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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Times Like These #2

There's something about the end of October, you know? I bet you do. Maybe it's Halloween, or maybe it's the time change, or maybe it's NaNoWriMo looming in the distance. All I know is that, to me, this is the brightest time of the year, and no days feel quite as hopeful as these.

Well. To the pictures then. Mornings have been foggy. I decided I'd learn how to knit. I finally learnt the proper way to achieve the winged eyeliner look. My mom and my sister and I spent an afternoon, early in the month, setting up a huge Fall-themed flower arrangement for a school event. I dropped by Porto for a book launch and lunch with friends. I have officially unearthed my coziest lazying-around-the-house cardigan. Finishing up my butterfly lockets. My white orchid, fancy as ever. I need to organise my laptop.

And that last shot. It's not particularly good but I recently bought an adapter for M42 lenses, and can we please, please praise how great it is. The photo was taken with a Canon EOS 500D and a 42-year-old Helios 44-2 lens, and let me tell you... I think I've found my new default set-up for snapshots. Yes.

I'll go outside and take proper pictures with it one of these days.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Acrobatic Taxidermy

Back in August, I dragged my sister all the way to the lovely Casa Andresen to see the work of spanish taxidermist Antonio Pérez Rodríguez. I'd been inside the house only once before, for an interactive exhibit on... yes, well, insects. I am pretty sure the target audience was "six-year olds and their parents", but I didn't let that stop me - and I ended up meeting the photographer behind Portugal's one and only butterfly field guide, so it was a pretty awesome day.

Anyway. Antonio Pérez Rodríguez started his taxidermy work with no previous training when he was fourteen, and has been going strong for forty-four years now. His specialty is what some have called "acrobatic taxidermy", or the placement of animals mid-motion, sometimes defying gravity, as if frozen in a photograph. His work is a far cry from the static, academic taxidermy you're used to finding in museums, and I will hunt and hurt whoever tells me this doesn't qualify as art, because... seriously, look at these pictures. The man is amazing.

I was blown away by the exhibit. Walking in, we were given a brief explanation of what we were about to see... and a head lantern. The animals were all set up in the dark, so it was up to us to find them as we made our way through the house. Pictures were allowed, but I confess I had a bit of a hard time taking them.

Well... if you're in Porto until November 13, I can't recommend this enough, by all means awaken your inner taxidermy connoisseur and drop by to visit these masterpieces.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

In This Style

Kpop powerhouse SHINee has recently released a new mini album, and while technically I do have these guys to blame for my current... incompetently managed interest in Korean pop music, I didn't really like the title song, or the music video.

Even so. I recognise awesomeness when I see it, and their promo shots were right up my alley. The big, dramatic hats, the monochrome (I mean, this is SHINee we're talking about, considering this is the kind of stuff they usually wear, black and white has never felt more refreshing), the ring pile-ups, the crosses, it's all very... let's call it Contemporary Gender Bender Wednesday Addams.

So let let it be known that all I want from life, right now, is one of those hats... ok, and a steady hand to apply eyeliner. And maybe that super cropped black sweater Taemin is wearing, because if I could recreate his whole look to just hang around the house tomorrow, I would.


[images: Dubulee & Forever Shining SHINee]
Thursday, October 17, 2013


It's probably a knee-jerk reaction for Porto dwellers to recognise the gardens pictured above. Or maybe they're not that much of a local landmark, but they were the only place I knew in the city before moving in for university, and I feel very attached to them.

Anyway. These photos were actually taken last summer, but I'm posting them now because I've been hit with this sudden urge to shoot film again. Only I wish it was that simple, because my loyal companion, the awesome Revueflex E, died on me just minutes after taking the last picture on this post. Listen, I'm not saying it was spirits... but it was evil spirits *.

