Saturday, September 26, 2015

Antacid Punks

At about 9:30pm this past Tuesday, I was heading home from a photography gig downtown. At that hour, the subway is really perfect for people-watching because it's a lot easier to get a seat and observe.

They get on the 5 train at 14th Street, big bags from punk emporiums Trash & Vaudeville and Search & Destroy under her arm, and a giant, 24-pack of toilet paper in a plastic bag under his. They sit down on the train, metal buckles clanging against black leather boots, silver chains jangling from wrists and black leather vests. His black hair is smooth and shiny, separated in the middle and flowing long straight over his shoulders, just barely revealing a runic tattoo on his right shoulder. There's a scrawling in fiery, red letters across the black t-shirt on chest of some metal band I've never heard of, black jeans on his legs. Though he is short for a man, he has no trouble nestling the the toilet paper package between his legs. His nose is pierced on the side, and his lip is pierced in the center, both marked with a silver hoop.

She is tall, much taller than him, even moreso in her platform combat boots. Her hair is jet black, but dyed that way, crunchy with a hair product that forms it into oddly perfect waves down her shoulders and back. Her skin is powdery white because it has been caked with makeup. Black eyeliner lines curve up the sides of her face, and blood red matte lipstick beams off her mouth, in high contrast to her dark eyes. Her septum piercing, a black half-ring, forms an arc shape through her nose. She's also wearing a black metal band t-shirt and a black leather vest. Long feathers hang from her ears. They chat loudly to each other in Spanish.

She opens a bottle of antacid, spills some on her leather boot, and takes a swig. It's cherry flavored. He rips open the toilet paper package and offers her some to clean it up, but she shakes her head, she doesn't need it. Do I have any on my lipstick? she asks in Spanish, pointing to her mouth. No, he shakes his head. She squeezes some antibacterial from a keychain on her black skull purse into her hand and rubs it in. She takes out a granola bar from her purse and offers him some. He shakes his head no, he doesn't want any, and she proceeds to rip pieces of the pink frosted snack into her mouth. She gets some crumbs on the skull purse and brushes them off. He changes his mind and they share.

A person sits down next to her and stares down at the massive tree tattoo running down the length of her upper arm, not looking away for a solid 15 seconds. I notice I'm staring at this person staring at this tattoo, trying to figure out how much time is passing.

Her fingers hold on long black acrylic nails and a bejeweled skull ring. I notice them when she wraps her hand around his knee. There is still antacid on her shoe when I get off at my stop, leaving them to their antacid and granola punk life.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Backstage Beauty at NYFW, Spring/Summer 2016

Another Fashion Week has passed. The blisters on my feet are healing, my eyes are less bloodshot and I'm drinking less caffeine than I normally would. Now it's back to a real life, with significantly fewer open bars, free hairspray, and celebrity sightings. Until Februrary, that is...

Here are some of my favorite shots from behind the scenes at the New York Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2016 collections.

Monday, September 7, 2015

A Summer Saturday

BK and I meet for brunch. We are both flighty birds about town so the occasion for just the two of us to hang out is rare. We meet at The Wayland, a rad spot in Alphabet City that's decorated with exposed brick, books about blues music and portraits of someone's great-great-grandfather nobody ever knew. The tables are thick and wooden and we sit on stools staring at each other, talking about writing, dating, and wherever those twains might meet. It's cooler for a summer day, and the open windows don't make me feel like I'm going to die. BK is halfway through his iced coffee and already he's talking faster, but my pace is much slower. It's one of the few days off I've had since I started working weekends, and I feel myself breathing. I order what the restaurant calls Sausage Bread and Eggs, and really this is the best name for it because that's what it is--thick, crusty bread filled in the middle with ground sausage bits that melt into you mouth and into the yolk of the poached eggs when you break them open. I dip the bread and egg combo into the ricotta/olive oil mixture it's served with and I taste Saturday. I will be back.

After brunch, we walk over to a mural, an alphabet assemblage of street art BK has been wanting to see. As we walk there, a man shouts to me, "Look at this beautiful Jewish girl!" and BK and I both become palpably uncomfortable but don't say anything for a few seconds.

"How did that make you feel? I'm sorry that happened." he says after those seconds pass. "Should I have said something?"

"Uh, no," I said. "I wouldn't have known what to tell you to say." And really, I still don't. It bothers me more to be called out for my ethnicity than my visual appeal and I don't know how to voice that. Why can't I just be beautiful?

