David Hockney at The MET

“This major retrospective—the exhibition’s only North American venue—will honor the artist in his 80th year by presenting his most iconic works and key moments of his career from 1960 to the present.”

“The exhibition will offer a grand overview of the artist’s achievements across all media, including painting, drawing, photography, and video.”

David Hockney at the MET

November 27, 2017–February 25, 2018

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
5th Ave and 86 Street, NYC



Oba at the Met

Oba at the Met

Isn’t this beautiful!

This 16th century brass piece is the head of a West African “Oba”, or king. Many such examples of royal sculpture, from the Benin Kingdom of Nigeria, Edo Empire (it flourished from 1440 to the late 1800’s), are included in the Met’s “Arts of Oceania, and the Americas” permanent exhibits.

I am so grateful that some of this former kingdom’s art has been preserved. Art can be such a history lesson sometimes. So often it represents what is most important to a people during specific periods of their time.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
5th Ave
and 86 Street, NYC


*Head of an Oba, 16th century (ca. 1550)
Nigeria; Edo, Court of Benin (Brass)



Portraits at DMA!

The Dallas Museum of Art offers the exhibit, Multiple Selves: Portraits in Print from Rembrandt to Rivera, which examines how the artist views him or herself as the subject of a work of art…it features artists such as Rembrandt van Rijn, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Diego Rivera, and Piet Mondrian…The works on view span from the 17th century through the 20th century…”

Multiple Selves: Portraits in Print from Rembrandt to Rivera

Dallas Museum of Art until November 5, 2017

1717 North Harwood Dallas, Texas

(Image: Kathe Schmidt Kollwitz, Self-portrait 1927)



African Art At Newark Museum!

“Present Tense: Arts of Contemporary Africa”

Newark Museum Contemporary African Art

“This presentation focuses on the art of the present day, including works by nine artists with wide-ranging approaches to “art-making” as well as equally varied subject matter and sources of inspiration. Artists include: Olu Amoda, Owusu Ankomah, Viyé Diba, Etiyé Dimma Poulsen, Lalla Essaydi, Atta Kwami, Nnenna Okore, Yinka Shonibare and Sue Williamson. Together, they provide a window into the ongoing artistic creativity of this dynamic continent…”

“Present Tense: Arts of Contemporary Africa”

The Newark Museum, 49 Washington Street, Newark, NJ

(Image: Atta Kwame, “Dzedodo” (Conversation), 1956)



Great Escapes – “Film Noir” Movies From The 40’s & 50’s

Great Escapes – “Film Noir” Movies From The 40’s & 50’s

The “Film Noir” genre, a label used primarily for crime dramas of the 1940’s and 1950’s, were mostly in black & white. They’re famous for their evocative, often lurid, pulpy titles, (This Gun For Hire, I Wake Up Screaming, Phantom Lady, The Blue Dahlia, etc) the snappy dialogue, the scrappy, tough guys in trench coats, (Bogart, Robinson, Ladd) and the dangerous, smart, tough women in wedgies (Joan Crawford, Gloria Graham, Barbara Stanwyck).

These broody “who dunnits” are experiencing a resurgence in popularity (along with the coats and the shoes) and are soooo entertaining.The men are menacing, the women are manipulative and both are inclined to make some bad choices.

Small, independent movie theaters around the country, those that are left, often plan double bill weekends for these clever little gems. There are also DVD box sets featuring the films of major directors of the era – Nicholas Ray, Fritz Lang and Samuel Fuller. The most famous of the group, Billy Wilder’s, Double Indemnity (’44) and Otto Preminger’s, Laura (’44) show up on PBS every few years. noir .