Let me tell you about my Revueflex. It was a gift from some distant relative to my dad when he was younger. Family lore says it came from Germany, and that must be true, because the Revueflex name was used specifically in Nurembeg by a retailer named Foto-Quelle, to sell cameras made by other manufacturers. (as a curiosity, the internet tells me Foto-Quelle was Europe's largest photographic retailer by 1966, and the world's largest by 1970) Well, one of the models they sold just so happened to be the Russian (or Soviet, if we want to be super accurate) Zenit E, marketed as, you got it, Revueflex E.

The internet tells me this camera was made between 1965 and 1982, and the serial number confirms this, with the first two numbers being 71, the production year. And luckily for those of us interested in knowing more about their own cameras, Soviet manufacturers marked all of their products with a logo that identified the specific factory. Knowing this, I dove head-first into the internet once again, to learn that my camera was made in a factory near Moscow, Russia, known as KMZ ("the big boy among the Soviet camera manufacturers"). One of the lenses I have for it, a Helios 44-2, was also made in 1971, and the factory logo directs me to MMZ in Minsk, Belarus. 1971 was also the year MMZ merged with another factory to become BelOMO, but since the individual factories were allowed to keep their original logos, it's hard to tell whether this lens is pre or post-merge. The second lens I have is a Ennalyt, made in Munich, Germany, but about that, I really don't know too much - though that's not why I prefer the Helios. I mean, I like a robust lens, and between the metal of the Helios and the plastic of the Ennalyt... I'm really not given that much of a choice. Metalllllll.

* No, actually it's the shutter curtain. This I know, but I'm not brave enough to actually dig into it with my own screwdrivers...

I won't explain this photo, it's me, hi!

Now this place... to this day, it remains as one of my favorite discoveries in Porto. I didn't know we had such things as communal mausoleums in Portugal, but turns out there was one right inside Agramonte Cemetery (which you may or may not remember from this post, bottom shot), and no one had ever told me. If you click on this page and enlarge the photo, you'll see two great geometric shapes, the square that is the cemetery, and the circle that is... well, half garden half street intersection. Can you see the street that joins the two? Good. Follow that street and enter the cemetery. Can you see the church right ahead of you? Turn left to the oval dome. That's it, that's the communal mausoleum.

I swear the first time I walked inside, I was chilled to the bone. I was alone, a little cold, I had no camera on me, and no term of comparison for a place like this. I have a thing for intricate iron-and-glass structures, but I'd never actually thought you could use one to lay your dead - it makes for a really bright, really airy resting place, befitting the rest of Agramonte. Take this with a grain of salt though, because my sister was with me the day I took these pictures, and she found the place indescribably spooky.

No, mate, the upper levels aren't spooky. But the lower level? The so-low-it's-actually-underground level? Now that is spooky. But I wouldn't have a lot to say on the subject because I always stop myself on the third step down. I guess some places have invisible thresholds, and when I feel them, I don't cross them.

These here are from the Clérigos church (and tower). The church itself is small but impressive, and the carillon might just be the best part of the tower. Take binoculars on your way up, though, the view is worth it.

And this was the shot that, ironically or maybe not so, killed the Revueflex. What you're looking at are the so-called catacombs beneath the Church of São Francisco, which, for some reason, nobody ever talks about. Sure, they're not the most impressive thing (not at all like the catacombs of Paris, no, sorry) and the space itself is quite small, with numbered tombs on the ground and what I assume to be their more recent replacements on the walls (my thing for thresholds also keeps me from stepping on tombs, so with only a few centimeters separating them from each other, I looked like a tightrope walker the whole time I was here...), but if you walk all the way to the end, you'll find a smaller section vaguely reminiscent of an altar. Turn left there, and right there on the ground, you'll see a grated trapdoor. Look below! Skeletons! And... Kit Kat wrappers!

Some people have no respect, but don't let that stop you. Go pay the skeletons a visit, they're cool. And in case you're wondering hey when did this post turn into a travel guide, I don't know either. I swear I only wanted to talk about my film camera.

See you soon!