the book with additional information about the scene on the street. We didn’t have any idea that it would grow into a clearinghouse for a global scene—in fact our first month we got 53 visits.”

Read the Full Story at THE CLICK.

Photograph by Guzman

Photograph by Guzman

“We thrive on confusion, on not being pinned down. You should not have to be the same person you were five minutes ago,” Connie Hanson says, sharing of a point of view that has endowed Guzman with a wit and a joie de vivre. Guzman itself embodies the Dada charm of the absurd, as the husband/wife team of Russell Peacock and Ms. Hanson let it be known that Guzman had a back story. He was a fifty-five year old Czech man with a grey Mercedes. Guzman had also lived in various hotels throughout Paris. And perhaps this is because Guzman is a spirit that inhabits the space between the photographer, the subject, and the stage.

Shoots will have unlikely things, like bouquets of bok choy. Or they will unfold as happenings, a way of art and life that was of a place and a time that defined New York as a bohemia and into this personalities appear. It is just this ability to create alternate universes that makes a Guzman photograph a complete affair. Whether constructing suits of various checked patterns to be born alongside Louis Vuitton accessories (because the brand did not yet have apparel lines), Guzman came along with a complete vision of how Vuitton appears in our lives. It is in this same way that they fully inhabit fashion as a way of life that Geoffrey Beene collaborated with Guzman throughout his career.

The quintessential outsider, Mr. Beene had his own way of doing things. He created Summer/Winter, just because he could. He broke every rule and created another in its place, and in his indomitable way, he was decades ahead of the curve. It was this vision of design that Mr. Beene brought to Guzman, and together they created a series of images that blur the boundaries, as we see not only a dress and a design, but the very idea of the way in which fashion can make us feel. It appears as architecture for the body. It lays between us and the world itself, and it is this which appears as the metaphor dancing across the photograph. It is both object and idea at the same time, and in this space Guzman plays with dark and light, with a blur of boundaries and the transformation of space, as the garment slips from three dimensions into two, and what remains is a beautifully selected collection of images that take us back into time to the glamorous life that New Yorkers do so well.

Guzman shares stories of Geoffrey Beene with THE CHIC.

Juergen Teller: The Face, 1989

Juergen Teller: The Face, 1989

For the past three decades, Ziggi Golding has set the bar for a standard of originality and creativity in the fine art and commercial photography worlds. She is devoted to cultivating talent and style within her roster of artists. As she notes, “I’m an enabler. I like to help people develop and realize their dreams.”

Since first becoming an agent in 1983, Ms. Golding has developed the careers of many of the top talents in the art, photographic, fashion, film, and music industries today. She sits down with The Click to discuss a life in photography.

Ms. Golding remembers, “Growing up in Jamaica, my mom always had a Roliflex. It was the one you looked down in. It was unusual then. It’s interesting that photography wasn’t my love. It was painting and drawing, art in its trues form. But I got interested in photography when I fell int modelling at the end of the 70s.

“As a job, I didn’t find modeling that interesting. I was more into the process of photography itself. After about six years in the industry, I started my own agency, the Z Agency. I wanted to protect models, as they were young and put in compromising positions. I also thought modeling was what you do when you didn’t know what to do with your life.

“I chose interesting people with a good look, amazingly talented people, and I started representing photographers early on like Andrew McPherson, and Geoff Stern, who had made the film, ‘Underground.’ It was part of my role to make things happen on a bigger level. For the ‘Underground’ I helped make a deal with Palace Pictures and Collin Callender, who went on to be the President of HBO Films. I made an early point of generating original work, in addition to booking people.

“With i-D and The Face, all through the 80s, two thirds of the content was connected with Z Agency, whether it was the photographers, models, stylists, make-up or hair. However I was not fulfilled by the modeling side of the industry. I was more interested in being the master of the project.”

Read the full story at THE CLICK.