We arrive at the mural, which is bright blue painted on brick and shutters and wraps around a streetcorner. From what we can gather, several different artists have collaborated to do different letters of the alphabet in their various styles. We consider each letter carefully as if we've just wandered into a gallery. I like the letter "L" the best, which is formed from a pink leg leading into a pink ankle leading into a red sneaker.

Heading up Avenue B, we stop into a new vintage spot BK has found, the East Village Clothing Collective. It's two floors and independently owned by three ladies, each of whom has a distinct style and a distinct area of the store. The vintage sunglasses are inexpensive ($5-8 each) but the silken Twisted Sister jacket is less so ($100). There are funny polyester cowboy shirts and paisley dresses abound, and The Stray Cats play on the sound system. There's a room with vintage Gucci heels in it that has portholes for no reason and a room in the back where they set up air mattresses and do movie nights for free.

Time has ticked by, and shortly I must be on my way. I am heading out to New Jersey for the afternoon to visit SJT's family home.

I arrive at Penn Station with plenty of time to get the black tea with milk and Splenda I want so badly, but I am nervous, without reason, that I will miss the train. I don't take NJ Transit often and I know trains always (for the most part) leave on time. I get on the train and transfer at Newark Penn Station which, I must say, is the most disgusting place I have been since moving to New York. The length of the stairways smell entirely of piss, and the waiting areas smell like body odor. I moved through each of these with great speed and fear of vomiting and was rewarded with my train to a place called Netherwood waiting for me on the other end.

SJT picked me up in his car, which did not look too much like it belonged to him save for a Renata Tebaldi box set in the backseat. SJT, a self-described "opera queen" named his car Monserrat Caballé, hoping that it, like her, would have a long, illustrious career (he made the mistake previously of naming another car after the singer Leyla Gencer who had a tragically short career; he crashed this car into a tree). On the way to his home in South Plainfield, which he describes as "rather gay," he points out to me that the area was once known as a location for country homes for those living in the city. We pass gorgeous tudor-style mansions that support this. We pass a cemetery on our left where SJT tells me Dudley Moore is buried. "When I was in middle school, I didn't know who Dudley Moore was, but I did know who Liza Minnelli was and I knew they were friends," he said. He was delighted that, upon Moore's death in 2002, the divine Ms. Minnelli would likely be in his very hometown to attend her friend's funeral. Though SJT could not crash the funeral to see her, he did go visit Moore's grave the next day to stand where Liza had possibly stood and take in her "Liza-ness," as it were.

We turn down one street and then another and then SJT drolly quips, "And this is the Burger King," before turning into his driveway.

A crowd of people has already gathered, and we sit in the grass and on lawn chairs in his backyard. It's not too hot, and the grass is cool on my feet.
"Would you like to sit in a chair like a real person, Elyssa?" SJT says to me.
"Oh, no thank you," I say, smiling, because how often in New York do I really get to sit in the grass and look up at the sky?

For an appetizer, we eat chicken and tomato salad made with items fresh from the garden/orchard we are staring at as we eat. During this time, we are invited to remove any books we like (for the most part) from SJT's room: soon he is leaving for Eastern Europe, a months-long tour of his own design. From a hot room decorated with kelly green spongepaint, I remove We Were The Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, Ada, or Ardor by Vladimir Nabokov and The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross. Other people choose Pushkin or Thomas Hardy or a variety of choral selections SJT had amassed over the years that no longer held interest for him. I return with my haul and sink deeper into the sangria AnSha has made, a peach and rosemary elixir she serves from a Mason jar. She has just moved to Williamsburg--I joke how well she seems to be assimilating and we laugh.

SJT's mother has prepared a feast for us this evening, and shortly I stuff my face with what's easily the best lasagna I've ever had. I'm not a regular pasta eater generally and I don't come from an Italian household, so I don't often have the pleasure of having the dish, much less homemade. It melts in my mouth, as do the Penne Vodka and Sausage and Peppers. I eat enough of everything so when I go home to my empty refrigerator I won't even notice for the entire week. Everyone drinks more, sits more, laughs more. We eat sliced peaches from the garden with Friendly's vanilla ice cream for dessert as the sky turns first to a peachy pink, then lavender, then powder blue, then black.

