Saturday 14 May 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 14/5/2022

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Picture perfect

How to discern the two frontrunners in next week’s Australian federal election. Plus, Mexico City’s polyphonic soundscape and the Hawaiian radio station making a new generation fall in love with traditional music. But first, Andrew Tuck on the transcendent power of photography.

Opener / Andrew Tuck

Contact prints

On Wednesday it just rained and rained so I put off visiting the opening of Photo London all day. One of the pleasures of going to the annual fair is standing in the courtyard of Somerset House – after you have surveyed the booths, wondering whether you should spend your partner’s life savings on an impulsive purchase – and catching up with friends. Lingering alfresco, however, requires sunshine, preferably a spritz in hand, and the weather was not playing ball. But seeing as a big contingent of the Monocle team had been braver than me and put on raincoats and headed over throughout the afternoon, I finally layered up and joined them – and bingo, I timed it for just when damp day gave way to clear-sky evening. Matt, our photography director, was there with his team, along with Jack, our new editorial assistant, our books squad and Diego from retail. Scroll down and you’ll see Matt’s Picture of the Week.

One of the reasons for our presence en masse was the quiet public debut of The Monocle Book of Photography in the pop-up bookshop that’s being run by our publisher partner Thames & Hudson. And by a nice coincidence, the space is being managed by Rania Naufal, who used to run Papercup, a beautiful bookshop and café in Beirut that we often wrote about until the port explosion of 2020 ripped her store apart and broke her will to stay. (An aside: this week, Lebanese designer Rana Salam came by Midori House and told me that she had also packed up her life in Beirut and was now something of a nomad, not sure where and how to settle. And our friend, food advocate Kamal Mouzawak, is now in Paris; he’ll be onstage at the Monocle Quality of Life Conference in a few weeks’ time to explain why. So much talent, forced to find places to shelter from greed and corruption, and all the damage that they cause.)

But back to Rania, who is a force of nature and a very good seller too: there was just one of our books left when I arrived. And there was another coincidence here because one of the big photo essays in our book that she was doing so well at shifting was shot by Maria Klenner in Beirut after the blast that had dislodged her.

Having been a modest part of our new book’s journey to the bookshelf, I am more aware than ever of the power of photography done well – and not just imagery of conflict but fashion, architecture and portraiture too. Yet what makes a great picture, one that keeps pulling you in, that can resonate across the years, is harder to pin down. As the team gathered potential stories for our book, it was curious how one story still moved you while another seemed too much of its moment, a time capsule unable to break free. And I had the same feeling as I walked around Photo London. There’s wonderful work here: much dates back decades but nonetheless snares you. Others, however, seem destined to become background fodder in some corporate office lobby, soon to fade.

Matt has written about Frank Horvat’s 1962 picture of Carol Lobravico and he’s right about it being so damned fresh even now. (There’s a great show of Horvat’s work, from fashion to Paris by night, at Photo London.) But – and sorry to encroach on his territory – there’s another Horvat, taken the same year, that does a similar trick. It was shot in Rome for Harper’s Bazaar and is of author Alberto Moravia and model China Machado, the first woman of colour to appear on the cover of a major US fashion magazine and a Givenchy house model in the 1950s. Moravia is dressed in a three-piece suit and holding a fat, sleeping cat. Machado, hair coiffed, in an immaculate twinset, is standing behind him. Both are looking away from the lens. It’s a perfect picture and it’s hard to believe that this is 60 years ago, that these people are long dead. They should surely be able to walk out of that picture, be here. And they wouldn’t have to change a thing to be the chicest people in the room (well, perhaps they’d have to let the kitty wander off). It’s then, it’s now.

This is the stuff that intrigues: how do we capture time in both words and pictures so that they don’t fade? How do we stop the past or places that we don’t know well from seeming so distant, so alien? How do we leave something in our wake that will serve others well? Big stuff but I hope that some of this fretting has helped to make our book as good as I think it is and allowed us to tell – and retell – stories of people in places from Beirut to Busan in a way that allows them to appear able to walk off the page and confront us and our emotions afresh.

‘The Monocle Book of Photography’ isavailable now.

The Look / Clone warfare

Sticking to the old normal

It isn’t easy to wring especially rich subtexts from the sartorial choices of the two men vying to be prime minister of Australia in next week’s federal election (writes Andrew Mueller). Both the incumbent, Scott Morrison, and the leader of the opposition, Anthony Albanese (pictured, on left, with Morrison), are fiftysomething blokes from the Sydney suburbs and have tended, while occupying their current posts, to dress accordingly.