Photograph by Eric Johnson

Photograph by Eric Johnson

Freddie Leiba is the embodiment of elegance. He is at once both very cool, and warm. His lyrical voice soothes and charms. Once seated in his resplendent abode in midtown Manhattan, Mr. Leiba begins to reflect on the early days, and how they laid the path to a life in fashion, photography, and style that is undeniably glamorous. His vision has been seen on some of the most beautiful women of our time, from Iman to Beyonce, Meryl Streep to Sandra Bullock. He recounts his humble beginnings, and the path he took, back and forth across the Atlantic, though our story begins in the Caribbean.

Mr. Leiba recounts, “I was born in Trinidad and left at the end of the 1950s to go to England. When I grew up, there was no TV. Instead you joined the library and hopefully, you for a good book. I remember as a young boy, my mother took me for a walk one Sunday, as we often did, and we saw Rita Hayworth filming ‘Fire Down Below.’ I had never seen anyone like that in life. I was fascinated by this woman who looked like a goddess on a Caribbean island.

“I would go to the library and research books, then to the movies where it would cost twenty-five cents to see a double feature. I felt at home in this world, but it still felt untouchable. I didn’t think there was any way I would ever be a part of a world like this.

“When I went to London, I really found my place. I just fell into the right group of people. I was attending the Royal College of Art, the most prestigious, most respected art school in the world. I drew incessantly. I drew women in dresses. I was obsessed.

“My mother was broad-minded and had no problems with me doing dress design. She sewed for a living, and taught herself how to sew, and how to play the piano. She worked and worked and worked—and never complained about anything. Everything starts at home, no matter how rich or poor you are. She was a single mother. She did everything to make everything possible for me. I will never forget that. I wouldn’t ever disappoint her even though she’d dead now. She worked so hard to get me to the place I am. I still feel I have to shine. I just have to do it.”

Read the full story at THE CHIC.

Kevin Davies

Kevin Davies

Photographer and subject have a distinct relationship that is based on the sharing of ideas in mutual exploration of that which does not yet exist until the two come together to bring forth the work, the image that holds the wall or rests, nestled inside the book. The photograph is the space where two become one and what we see is the way in which they create something the world has never seen before.

“Every hat I have ever made has begun in my mind as a photograph. I can see it on the model, at the right angle, before I even begin. I can see what the girl’s going to look like and how it’s going to be worn. But it’s something that’s just for me,” writes celebrated milliner Philip Treacy at the introduction to Philip Treacy by Kevin Davies (Phaidon), an intimate and breathtaking retrospective of Mr. Treacy and Mt. Davies’ two decade-long partnership.

Mr. Treacy continues, “Photography, like design, is an obsession: an obsession with the final image. And most photographers, like most designers, are control freaks, because they care so much that it all looks incredible in the end. We believe in it. Whether you’re a make-up artist, stylist, designer, architect, photographer or anyone working in the creative industries, your work is a point of view. It’s your point of view.”

Mr. Treacy’s hats recall nothing so much as a time long gone, a time when men and women dressed head-to-toe before stepping out of the house. Hats are the last hurrah of a bygone era, a time when attention to detail was as important as expression of self. Mr. Treacy’s hats remind us that glamour is a state of mind, for to carry off one of his superb chapeaus one must have presence, power, and fearlessness.

Kevin Davies’ photographs of the hats themselves are a spectacle of the simplest effect. Set upon a faceless mannequin head, set against a white backdrop, there is nothing to see except the hats themselves. Photography is a comfortable reminder that this is likely as close as we shall ever get, but this closeness will set your heart aflame. That the hats can be worn seems almost too grand. To simply gaze upon their eloquent and effortless form would be enough.

Mr. Davies speaks with THE CHIC about his partnership with Philip Treacy as it developed throughout the years. Read the full story at THE CHIC.

PUNK: An Aesthetic

June 25, 2014

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Do It Yourself. The ethos of the punk movement that began in the 1970s with a kind of we-ain’t-got-no-money joie de vivre. Style is using what you have at your disposal and putting it to work; being crafty, creative, criminal if need be. Turning everything on end to what end? Perhaps just notoriety. But is that such a bad thing? Asking questions, turning heads, upsetting applecarts—in many ways the punk aesthetic forever altered our assumptions about progress by taking back the means of production and giving it to the artist themselves. Whether music, fashion, graphic design, photography, typology, illustration—so many categories revitalized by the outpouring of art students in our brave new world.