It is time to leave, and SJT and his mother take AnSha and I to the train. NJ Transit is brimming with people heading into the city for a big night out: they wear tight dresses or jeans and some even wear Hawaiian leis, spangled tops and button-down shirts. And AnSha and I can barely stay awake. We lean our heads against the window as we leave first the Metropark station, then the airport, then Newark Penn, and finally arrive back in Manhattan. I find my way home dreamily by 11pm and fall asleep. Who needs to go out when you've had a day like this?

Saturday, August 29, 2015


This week, I had the pleasure of photographing the new dance play PEARL at Lincoln Center for Time Out New York. This was special to me not only because I was one of three photographers there or because it was the world premiere of the show, but because for the first time, my dance photography work had collided with the work of one of my dear friends who is a dancer.

Raymond Ejiofor was cast in PEARL in one of its earlier choreography stages and had the opportunity to be a part of its development process along with only a few other dancers. The full cast at Lincoln Center would be responsible for telling the story of the life of Pearl S. Buck, the Pulitzer and Nobel Prize-winning author of The Good Earth, among other novels. One of the shows goals is "highlighting the closing of the cultural divide….'East meets West' and features a very talented cast of 30 Chinese and American dancers, Raymond being of the latter.

I met Ray in college, where I discovered what a pleasure it was to watch him dance, finding myself perpetually in utter awe of his skill and grace. All of our friends have always been pulling for him, knowing how talented he is and hoping the rest of the world could one day see it, despite the harsh difficulties of making a life as a dancer. And now, after earning his Master's degree in Public Health, Ray is a full-time dancer, and has been employed by various companies and freelance projects in Los Angeles and other places around the world (he is going to Shanghai in September for work, as well). For example, he appears in Pharrell's music video for "Happy," Fitz and the Tantrums' music video for "The Walker," and many others, especially, most recently, as the star of Little Boots's music video "No Pressure" (video below).

Now, though, I would get to see him in PEARL, which he had been working on for the last few months. It is, he would tell me, his debut show in New York. As I sat in the theatre holding my camera during dress rehearsal, snapping away at the various, very beautiful scenes in PEARL, I was so happy Ray and I had both gotten to a literal and metaphorical place in our lives where this interaction was possible. It's always been a dream of mine to be able to shout from the rooftops how wonderful my friends are and how beautiful the work they create is, and I'm honored and exploding with delight to have been able to do that in any way for Ray, who so very much deserves it, in such a good show.

A screenshot of my PEARL slideshow on Time Out New York!
You can view the rest of the images on the site here.

Choreographed and directed by Daniel Ezralow, a talented veteran of the dance world (credits include the film Across the Universe and the Broadway show of Spider-Man, among many others), PEARL is an abstract telling of Pearl S. Buck's life. The show is told in five portions, Spring, Flower, River, Moon, Night, each representing a time in Buck's life. The narrative is clean and clear but not prosaic or overbearing--in other words, I got it, but they didn't beat me over the head with it, which I appreciated--and it's so interesting to see a story told in a different way. As I said to Ray, I photograph dance all the time, and it's nice to see something new, a story told in contemporary dance. PEARL is holding only four performances at Lincoln Center, and is in talks to travel to China in 2016. Between now and then, this may be your only chance to catch the show, and I highly recommend that you do (link here for tickets).

And after the show, if you don't mind, go up to Ray and give him a big hug for me. A head's up, he might be a little sweaty.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Cold Trap

Please forgive my absence these last weeks, but I have been traveling and working! See where below...

I don't know how I was awake, but I did it.

After my flight left before it was supposed to (it was supposed to leave at midnight but instead left at 9pm without telling me), I caught the next possible flight out of Florida, where I was visiting my family, at 6am. We left my house at 4:30am. This flight would take me to New York, where I was supposed to catch a 9:30am train to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Ultimately, I had to change the train times, but luckily Amtrak lets you do that for free if you do it far enough in advance (and luckily less than 12 hours was far enough in advance). But I had to get to Lancaster that day because that's when I promised I would be there. And I don't break my promises.

I tried to sleep on the plane, but to no avail. It was more of a process of just having my eyes closed and perpetually shoving my dress around my feet to keep them warm. My nerves jittered. When the plane landed, I was simultaneously groggy and wide awake. It was time to move. I went to retrieve my bag, which was supposed to have come in on the flight the night before. Instead, the airline lost it. All out of anger, I went home and just started laughing because on top of it all, a banana I had brought to eat on the plane exploded in my purse. You can't make this stuff up.

