South Philadelphia

street art adjacent to South Philly Tap Room

Grabbed some grub at our favorite little S. Philly spot just before going in to see Sir Paul McCartney perform an incredible sold out show! We’ve attended many concerts together in the past 3.5 years, from Neil Finn to Dr. John, Jimmy Cliff to Van Morrison, and many more in between. Our first date was a Ray Davies concert! Each show is impressive and special for individual reasons but we don’t think anyone could love and respect his fans more than Macca. He gave 3 solid well-paced hours of music and anecdotes leaving the audience wanting for nothing. It was a brilliant, generous performance mere days after his 73rd birthday! 

Sunday Epeolatry

Yesterday, we tucked ourselves hand-in-hand, book-bossomed, into a warm coffee shoppe with our recent findings from the book trader on 2nd + Market to try to revive a little inner apricity and to kill time before catching a film.

Taking a moment between pages and sips of fresh coffee in my typical state of glowy vorfreude to steal a glance at and a gaze from my mate, I noticed this fun typography:

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Find Alessandra on Instagram @Alessandra_Official | Twitter @novembergrlfoto

Rainy Day Philly

I like to use my non-public Instagram account like it’s a sketchbook for inspiration for the days I dedicate to my drawing table for illustrating (Public Instas: @alessandra_official and @thetreegrows).

I liked a lot of the aerial perspective lines of rainy day Center City that led to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and imagination-inspiring things such as a rooftop tennis court. I also liked catching One Liberty Place peeking out from behind other buildings and in reflections at street level. Anthropomorphizing buildings and playing with the idea of uses for roof tops comes in handy when story boarding book projects and creating new settings.

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The Reflecting Pool

I grabbed tickets for my boyfriend and I to see the Barnes Foundation’s new location in Philadelphia last weekend for the first time. This view greeted us as we rounded the corner to enter the museum.

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© Alessandra Nicole, 2012 | All Rights Reserved

I personally had been putting a visit off because I had seen “The Art of the Steal” (a documentary that follows the struggle for control of Albert Barnes’ 25 billion dollar collection of modern and post-impressionist art) but curiosity and an obsession for seeing masterworks in person won out.

The Barnes collection was truly a feast for the eyes for the likes of me- walls crammed with Cézannes, Monets, Manets, Picassos, more. A beautifully produced and user-friendly free app was available to download from iTunes directly to our iPhones so we were able to embark on individual listening tours. The venue itself is marvelous for the prime piece of real estate the Foundation was able to obtain in Philly; the architecture is sleek, respectful, stylish, yet simple and intimate.

Definitely worth a trip though the consensus on museums is that such art should not be boxed up in a lump in pretty buildings but rather should be in homes and around, accessible, living amongst the people.

If you go: http://www.barnesfoundation.org

A Day in the Life … Running around in Philadelphia

I often freelance in Philadelphia for a friend of mine who is the editor of a popular online food and entertainment website. This is a literal snapshot of a day in the life of a freelance videographer / photographer.

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First we began at 9am with Brad Spence at AMIS (412 South 13th Street – amisphilly.com) and filmed the making of a Turducken.

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Brad carves up the finished version of the two Turduckens that were prepared for the shoot.

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The finished result, Turducken with a Cranberry Mustård

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AMIS’ busy kitchen during the daytime preparing for dinner service.

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Brad and my editor, Adam, chatting about the industry, the big topic yesterday amongst many people involved with food being NYTimes’ Pete Wells’ scathing article about Guy Fieri’s Time Square bomb. (read here)

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the quintessential Center City snap

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Next, we headed to Philly-famous sports outfitter Mitchell & Ness (http://www.mitchellandness.com/) to pick up some threads for our next project.

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My editor was assigned a light editorial piece in anticipation of Sunday’s Philadelphia Marathon and our job was to go “carb up” at 5 Philadelphia eateries.

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My editor dressed as a marathon runner and holding an iced latte from Elixr (207 S. Sydenham St. – www.elixrcoffee.com)

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First stop was Pizzeria Stella (2nd & Lombard – http://www.pizzeriastella.net)

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Pizzeria Stella’s Rigatoni Bolognese

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I photographed my editor in a small stunt using pizza boxes outside the restaurant.

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Next we headed to Market Street for my personal favorite Old City restaurant FORK (306 Market St. – http://www.forkrestaurant.com/)

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…and then to South Philly for THE INDUSTRY (1401 East Moyamensing Avenue – http://theindustrybar.com/), lambs neck gravy with grilled baguettes and some pushups.

