19 May 2011


Last week, I had the great pleasure to photograph the Emerson String Quartet, one of the great music groups of our day. Confession: I have never heard them play live. With good humor they endured my imperious bullying, and we got many great shots which will soon be seen on their new CD for Sony.

It’s such a joy to work with people that are masters of their craft. I think it’s what I like best about my job. And of course, gentle teasing is also a great part of the day. Playing a little country music for the Juilliard mafia is always a must. And of course these things only happen when the real work is done by someone else, in this case, Dirk, Susan, and Katherine.

It turned out that the group was playing at the Met Museum the next night, joining the pianist Menahem Pressler. Only a small amount of begging was necessary to obtain a ticket. The evening opened with Mr. Pressler doing a Beethoven sonata and ended with him and the Quartet playing Dvořák. It is a great joy to see a group of artists that have been doing their thing for decades get up there and so clearly enjoy themselves, and play the pieces as if they had never been played. I was transported.

The complete program:
Sonata No. 31 in A-flat Major, Op. 110 ~ Beethoven
Estampes ~ Debussy
Piano Quintet in A Major, Op. 81 ~ Dvořák

Upon arriving home and digging in my CD collection, I found a version of Schubert played by Mr. Pressler and the Beaux Arts Trio. This is one of my long time favorites, probably due to Kubrick’s adroit use of it in Barry Lyndon.

Who said this music was aging?

03 May 2011

Just Say 'NO' for Earth Day

Earth Day events in New York have traditionally been the result of many concerned citizens voicing their fears about the damage done to our life support system, a bit like the raucous 60s we all like to remember so fondly. The centerpiece event at Grand Central Station has always had the same manic feel that we associate with “the good old days.” And of course, it’s difficult to maintain momentum in spontaneously organized, issue-based grass roots organizations, especially as they accumulate staff and equipment.

Strolling around the Earth Day exhibit at Grand Central this year, I was struck, not so much by the environmentalist fervor of the event and participants, but by the mercantilist nature of the event. Leggy, breathless blonds touted the efficiency of washing machine/dryer combinations (as if a dryer were not the most earth-unfriendly device made). A life-sized mural of models, photographed in a “life-style” manner, urged us to buy some brand of apparel “for the good of the planet” (buying organic cotton is good, as cotton is the crop on which the most pesticides are sprayed). Toyota was there with the Prius, which is unavailable, due to the seismic sea wave (not tidal wave) and accompanying nuclear disaster. And there were a few moms and kids milling about with crayons and happy faces. But the overarching message (maybe I’m a cynic) was: buy Buy BUY!

I’m the first to believe that we can change the world by careful choices of what we buy; as a matter of fact, I think it’s ultimately the only effective vote the individual has. Our real problem is heedless consumerism, on every level, whether it’s buying the new iPhone or leaving the lights on, it’s our consumption binge that is the problem. That means you and me.