I smiled and shook my head, showered, shoved a few essential items in my bag, went to the bagel joint near my house and grabbed a bacon, egg, and cheese on a whole wheat flat bagel and a black tea with milk and Splenda and headed to Penn Station, where I got my train (and a window seat!) with no problem. Praise be to our Lordess and Savior RuPaul.

I was excited to be back in Lancaster. I loved the clean air, the endless cornfields, the Amish buggies that occasionally pass you by; I love all the greenery, the bright blue sky, and that it's still a land where you can get a bottle of soda for $1.50. And I was excited to be there for the actual reason I was there--to do production stills on the set of the forthcoming feature film The Cold Trap.

The Cold Trap is the story of George and Rebecca, a couple who refuse to recognize each other's toxicity. Their relationship unfolds in a Paradise, PA motel room which we learn, to use the production's phrase, becomes both their haven and their penitentiary. My friend, actor Peter Ferraiolo, plays George, and his partner Bianca Puorto plays Rebecca. Their friends made up the cast and crew of the film, many from The Actor's Studio Drama School at Pace University in New York where they, along with Peter and Bianca, study. The rest, like screenwriter Benjamin Spirk, reside in Lancaster. The project came about after Peter and Ben first staged a version of the work in play form in 2012 at Millersville University's Four Corners Festival. They had been talking about making it a movie ever since, and now, after raising all of the funds they needed on Indiegogo, they and the team have done it.

I remember a few months ago sitting with Peter at a bar and listening to him talk about the project. While he's an excellent actor, he's not a bullshit artist, so when he really believes in something his enthusiasm is catching. And he's not a person who ever asks for help, so when he does I know it really means something to him. I wanted to help, but we needed to figure out how--could I write about it? Could I do something else? I wondered if they needed production stills...and it turns out they did.

The fact that they were filming in Lancaster was part of the draw for me. Lancaster gets pegged often as some quiet, little Amish cow town, but it actually has a thriving arts scene--rows of galleries, scads of music venues, a bustling downtown area with great bars and restaurants; it's a city enough that even a sworn Manhattanite like me never feels far from home. If anything, I feel more at home around the friendly people who love their city. It's a shame more films don't get made out there, that it's not more of a destination.

Shooting took place at the Amish Lanterns Motel, designated with a sign out front that must be from the 1970s, with its stagecoach-style lettering and the word 'MOTEL' in giant, blaring red letters that glow on a white rectangle when it gets dark. The walls were scratched and scraped with paint, doors in disrepair with punch-holes in their centers, peeling wallpaper, and a host of other details that made this the perfect set where George and Rebecca, in their throes of frustration and misery, could be brought to life.

As soon as I arrived I set down my luggage and started taking pictures. People quickly became aware of my signature camera snap and I was grateful that they began to ignore it--I like it better that way, when people stop seeing you and just become themselves (a little bit more, anyway). I watched as they shot take after take speaking Ben's beautifully tangled and mysterious prose, setting up the different scenes from a variety of angles. It was so interesting to see talented people doing their work up so close--because really, how often do you get to see something like that? Not only that, but to be able to interact with people I know in their line of work while I was doing my own work. It felt like one of those times in your life you're fully conscious will never be duplicated (unless they bring me out to photograph their next film! Wink wink...). I chugged a Diet Mountain Dew in the early evening to keep going, which I hadn't done since college or since I swore off soda in January. It was important to me to stay true to my word for the people who had brought me out there and not pass out as soon as I arrived.

I knew how a movie was made, of course, but I had never been on an actual set of one before. I shot their rehearsals before takes, I shot Chelsea Lockie, the director, applying makeup to different cast members, I shot everyone's smoke breaks in between takes. I shot their down time before shooting began when Jesse Stone, the sound engineer, would play the guitar and talk to Shashwat Gupta, the DP; and their down time at the end of the day when everyone would sit outside and drink Red Stripe beer and eat Twizzlers and listen to a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack playlist from Spotify. Shoutout to actresses Leah Kreitz and Olivia Hardin who, in their full-on hooker garb, were both terrifying and amazing to photograph, too. I loved absorbing everyone's energy, their nervousness, how important this was to them not just to churn something out but to really create something they were proud of because they had already invested so much. Wrapping for the day felt like a huge accomplishment even for me, so I can imagine what it felt like for them. And when I left, maybe even like George and Rebecca, part of me stayed.