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over to charming restaurant LE VIRTU (1927 East Passyunk Avenue – http://www.levirtu.com/)

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one of Philadelphia’s infamous urban murals outside of Le Virtu

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Lastly, we photographed these at VERNICK in Rittenhouse Square (2031 Walnut Street –¬†http://www.vernickphilly.com). Pumpkin butter and Squash toast and Pea and Bacon toast (tasted like split pea and ham soup, mmm!)

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My editor reviewed some of the still shots I took throughout the day. We debriefed and then he left to edit the photos and caption them for his deadline. This is the most difficult part for me as a freelancer: walking away from my files and allowing someone else – someone who doesn’t typically – edit them.

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My phenomenally empathetic boyfriend treated me to a bottle of one of my favorites at dinner back at home so that I could wind down from such a hectic and long day of shooting over in Philly.

Yesterday came and went, and this morning my professional work (as opposed to these Instagram snaps) was published for public consumption on the regional and national branches of my editor’s site and my fears were confirmed. Oh well! It was a fun, exhausting day of running around in the cold in a great city and getting to do one of the things I love best.

extra, extra

© Alessandra Nicole 2012, All Rights Reserved

So, this morning I got up at 4am to do something I’ve done periodically since I was studying film and acting in college. I worked as a background actor (as in, “extra”). In my particular friend and colleague circle this is certainly nothing groundbreaking so I’m not posting this blog for them. I’m posting it for those who haven’t ever done anything like this before or who have and still find it as cool and interesting as I do.

This particular work was for the new Harrison Ford / Gary Oldman thriller so far titled Paranoia (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1413495/). It was the first day of shooting and it featured Aussie Liam Hemsworth (Hunger Games), a few supporting cast members, and about 400 of us, both union and non-union. It was the biggest extra day scheduled so they wanted to make great use of us while they had us all there.

After conferring with wardrobe, hair and makeup and hanging out in holding for a few hours, we began filming at 830am and didn’t wrap the day’s shoot until 630pm. It was an outdoor day for the majority of us, thank goodness for mild temperatures and plenty of fluffy white clouds to shield us from long bouts of direct sunlight. We worked hard, had a blast, and made new friends. Here are a few snapshots that I sniped throughout the day.

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getting our hair & makeup done

 

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Comcast Center in Philly turned into a NYC corporate building

 

Crew working on the building’s transformation

 

an intersection in Philadelphia is turned into NYC for the day. This included fake NJ and NY license plates for cars, fake street signs reading “44th St”, NYPD uniforms and cars (see background), trash cans reading “Keep New York City Clean”, fake hot dog carts, newspapers, cabs, and a fake MTA bus stop amongst other things.

 

sweet camera on a dolly and track that I watched production assistants assemble as fast as a pit crew on the auto racing circuit

 

Wilma Garscadden Gahret observes the monitors for the current scene being filmed.

 

Director Robert Luketic watches the feed from the main camera and revealed that he “stole” the idea for the particular establishing shot from David Fincher and his 1997 film “The Game”.


an over-saturated snap I made of the Comcast Center in Philadelphia this afternoon

 

along my drive into Philadelphia at a quarter to 6 this morning

 

on Photography: Live Music

Brandi Carlile | Copyright Alessandra Nicole, All Rights Reserved

My love affair with music began when I was very small. My father used to take me to the record store with him to buy albums every weekend. He kept me adequately steeped in some of the greatest classic rock music in history. I would pour over the elaborate album jackets on the living room floor on Saturday afternoons which would later help inspire me to major in illustration in college. Led Zeppelin’s most sinister track Kashmir would put the fear of Hell in me on hot summer nights when the electricity would threaten to go out. The Cars and E.L.O. would have me dancing around our small house in my footie pajamas. And I’ll never forget eating t.v. dinners to most of the Doors and Fleetwood Mac albums. I grew up on everything from Allman Brothers to Zappa and most everything in between.

After a stint in news photography that ended with an event that caused me take a lengthy hiatus from the camera, I was urged several years later to return for the sake of a music production business someone I once knew wanted to start. I began photographing bands around my tiny city in order to get up to speed with a digital SLR. From there I’ve been fortunate to graduate from the small town local band scene and cover national acts from time to time though my photography is no longer music industry centered.

I love these shots I’ve posted because each one conjures the song that was being sung when the frame was made and gets stuck in my head. I also studied film making in college and my mind works cinematically as opposed to in stills. This made it difficult for me to slow myself down to steal a moment out of the air that conveys the emotion of a full performance. It’s a bigger challenge as I am not afforded sound and several minutes of footage in order to capture the ambiance and motion of a performance.