According to a PBS documentary about “German Hollywood”, the dialogue and subject matter of “Noir” might come from American crime writers, like Dashiel Hammet and Raymond Chandler, but the shadowy mood lighting, the scenes shot at night on rain slicked streets were influenced by the German expressionist movement of the 20’s (Pabst, Murnau) and was also colored by the melancholy of those who just escaped Hitler’s net: Peter Lorre, Marlene Dietrich, Paul Henreid, Peter Lorre, Conrad Veidt, Fritz Lang and Michael Curtiz (he directed “Casablanca”, 1942. Most of the extras were refugees – that impassioned “La Marseillaise” gets me every time.) 

Just an example of typical dialogue:

Out of The Past, ‘47 – “Is there a way to win?”, the femme fatale asks and Robert Mitchum replies, “No, but there is a way to lose more slowly”. (Love it! Goes great with popcorn.)



Special Exhibit At The Studio Museum in Harlem

“In honor of the centennial of the birth of Jacob Lawrence (1917–2000), Their Own Harlems examines the ways in which the urban landscape has influenced Lawrence’s artistic practice, as well as that of other artists.

He thought of Harlem in a broad sense, acknowledging the powerful and positive experiences people of African descent across the country could find in “their own Harlems.”

The exhibit also features the work of over fifteen artists including Dawoud Bey, Jacob Lawrence, Julie Mehretu, Wardell Milan, and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.”

“Their Own Harlems”  – Until Jan 7, 2018

The Studio Museum in Harlem, 144 West 125th Street, NYC

(Image: Breakfast East Harlem, 2010, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye )

August Wilson Century Cycle

August Wilson Century Cycle

The ambitious intentions of a playwright resulted in the impressive, and enjoyable, “August Wilson Century Cycle” box set. It consists of a play for every decade of the 20th century that would chronicle some part of the black experience in America. 

Through the use of his great ear for dialogue, Wilson (4/45 – 10/05) was able to give us some insight into the daily life – both struggles and triumphs – of an assortment of universal characters that his audience could easily recognize.

An amazing undertaking, but, his huge vision was realized and it resulted in 2 Pulitzer Prizes, a Tony award and many other accolades. He accomplished a lot doing what he loved to do and perhaps more importantly, August Wilson left a powerful body of work that will be read and performed for years to come. Dreaming big has rewards of all kinds.

All 10 of August Wilson’s plays are collected in hard cover with a nice presentation box.  Each has an introduction by an actor, director or writer familiar with his work

In 2005, August Wilson completed the ten-play cycle:


Hidden from everything that’s new

Hidden from everything that’s new

young lady

8″ X 8″ Oil

Its like every 5 or so years, I go to the bottom of the pile and find work that I’ve done and have forgotten about. I’ve lost contact with my initial intentions (or disappointment) and find something new to appreciate.

Munch at SF MoMA!

Edvard Munch, (1863–1944), painted more than just “The Scream”. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art will have 45 of his other pieces on display, including Between the Clock and the Bed, a self portrait. He “was among the most celebrated and controversial artists of his generation. But, as he confessed in 1939, his true breakthrough came very late in life… these profoundly human and technically daring artworks reveal Munch as a tireless innovator and an artist as revolutionary in his maturity as he was in his breakthrough years.”

“Between the Clock and the Bed”

Until October 9, 2017

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
151 Third Street, San Francisco, CA

(Image: Self Portrait, 1940, “Between the Clock and the Bed”)


“MadCap: New York” & – How We Shot A Feature (Sort Of) In Five Days – My #DPNotes

BY CYBEL MARTIN for Shadow and Act/Indiwire
** Originally posted  – JUNE 5, 2013 6:11 PM **

“DP Notes” is a new type of article I’m trying out for Shadow & Act. I’m in the midst of some very fun jobs and thought I could use specific examples from these shoots to show you how I approach each job.

Queen EstherCase Study #1 “MadCap: New York”. A musical shot in 5 days. The original concept and approach was indeed “simple”. A woman traveled from borough to borough seeking artistic inspiration. Filmed in one borough per day for a total of five shooting days. We’d ask a bunch of artist friends to participate. They’d encounter and perform for our protagonist during her journey. It would be unscripted but with definite plot points. We “knew” several musician friends would say no & we’d end up with maybe five people. Wrong. The interest exploded. Creative influences doubled and then tripled.