As of yesterday, the film has wrapped in totality. I'm excited to see The Cold Trap in all of its stages to come, and I'm so happy I could have contributed in some way to the work of such passionate, talented, motivated people. Below are a few pictures from the set, and more will come in the not-too-distant future.

Shot on location
Bianca Puorto and Peter Ferraiolo as Rebecca and George
Leah Kreitz, in costume
Jesse Stone, sound engineer, with
Mike Texter, production assistant
Peter assists, with Chelsea, Shash, and Bianca
Leah and Ben (as character Bertie) in costume
Shash and Chelsea
Olivia in costume as character Heaven

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Five Years

I am covered in remnants of orange Bain de Soleil tanning gel, SPF 4. I had been sitting in the park near my house in the sun, enjoying part of the day off of my new writing job, which I did not think I would get. I ate a banana, I listened to music, I read New York magazine. And now I am sitting in front of my computer, the air conditioning pushing cold air onto my back as I type. More than anything, though, I am trying to figure out what to say about the last five years without sounding like a horrible cliche.

On July 30, 2010, my mother and I pulled up to my first apartment and emptied the contents of the giant SUV we rented first onto the concrete, then into the lobby, then into the elevator, and finally into the apartment where I would live for the next four years. A giant bucket of shoes, suitcases upon suitcases upon suitcases, neverending boxes of books, and god knows what else. I had what I always dreamed of: a job and an apartment in New York.

And now, somehow, by some stroke of pure luck, I still have those things--albeit a different job and a different apartment. I remember there were parts of me that were so excited these things I had wished for for so long were finally mine, but there were other parts, deeper, under the surface, that worried they might all too soon disappear. That something terrible might happen and I would turn out not to be as strong as I thought I was, that I would fail and never be the tough New York broad and/or gal about town I aspired to be.

Miraculously, as of this writing, that is not the case. I don't think I really understood the magnitude of what I was doing when I moved to New York at 21 years old, fresh out of college, in a city where I had never stayed for more than a few days at a time. I had this sort of wonderful blindness that shot me forward. I look at the people I meet now who are 21 and I think to myself, my god, you're a baby! Sweet little dear! I know it's unfounded because I know whatever I was capable of at 21 got me to where I am now. And where am I? Still living in New York, still writing, still taking pictures, still growing as a person and a small business. 

In these last five years, there's been a wealth of experiences that have led me here, whether in my career, my social life, my romantic life, or what have you. I have this strong feeling of liking myself, and fully owning each of those experiences, be they negative or positive, because they made me what I am. I apologize for myself less, I make sure people only treat me with the kindness and respect I deserve, and I am even learning to be a little more carefree. As AM says, "Every day, you need to practice not giving a fuck about one thing." I find I am doing it, and I am a better person for it!

But I don't think I would have had this sort of personal growth if I was living anywhere else. Because I love New York so deeply, I found myself rising to the challenges it brought my way. I knew before I got here that I was the kind of person who would fight tooth and nail for what I wanted; I just never imagined I would also be fighting tooth and nail with myself, challenging myself to become a better person, the kind who could adapt to living in this ever-changing metropolis and roll with the punches it threw my way. I am not perfect--I am still learning. But I am getting better, and that is what counts.

I would not trade one night of one too many gin-and-tonics, one night walking in the snow with an unexpected hole in my boot, one trip through the Union Square subway station in the height of summer, one meal of only frozen peas, or one broken heart for the experiences and the knowledge I have gained in return. Because for every one of those not-so-great experiences, there's an afternoon spent hanging out with drag kings, there's an evening spent at a Chelsea bakery eating banana pudding with male models, there's crazy disco performance art parties where you end up happily covered in fake blood, there's a bike trip an hour outside of the city with a gay motorcycle club, there's the best burger you've ever had, there's photographing inside legendary arts venues, there's meeting Fran Drescher at a gallery opening, and the electricity of kissing someone you've just met for the first time on a too-quiet street in the West Village. Those are the moments you live for, and you can't have the good without the bad.