At first the transition was extremely difficult, and while the advent of digital photography made many things easier than the film days where I got my start, I was very challenged to find expressions and compositional elements that could tell more of a story than just to set out to make a “pretty” picture, though of course that is important too. I had to rely on intuition, look deeper, and seek out a compelling element, a magnetic detail. Motion-swept hair, an expression of pure glee, the particular arrangement of band mates as they perform in close proximity, a moment of bliss, a note of anguish, the way the light falls in a particular moment, an interesting instrument, a guitar strap with personality, in front of the crowd, through the crowd, for God’s sake – move around!, always look for more.

Dawes| Copyright Alessandra Nicole, All Rights Reserved

One thing is for sure, it pays to work for bigger acts as the lighting quality is most often professional. This means I’m no longer fighting the awful lighting of a dank hole-in-the-wall where some beer-breathed bar star is performing and thus am not wasting my precious camera actuations on images that will not do my talents and technical aptitude justice, the results of which can actually blemish a sound (so to speak) reputation and make one work harder in post trying to make chicken salad out of chicken crap. I used to like to carry my camera along to local gigs convinced it was helping me “keep up on my chops” but I realized what a waste of my valuable time it became. As acquaintances and their broke bands would expect to grab images off of me for free, I realized what a waste of time, money, and equipment maintenance it was for me.

A lot of photographers I know are spoiled by the digital technology, get lazy, and over shoot. I still have a film photography mindset and tend to shoot very conservatively, lining everything up and making each frame count. Film was not only expensive to process, but you had to know your exposures by memory as there was no way to make any adjustments before taking the film into the darkroom and seeing what you had. Many photographers (and clients, too!) today wrongly think that digital affords them unlimited shooting however a camera body is only good for so many presses of the shutter button (500,000 seems to be the standard) before it begins to fail! It still behooves you to be on top of the technical aspects of photography and make each frame count!

In live music situations razor sharp, fast glass and a high ISO sensitivity (big sensor) are absolutely key. Few things get under my skin more than skimming through my files after a performance and finding facial features a little soft in an otherwise stellar capture. For an example, note the image of the lead singer for the UK band James below:

JAMES| Copyright Alessandra Nicole, All Rights Reserved

It’s also important to do your research. If you’re covering an act whose music you are not familiar with, look them up and get to know at least two of their hits. You shoot differently when you’re connected to the music because it’s a song you’ve heard and that comes across in your images. The connected energy translates over because suddenly not just your sight and mind but your hearing and heart become engaged with the way you are seeing. Most likely when you’re processing your images the ones that were captured during a song that you knew will be your strongest. Even if nothing stands out visually an image (or several) will have an alluring quality to them for seemingly no reason at all! In photography and in any situation in life the end result is a thousand times more successful when your heart is engaged.

One of my most favorite acts to have covered this past year was Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. A great pro music photographer friend invited me along to experience the Electric Forest Music Festival up in Rothbury, Michigan over the summer. I photographed anywhere around five to fifteen great bands and music acts a day over the course of four days but I got most caught up in the lead singers Alexander and Jade’s incredibly tender relationship toward one another on stage. I’d seen them perform on the Letterman Show, on NPR’s YouTube channel, and in several music videos with such a clear love for one another but to have seen the way she lights up around him in person expanded the hearts of everyone in the audience that afternoon. Also, Alexander was extremely personable with an audience of more than 25,000! He somehow made such an enormous outdoor event as intimate as a living room set.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros| The infamous "pre-show band huddle". Copyright Alessandra Nicole, All Rights Reserved

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros| Copyright Alessandra Nicole, All Rights Reserved

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros| Copyright Alessandra Nicole, All Rights Reserved

 

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros| Copyright Alessandra Nicole, All Rights Reserved

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros| Copyright Alessandra Nicole, All Rights Reserved

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros| Copyright Alessandra Nicole, All Rights Reserved

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros| Copyright Alessandra Nicole, All Rights Reserved

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros| Copyright Alessandra Nicole, All Rights Reserved

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros| Copyright Alessandra Nicole, All Rights Reserved

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros| Copyright Alessandra Nicole, All Rights Reserved

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros| Copyright Alessandra Nicole, All Rights Reserved

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros| Copyright Alessandra Nicole, All Rights Reserved

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros| Copyright Alessandra Nicole, All Rights Reserved