One of them, however, is very visibly not the man he once was. Albanese is reported to have lost 18kg by eating less and eating better, exercising more and only having a drink on weekends – a lifestyle change prompted by his aspiration to high office and by a fortunate escape from a serious car accident in January 2021. Albanese has also been photographed dressed, daringly, as though he hasn’t just grabbed a handful of suits off the rack nearest to the exit at the Myer department store and has bought a not-cheap pair of Byblos Black Havana spectacles.

Image: Getty Images

The now relatively portly, if not downright dowdy, Morrison has sought to damn his opponent’s commendable transformation as some sort of sinister affectation, declaring, “I’m not pretending to be anybody else. I’m still wearing the same glasses – sadly, the same suits too. I’m about the same size and I don’t mind a bit of Italian cake.” It remains to be seen whether this last oddly specific assertion wins Morrison any votes among confectionary connoisseurs in marginal electorates with notable Italian communities: smart move, if so.

However, Morrison, whose pre-politics background was in marketing, will be aware that anything that a politician wears projects an image. His uniform of dull-coloured chinos, suit jackets and RM Williams boots, with occasional excursions into the black-and-turquoise paraphernalia of the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks rugby league club, is a statement of the Australian ordinariness that he prizes and advocates as the most noble of virtues. Readers shouldn’t expect any sartorial fireworks.

How We Live / Mexican soundscape

Pump up the volume

In Latin America, Mexicans have a reputation for being loud (writes Louis Harnett O’Meara). On a tour bus to Machu Picchu or the cog train to Christ the Redeemer statue, you can safely assume that the chorus of “¡Qué padre!” and “¡No mames, wey!” is coming from the Mexican contingent. It begins to make more sense once you spend some time in their home country.

In Mexico, sounds organise life. It’s a tough lesson to learn when you’re trying to enjoy an alfresco flat white. Before it has even arrived, a man emerges seemingly from nowhere, clanging a bell up and down the street to let the neighbourhood know that the rubbish truck is here (don’t ask why a simple schedule won’t suffice). You try to take a sip and “¡Aguaaa!” is bellowed in your ear by the water man, who has come to dispense 20-litre bottles to anyone who answers his call. As you’re mopping your spilled coffee from the table, a hellish scream of smoke escaping from a portable barbecue’s chimney informs you that the elote (corn on the cob) vendor is at the street corner, like a sinister ice-cream van.

Illustration: Mathieu De Muizon

Then there are the tinny speakers screeching about gas canisters for sale, recorded messages blaring out from vans collecting secondhand furniture and more buskers performing than anyone ever asked to hear. But you’d be wrong to only take the negatives. The din comes together to create a rich texture for daily life, with systems that operate silently in other countries made into a vibrant part of Mexico’s public life. It’s joyful in its way. Admittedly, peace and quiet might be too much to ask. But it means that when you visit Mexico, sightseeing won’t be the only thing on your agenda. You’ll have to listen, as well.

Interrogator / Mareike Dittmer

Beneath the waves

Mareike Dittmer is director of public engagement at TBA21-Academy, a gallery and research centre based in Vienna that uses art to explore our relationship with the ocean (writes Annabel Martin). Based between Zürich and Berlin, Dittmer was previously an associate publisher at Frieze magazine. Here she tells us about spending her Sundays in the woods, her favourite bookshop in Zürich and the soothing quality of the BBC’s Shipping Forecast.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with the headlines?
White tea, plus fresh raspberry and apple juice.

Do you prefer Saturday or Sunday?
Sunday in the woods – it’s a deeply enjoyable way to clear your head. It’s about understanding nature as the opposite of the tamed scenery that you find in cultivated gardens or fields. You have to go beyond the civilised parks and look to the other side of the fence that resists control and promises uncertainties. There is a prospect of transformation, possibly transgression.

Do you have a favourite bookshop?
Never Stop Reading in Zürich, a bookshop that used to be a butchers. It pays homage to its illustrious historical neighbours, from Dada’s Cabaret Voltaire to dramatist Georg Büchner.

What’s your newspaper of choice?
I subscribe to Der Spiegel, NZZ, The Guardian and The New York Times.

What about books?
My latest addition to the academy’s Ocean Library is Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals, a transformative study by Alexis Pauline Gumbs. And I’m reading a draft of a novel by one of my favourite art writers, Dominic Eichler. Basing it on historical fact, he ventures into fictional settings on the island of Capri. I hope it finds a publisher soon.

What do you listen to before drifting off?
The BBC’s Shipping Forecast. There’s nothing more soothing than a mysterious intelligence speaking weather code.

Culture / Read, watch, visit

Inner space

‘The Opposite of a Person’, Lieke Marsman. Dutch writer Lieke Marsman’s genre-defying novel explores how we can define our identity and negotiate our personal responsibilities in the face of the climate crisis. Ida is a climatologist who has left her girlfriend in Amsterdam to demolish a dam in the Alps. Marsman, the poet laureate of the Netherlands, punctuates the prose with lyricism and essay-like reflections. The result is a moving, insightful novel.