To all the bad moments and all the good moments from these last five years in New York, thank you. I don't know what I'd be without you.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Scenes from a Summer

Merrie Cherry
Brooklyn drag queens are known for doing whatever the hell they want, pretty much. They'll arrive onstage with hairy legs and chests, they'll paint their entire faces as if they were applying warpaint, they'll have ripped tights, they'll throw off their wigs in fits of fabulousness. As famed drag king Murray Hill once said, they're a hot mess, but on purpose; the punks of the drag world, one might say. And they're glorious. I had never seen a Brooklyn drag show before but I made my way out to one recently. The annual festival of drag in Bushwick is known as Bushwig and it's held in September, where the borough's queens all come out to play; but the summer version of it is called Patwig. It was a day-long festival at Union Pool in Williamsburg, where ferocious queens like Merrie Cherry, Horrorchata, the delightfully named [untitled queen], Aja, and many others all came out to play in their own brand of drag. As if to say no, there's not one way to do drag, and anything I want to do, any choice I make will be beautiful. For the rest of my life, I will never forget seeing Merrie Cherry lip-synch Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," spinning on a pole, running across the stage and jumping onto a picnic table in giant red platform heels. It was sheer genderfuck perfection. I will without a doubt be going back.

Photos are from my iPhone. Incidentally, I am also on Instagram (@MissManhattanNY)!

Part of Merrie Cherry's "Bohemian Rhapsody"

Punk in Drublic
When it comes to drinking, I am a terrible lightweight. One drink, of any kind, makes me loopy, so when JW came to visit last week and we had a cocktail--yes A cocktail-- with dinner, I was done. And after dinner, around 11pm, we went grocery shopping because I had no food and it's New York so everything is open late (my grocery store is open til 1am. God, I love this town). So we were in this grocery store, giggling and wobbling through the aisles to find strawberries and yogurt and cookie dough on two different nights, and it was a completely wacky experience. JW accidentally made jokes about the phallic shape of cookie dough as we tromped through a crowd of people in the pasta aisle, my giant shopping basket filled with cottage cheese and yogurt for me, kombucha for her. They turned and stared and we burst out laughing in each other's faces. And I have to say, it was one of my greatest moments of last week.

I've probably written this before, but one of the things about living in New York is that you have to remember that it's just like living everywhere else. Yes, there are clubs open til 4am every night--trust me, I've been to them--but you know you're a real New Yorker, or at least on your way to becoming one, when you don't have to do those things or be chasing those things to have an amazing time. Sometimes you can just be punk in drublic in your local grocery store, shopping for cookie dough at 10pm with a friend. You'll simultaneously laugh and eat the dough on the way home with her, like you're still in college, as if nearly nine years have not passed since you first met. And it'll be awesome.

Nocturne Blues
It was rather toasty last weekend--easily in the 90s for a day or two, definitely. And over the weekend was the annual Nocturne Blues dance weekend here in the city (read more about what blues dancing is here). Blues dancers from all over the country and the world came to dance to DJs and live music, enter dance competitions, take blues classes, and much more. I had the pleasure of attending for two nights, both where I danced from about 10:30pm until about 3am. Hips swirl and grind, people are kind and considerate, and you leave with a warm body and a warm heart. (Not to mention you get to hang out and dance with two friends you never get to see and it's wonderful! Shoutout to the phenomenal JB and DL).

There is nothing like leaving a building having danced out your stresses and entering the dark, quiet streets of New York in the summertime, where a heated, humid breeze hangs in the air. That's the thing I've always felt about very hot weather--while it's unpleasant on the surface, on a deeper level it makes you feel alive.

Jazz on a Summer's Day
In 1959, the photographer Bert Stern arrived in Newport, Rhode Island to direct a feature film, but luckily he decided to abandon it and focus instead on the Newport Jazz Festival. The result is a documentary of a single day of the festival, featuring Stern's gorgeous cinematography and astounding jazz performances from the likes of Louis Armstrong, Big Maybelle, Mahalia Jackson, George Shearing, and many more. I hadn't seen the film previously, but what I heard about it was that each scene from the film itself was a gorgeous photograph, reflective of Stern's still work. Seeing it on Tuesday, this was without a doubt completely true. I had been invited to the beautiful Explorer's Club on the Upper East Side for a viewing of the film in one of the club's great rooms (to get to it I had to walk past a giant taxidermy polar bear!) and was utterly blown away. When you look at the film, you feel Stern looking at each of these images and understanding why he wanted to capture them, what story he was trying to tell. And it was, frankly, the perfect movie for a summer evening. As I left, I walked into the evening, dark but still well lit in the way that all New York evenings are, inspired to listen to jazz all the way home.

Check out the trailer here, but I highly recommend watching it in its entirety!