Origins: My director, Deborah Goodwin and I have been prepping another feature of hers, called “She Lives”. Developing the look for her film has been a wonderful collaboration. As you all know, the process from script to screen in the US is a lengthy one. At some point in April, I was having lunch with a dear friend and fellow DP, Frank Sun. He offered a hard to refuse deal for his Canon 5D Mark III. Around the same time, another good friend/filmmaker, Asli Dukan, hooked me up with a bunch of Zeiss Prime Lenses. I reached out to a bunch of directors, including Deborah, saying we should shoot something with the 5D and lenses. Something fun.

I knew for me, inspired by “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and “Oversimplification of Her Beauty”, I wanted to shoot something less conventional. Deborah and I met for lunch and came up with the original concept mentioned above. We agreed on feature length to give it more distribution possibilities. Our only rule was that every decision be “joyous”.

What we didn’t anticipate was the power of our own inspiration and how many people would want to be involved. From that first lunch to the first day of shooting, the idea evolved and evolved (and still is).

Deborah currently describes the film as “a hybrid-docu-dialogue with music! Talking & listening across the five boroughs to artists as they reframe their reasons for staying in New York City”. What follows are some details on our process and how our film (hopefully) is evolving from being clever to being beautiful.

We had one month to prep. I pitched the idea of shooting B/W. I was inspired by an article on “Frances Ha”, and the industry “wisdom” that no one will finance a B/W film. What better time to do it than now? I showed Deborah examples of the old “Calvin Klein “Eternity” ads. A look flaunting the blown-out whites would naturally take advantage of the Canon’s limitations (remember: turn a limitation into an aesthetic). Deborah showed me images from my idol, photographer Roy DeCarvara “The Sound I Saw” and his spirit is all over “MadCap”. We also agreed to shoot B/W and not create the look in post. Collectively we all loved the idea of the old days of indie-film : having to commit to black/white. I knew magical moments can happen for me when I encounter what others call creative restrictions. Plus, as I’ll explain shortly, I didn’t have a DIT person. This was the easiest way to show Deborah immediately what images I was creating.

At our next production meeting, Deborah and I brainstormed with producer Erin Washington. Together, we pooled our resources to find other crew members, musicians and shooting locations that would make the film special.

Since there was no script nor locations locked down, I couldn’t do my usual pre-production. What I did do was watch films that I thought could help me “troubleshoot in prep”. Our narrative had morphed from one protagonist to several people representing one character, akin to “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” or “I’m Not There.” We discussed our “take-aways” from each film: what strategy we believed the filmmaker used to pull it off: shooting a feature in limited time, shooting B/W, working with musicians or multiple protagonists. Some of the films I studied were SlackerShe’s Gotta Have ItNo One Knows About Persian CatsMala NocheTicketsDown By LawMan Bites DogTwo Lane Blacktop and Chronicle of a Summer.

Biggest lesson learned in prep: My iPhone was acting erratic (no one could hear me speak) and I had to rely on text message. After noting how communication was breaking down and our joyous film was turning into a “job”, I realized I had to hear the voice of my director/crew/producer during each step of production to gauge their concerns and brainstorm on solutions.

Inspired by the film “Chronicle of a Summer”, Deborah wanted to let the story emerge from our interactions with the musicians. The idea of a single protagonist became several protagonist became several real people protagonist. This is where the film began to drift from narrative to documentary and I had my next big lesson: defining a film (narrative, doc, commercial) was getting in my way. I needed to focus on capturing the authentic moment. The moments that speak to the audience’s heart, regardless if it’s an actor, man on the street or model holding a Pepsi. (Someone told me I sounded like Tarkovsky and that made my day).