‘Infiniti’, Julien Vanlerenberghe and Stéphane Pannetier. Created by writers Julien Vanlerenberghe and Stéphane Pannetier, this high-octane Canal+ series is set on the International Space Station (ISS). Featuring a multinational cast who speak in different languages throughout, it starts with a gripping premise: after the body of a crew member is found on the ground in Kazakhstan and communication with the space station is lost, ground control fears the worst for everyone on board. But when the same astronaut starts communicating again from the ISS, it becomes clear that something more unsettling is afoot.

‘The Territories of Abstraction’, Galerie Poggi at Frieze Cork Street, London. When London’s art fair Frieze launched its Cork Street outpost in 2020 as a pop-up space for galleries to use as a temporary base, it was hard to predict whether the idea would stick even beyond the height of the pandemic. A dynamic programme, including this group exhibition presented by Paris’s Galerie Poggi, is proving that the model has legs. The Territories of Abstraction takes landscapes as its theme but these are far from idyllic vistas. Instead, work by Nikita Kadan, Sophie Ristelhueber and Ittah Yoda explores how land can interrogate conflict, history and our environmental future.

Photo of the Week / Carol Lobravico by Frank Horvat

Stolen moments

The seventh edition of Photo London, which runs until tomorrow at Somerset House, is showing work by some of the finest photographers to have ever misplaced a lens cap (writes Matthew Beaman). One of the standout exhibits is dedicated to Italian snapper Frank Horvat, who died in 2020.

Best known for his pioneering approach to fashion photography, Horvat was among the first to shoot models in everyday street locations, rather than in the studio. His work has appeared in all of the big-name publications, from Life and Vogue to Harper’s Bazaar, Glamour and Le Jardin des Modes.

Image: Frank Horvat

This 1962 portrait of model Carol Lobravico at the Café de Flore in Paris feels strikingly modern in its composition. “I decided that all models who did not assume natural expressions would have their heads cut off – by framing, of course,” Horvat once said. Photo London is worth visiting just to see his extraordinary work up close.

Outpost News / KKCR

Living traditions

Kauai, Hawaii’s fourth-largest island, is known for its exceptional natural beauty, even by local standards. Home to about 70,000 people, it is the oldest of the main Hawaiian Islands. Kauai’s community radio station, KKCR, is a non-profit that aims to “preserve, perpetuate and celebrate Hawaiian culture”. General manager Laura Christine tells us more.

Image: Alamy

How did the station begin?
KKCR started broadcasting on 4 July 1997. All of our programmers and DJs are volunteers and our funding comes from listener and business donations and grants.

How did you become involved with the station?
I started as a volunteer in 2004, hosting a music programme, and began working full-time in 2013.

Who’s your most popular DJ and why?
Our Hawaiian-music programmers Sandy “Tita” Swift, Brada Lou, Linda Lester Keale and Leilani Kaleiohi. Their love of Hawaiian music and culture inspires new and old listeners.

What song is played most on the station?
“Auau Pū” by Cindy Combs from her Land of the Endless Summer album.

What events will you be covering in the near future?
In partnership with Friends of Kauai Wildlife Refuges, we are producing a series of radio spots played every day to educate members of our community about the many species it helps to protect.

What’s the big story on the waves this week?
The affordable housing crisis on the island.

What local spots do you and your colleagues enjoy hanging out at?
Fish Bar Deli, The Hanalei Gourmet and Tiki Iniki.

Fashion Update / Palmes x 'How Long Gone'

Perfect partners

It would be easy to assume that the fashion world had exhausted all collaborations but Copenhagen-based label Palmes Tennis Society has just come up with a fresh concept: a capsule collection co-designed with founder Nikolaj Hansson’s favourite podcast, How Long Gone (writes Nathalie Theodosi).

“People ask me, ‘What do you mean, you’re collaborating with a podcast?’” says Hansson, a former skateboarder and tennis novice who launched Palmes last summer with a mission to paint a more modern picture of tennis. “But I see it as any other brand partnership – we’re bringing together all that we have in common, including not taking ourselves too seriously,” he tells Monocle. “The sport is usually presented in this old-school, retro way, which can create social barriers. We want to show that you don’t have to change who you are or fit that image to play tennis. We want to change tennis to fit you.”

Bringing in creatives who wouldn’t typically be associated with tennis is part of Hansson’s plan for instigating those changes. Chris Black and Jason Stewart were among the top contenders for their honest, unfiltered conversations on How Long Gone.

Together they designed a three-piece capsule that includes a canvas tote, nylon tennis shorts and a long-sleeved T-shirt with playful illustrations of tennis balls and the slogan “Palmes Long Gone”. The collection is available from the brand’s website and Canadian online shop Ssense.


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