Punk: An Aesthetic, edited by Johan Kugelberg and Jon Savage (Rizzoli International Publications) is a beautifully produced collection showcasing the development of a visual language that has become a lexicon of street style that has been standardized by youth culture around the globe. Here, Kugelberg and Savage present some of the most famous and infamous examples of the punk aesthetic. It is all here: the record covers, posters, newspapers & magazines, flyers, t-shirts, comic strips, collages, and all sorts of ephemera of the era, including a manuscript page from The Great Rock & Roll Swindle screenplay (1977). Here, page after page features photographs of all sorts: concerts, promos, portraits, and snapshots, energies filled with casual glamour and teen angst, a theatrical display of sight and sound that, when it first appeared, shocked polite society.

As Kugelberg writes in the book’s introduction, “Punk, like hip hop, in an odd way was about performance—about Saturday night, getting loaded, elegant swagger, and the unfiltered nihilism of romance.…. The legacy of punk is simple: the immediate implementation of D.I.Y. grassroots culture among the young. No distance. Form a band, start a blog, become an artist, a DJ, a guitar player, and editor. There is no meaning stemming from authenticity: an authentic experience occurs, regardless of whether or not the art produced id authentic.”

The photographs featured in Punk: An Aesthetic reveal an exciting dialogue between design, type, and imagery that is one of the hallmarks of the movement’s style. Among the most notorious images is Jamie Reid’s Sex Pistols poster for God Save the Queen: here Queen Elizabeth II’s face is covered by text and set against the Union Jack, at once exalting her, defacing her, and questioning our assumptions about the monarchy. In this image we see the royal portrait subverted in the service of a greater purpose and here punk shows its true colors. Punk: An Aesthetic reminds us that creativity is heightened when economy is bad because we must look inside ourselves in order to speak truth to power about the times in which we live.

In Jamie Reid’s “Death Culture Stalks the Suburbs” we see the style at its height, appropriating the 1950s happy home and turning it on its head, literally, with a skull at the center of the sunken living room, where a coffee table should be. And the couple speaks to each other, in comic book bubbles, with words written on a typewriter in capital letters, and then at the bottom, a summary of the story of Nigel and Cecilia and the skull, which had first appeared as, “a blurred image on the thick pile carpet, but as the weeks progressed it materialized and solidified behind the crushed velvet pouffe.”

Heavenly creatures, each of these pieces turns out to be, each with its own story and style, taking on the here and now, the supernatural, the unnatural, the years of past, present, and future. Punk is the liberation of imagination, the independence from becoming a market acquisition, by becoming the object itself and thus it must be experienced—rather than consumed, as a capitalist market would demand.

Here, as with the performance of music, experience of dance, and the appearance of style and fashion, we give of our time and energies to be part of the scene, to connect with the people and the art being produced in the most intimate of manners. Punk breaks down the barrier between audience and art, and encourages the audience to participate so that everywhere we turn, everyone and everything becomes a part of the greater whole. Punk is art in its purest sense; it is about taking what you already have and fashioning it into an expression of self.

First Published 19 October 2012
LE JOURNAL DE LA PHOTOGRAPHIE

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The poet's hand by Ralph Gibson, 2005

The poet’s hand by Ralph Gibson, 2005

Max Blagg arrives, apologizing for being but a few minutes late, his British accent quite debonair. He steps into the salon, sitting on the sofa, allowing Glitterati mascot Alfrieda the basset hound to snuggle on up, as he recounts the adventures of an Englishman in New York.

“I was the youngest of twelve children. We lived in a small town in the English Midlands. We were working class. There was lots of love. It was a great family. But I was the only one with the inclination to read books.