We were all a bit amazed (and appreciative) by how many artists were excited and wanted to participate in our film. More artists meant more shooting days. The artists we were able to film were IllspokinnMaiyshaRabbit And The Hare,Hassan El-GendiQueen EstherPeter Valentine and Derrin Maxwell. During our short production schedule, we managed to shoot in Park Slope, Bushwick, Harlem, Midtown and Staten Island. We had Queens, the Bronx and several more musicians scheduled when a film organization contacted Deborah and asked to see a cut of the film. That meant our 5 day schedule was cut to 4 so Deborah could rush off to work with our editor. “MadCap” was living up to its name.

Add to the “MadCapness”: I was shooting in Philly prior to “MadCap” and would leave for the Dominican Republic for another shoot as soon as we wrapped. Since “MadCap” was a love song to NYC, I figured on a way I could add more production value and visuals within our short production schedule. I bought a $30 weekly subway pass and shot b-roll each night after we wrapped. I grabbed the 5D, stuck a 50mm lens on it and walked around like my old days as a photography student. When an idea struck, I’d jump on a train and explore NYC.  I shot anything that spoke to me. Lobsters in a tank in Chinatown. Handball players in the LES. That was super fun and gratifying, especially once I heard our editor, Henry Maduka Steady, was excited by my visual musings.

As I’ve mentioned before, I no longer want to hire people to work for free. There wasn’t a budget for “MadCap”, so I took on Assistant Camera & Sound responsibilities. Ill Spokinn hooked us up with sound gear. The camera, accessories and lenses fit perfectly in a backpack provided by Frank. Once I got over the fact I looked like an awkward teenager, traipsing around NYC like this was quite efficient. I kept a list of all of the equipment in the backpack and checked/cleaned my inventory each night.

My original camera package was the 5D, lenses (Canon 70-200mm Canon, Zeiss Super Speeds:18mm, 25mm, 35mm & 50mm) and a monopod. After the first day of shooting, I got a better understanding of what was exciting Deborah aesthetically. By the end of the second day, we both were in love with the 35mm and 50mm lenses exclusively. The monopod came in handy when shooting interviews and the musicians singing accapella. The rest of the gear was left at home.

I had 2 CF cards totalling 96gb and could have definitely used more. Cards were given to the editor each night after we wrapped. Extra memory would have been ideal, not to shoot the artists but to handle all of my b-roll that had to be saved on cards not going to the editor.

You’ve heard the expression “write what you know”. Since I had no crew and no lights, I employed the tactic “shoot what you know”. I made decisions on lenses, shutter and exposure for each “scene”, the same way I approached shooting B/W stills. With each location, I found an angle on the talent that worked well with whatever the weather or available light was doing.

Highlights from our shoot: Three of the musicians are good friends of mine (Maiysha, Derrin and Queen) and I already adore their talent. It was a huge treat to be introduced to the other artists. Rabbit and the Hare’s studio rehearsal was AMAZING. Braving ticks and poison ivy in Staten Island to find the perfect location with Peter Valentine (his poetry and process is “wow”) was another treat. Meeting the nicest security guard ever in DUMBO while shooting Hassan is another great story. Maiysha chatting with Ill Spokinn, while Yette Bames did her make-up. Even just talking philosophic nonsense with my director while we sipped coffee and waited for Queen Esther to arrive at the Chipped Cup in Harlem was entertaining.

(Until it changes) “MadCap” is an expressionistic compilation of interviews with NYC based artists plus performances throughout the city. It was definitely the unpredictable and yet joyous thrill I was hoping for. Deborah (aka @GoodFilm )says the trailer will be released Independence Day Weekend. I’ll keep you updated on the next artists and locations we shoot, the post process, any surprises or things I wish I did differently.

Help From the Archives:

“Filming in NYC? Again? How to See It With Fresh Eyes When Working With a Limited Budget”

“5 Things Cinematographers Look For in a Director and Project Before Taking a Job”

View my work at Magic Eye Film, discuss film at @CybelDP .