“I started writing at 15, a gift that was triggered by my sister dying of breast cancer, a slow motion event that happened at home. It was truly awful. Writing poems about her pain seemed to give me some relief. At the same time, I was becoming interested in girls. A bizarre collision of sex and death. Looking back, I wrote a lot of pretty bad poetry back then. But I also played soccer for the school team. I had a double life.

“In my house, higher learning was not encouraged. It was that working class mentality: Don’t expect to rise above your station. At 17 I passed the A level exams and qualified for college. My mother had no intention of letting me go away, but I secretly applied and got into a college in London with a very generous government grant. The poorer your parents were, the more money you got. That would never happen today.

“I wasn’t that comfortable in London, it’s under the sign of Capricorn. But after almost getting a B.A. degree I met a lovely girl at a jumble sale who gave me lots of American poetry to read. I was so entranced by Frank O’Hara that I quit my job as a bricklayer’s laborer and bought a one-way ticket to NYC. I had one address, 118 Spring Street. I want to put a little plaque on that building. I showed up there, and Ignacio and Caroline, kind folks I hardly knew, put me up for months. We’re still close friends. Soho back then was deserted, a playground for artists. I got a job in construction on 53 Street, Street, across from MOMA where Frank O’Hara had worked. New York, miraculous place. Instantly felt like home.”

Read about Mr. Blagg’s life as an Englishman in New York at THE CHIC.

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Janette Beckman and I meet Dapper Dan in his brownstone in Harlem on a sunny day in April. We are in the sitting room; the wood is dark, the ceilings are tall, the art is African. On a bench laid before us is a child’s suit in red and white leather, boasting the name ERIKA. Beside it, red and gold cap is perched, with the double FF logo of the great Italian fashion house Fendi prominently displayed. The cap is an inverted trapezoid, in the style made famous by 80s emcee Just-Ice. The gold F shines bright, catching my eye over and over again, until Dapper Dan enters the room and commands my full attention. Dap wears a long sleeve shirt, vest, and slacks with spats all in shades of cream and brown; against a skin of rich mahogany, Dap carries the look effortlessly, befitting a man of his stature and renown.

For those in the know, Dapper Dan is a name of distinction. It stands for quality and style. It stands for a way of living that is equal parts art and business. It is the name that defined the sartorial style of uptown in the 1980s. Dapper Dan is Harlem, from his cap to his spats to the way he stands straight. Dapper Dan is the man who Africanized Europe’s luxury brands. Gucci. MCM. Louis Vuitton. These were the logos and insignias he silkscreened on skins in the studio above his shop, which was open 24/7 on 125 Street for ten years.

After printing the skins himself, Dapper Dan employed a team of Senegalese to create custom apparel for the body, as well as for the car. A haberdasher to the stars of Harlem World, everyone from the streets came calling, whether hustlers, gangsters, Hip Hop artists, athletes, or simply those with an eye for the flyest, freshest, most cutting-edge styles. Dapper Dan’s work was worn by everyone from Mike Tyson, Run-DMC, and Bobby Brown to LL Cool J, Salt N’ Pepa, and Eric B. & Rakim. Paid in Full, indeed, ‘cause Dap gave no discounts whatsoever on the merchandise.

Dapper Dan’s pieces were as original as his techniques. His most famous piece, a parka known as the Alpo Coat, was made for Alberto Martinez, one of the most famous drug dealers of the era. It featured double pockets in the front, all the better to hide or dispose of something, like a gun. Violent crime in New York was skyrocketing, with the murder rate hitting an all-time high in 1991. Crack was the nexus between money and murder in those days, and as a result, some customers had special needs. Kevlar lining was added to the lining of coats at a client’s request.

As Fat Joe recalled in The New Yorker, “I remember going to a club in Manhattan and walking in with my Dapper Dan suit, the red-and-white Gucci, with my jewelry. They were looking at me, like, ‘Who is this? He gotta be somebody.’ And I wasn’t famous—I was just a nigga with a Dapper Dan suit. And that suit made me famous.”

Mark Twain memorably said, “Clothes make the man,” and if there was one man who defined the styles of the times, that man was Dapper Dan. I asked Dap about how Twain’s words made him feel, to which he replied with great heart, “Yo! That’s my thing. You hit it right on the head now! To make people. They knew that. To create something that’s going to make you. You see it every day in Hollywood. They looking for that thing that’s going to make them. You see that Busta Rhymes come here, and Puff Daddy come here, and they say, “I want that 80s look!’ They are looking for that sensation, that crack. They are looking for that crack. I want to give them that crack and they feel like, ‘Whoa, I am here.” Like that Cadillac.”….

The full story appears in the Summer 2014 issue of Jocks & Nerds.

Fat Girl :: A Love Story

September 24, 2013

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Carlos Batts

Carlos Batts

Man and Woman. Husband and Wife. Artist and Muse. It’s a path few travel because it demands. A kind of commitment to creativity unparalleled, as standard of excellence, an ability to balance the personal and the professional, the private and the public, a kind of elasticity and mutability that comes from years past, experiences shared, mysteries unfolding, new opportunities revealed, the moment made eternal. The photograph, the space where the two meet, where time stops and what once was shall now and forever be.

Fat Girl by Carlos Batts (Barnacle Books) is a love story. It is a story of love that begins with a knowledge of self, a fearless acceptance of truth, of a way of being that is deeply one’s own, so FTW if they complain. April Flores found her happiness in the body voluptuous, the body scorned by society as this, that, and the third thing because they won’t let a woman live.

April Flores does not just live. She flourishes. She is not but a flower but a field, a meadow, a deep luscious jungle, for she is not merely muse and model, she is a feminist porn icon to (knee-high) boot. This is her body—and this is her world. And it began with her first encounter with Batts, when he suggested she put on a bikini, and after a moment’s hesitation, Flores freed herself, and she stepped before the camera, and the love affair began.

Fat Girl is a tribute to the beauty of woman as she is, as she discovers herself in all her glory, as goddess, siren, and beauty. The photograph is the space where artist and muse meet, each enchanted with the other in the self, enacting Nature’s math of one plus one equals three. The photograph lives in our world, now a thing to contemplate as a reflection of both Flores and Batts and the space in between, where all are invited to meet.

The book is an invitation into their world, and a celebration of all the spirit made flesh, manifest in each photograph, for Miss Flores is an energy, radiating fire, light, flame. She changes her image but never her identity, like a diamond revealing facets of herself, as she grows, blossoming like the flora for which her name stands.

Flores writes, “It is hard for women of all sizes to feel confident because, from the time we are young girls, we are bombarded with messages and images in the media and other places that make us feel like we can never be too thin, too young, or too successful. It is even harder for plus size women to feel good about themselves because rarely are plus sized women represented in a completely positive way. The book is my answer to that problem. This book is an exhibition of my confidence and happiness as a plus size woman.”

Indeed it is, a beautifully, thoughtfully, tastefully curated collection of Batts’ deliciously vivid celebration of his wife, the yin to his yang, the fusion of seeming opposites. Through his photographs, we come to see his vision of a world where women are creatures of completeness, knowing themselves better than anyone else. No longer do we ask, “What do women want?” so much as we say, “Yes, more please.”

Flores is more than a sex symbol, she is a symbol of the sex that inspires the act of creation, be it in life and in art, in the way that the book becomes a treasure chest to be perused at leisure. Fat Girl is one woman’s path through this world, one that is exquisitely pleasurable, risqué and erotic, an adventure in art and style, a tongue planted firmly in chic. Batts’ photographs of Flores naked but for red stilettos and a Miss Piggy mask, remind us that the truest icon of womanhood begins with the Venus of Willendorf.

Fat Girl is deeply personal, yet splendidly friendly, just like Flores and Batts themselves, their lives an open book, a collaboration of kindred spirits now pressed in inks on paper and tucked between the covers. Fat Girl reminds us that she is we and we are she is beauty is deep. It is of the skin, muscle, flesh, bone, soul, and spirit. We are lucky to witness and share it.

Carlos Batts

Carlos Batts

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