R.I.P. Vic Chesnutt

Vic Chesnutt, Hamburg 1994Vic Chesnutt (†December 25, 2009)
Landungsbrücken, Hamburg, Germany
January 24, 1994

Photo of the Day 2009-12-25: Merry Christmas!

cat tail on blanket, 2009cat tail on blanket
Essen, Germany
December 25, 2009

Her mocking smile says it all

Every once in a while, I am going through a Marlene Dietrich phase, watching movies (or my favourite parts of them), re-reading books (I just ordered some more from Amazon), listening to some songs, but most of all looking at photographs, Dietrich's face perfectly sculpted by light. I love those precisely constructed compositions for their artificiality and irreality and probably for the same reasons they are the exact opposite of my own photographic style. But then the perfect images cannot grab my attention for very long and I turn towards the rarer to find candid photos that might reveal the woman behind the image.

Looking up from reading Steven Bach's Marlene biography I contemplate the empty space on my wall and whether a Marlene photo or poster would be the appropriate decoration that could keep me inspired. I am rather unfit to make simple decisions like this and it takes me ages to actually get these things done (as if a poster could not be removed ;). And I sure cannot think about it without having the complete lyrics of Suzanne Vega's "Marlene On The Wall" spinning 'round in my head, a song forever engraved in my memory. Although many think Vega's second album "Solitude Standing" featuring the breakout hit "Luka" is her best, I personally prefer her self-titled debut to any other album she made. Maybe I just have a knack for debut albums (like Patti Smith's "Horses"). But then it is exciting to hear something fresh and - literally - unheard of.

When Suzanne Vega's first album came out in 1985, everyone that I knew loved it. The music may not be up to par with the elegantly crafted lyrics but the clever arrangements and the distinctive guitar sounds produced by Lenny Kaye make them sound interesting, even more than 20 years later. To promote her album, Vega went to Europe and did some small-club gigs, the kind that is mostly targeted at journalists to "spread the word". She debuted in Hamburg at the Café Schöne Aussichten, a perfect location for such a rather intimate performance. Opening the show with her a cappella rendition of "Tom's Diner", she displayed a healthy dose of self-confidence from the first minute on. Her witty between-songs banter and her flawless performance charmed everyone in the room.

Between soundcheck and concert, I had the opportunity to take some pictures of Suzanne Vega. I opted for a park bench outside the venue, even though that meant using the (until this day) much-hated flashlight. For me, both the portraits and the live photos reflect the excitement and the lightheartedness of that moment where bigger success was on the horizon but everyone was simply enjoying it, there and then.

Suzanne Vega at the Café Schöne Aussichten, Hamburg, 1985 - photo by Moni KellermannSuzanne Vega
Café Schöne Aussichten
Hamburg, Germany
October 15, 1985

This pic actually sucks. But it was the kind of "let's take a quick visual note: who, where, when". Still works ;)

Suzanne Vega at the Café Schöne Aussichten, Hamburg, 1985 - photo by Moni KellermannSuzanne Vega
Café Schöne Aussichten
Hamburg, Germany
October 15, 1985

Suzanne Vega live 1985 - photo by Moni KellermannSuzanne Vega live
Café Schöne Aussichten
Hamburg, Germany
October 15, 1985

I'm a sucker for dimples...

newspaper article on Suzanne Vega 1985, text and photo by Moni Kellermannnewspaper article in Hamburger Morgenpost
published October 19, 1985
text and photo by Moni Kellermann

Suzanne Vega Official Website
video: Suzanne Vega - Marlene On The Wall (live, Bukarest, 2009)
Poolside Marlene (my current fave Dietrich pic)
video: Marlene Dietrich - Hot Voodoo - live performance from the movie "Blonde Venus" (1932)

Photo of the Day 2009-10-08: Sigourney Weaver

Happy Birthday, Sigourney Weaver (60)!

Sigourney Weaver, Hamburg, 1986, photo by Moni KellermannSigourney Weaver
Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten
Hamburg, Germany
September 18, 1986

Photo of the Day 2009-08-25: Wayne Shorter, Elvis Costello, Gene Simmons

Happy Birthday, Wayne Shorter (76), Gene Simmons (60), Elvis Costello (55)!

Wayne Shorter, Hamburg, 1987, photo by Moni KellermannWayne Shorter
Hamburg, Germany
February 26, 1987

Elvis Costello, Hamburg, 1989, photo by Moni KellermannElvis Costello
Hamburg, Germany
February 16, 1989

Gene Simmons (Kiss), Hamburg, 1994, photo by Moni KellermannGene Simmons (Kiss)
Hamburg, Germany
March 12, 1994

Photo album: Alfred Eisenstaedt 1986

All my life I have been a photo junkie, as a kid I could spend hours looking at trading pictures, sports photos, anything. But it wasn't until in my early twenties when I started taking pictures and became the photographer that I had always meant to be. I never had any role models or have been influenced by any other photographer. Throughout my career, people have sometimes dubbed me "the German Annie Leibovitz" (and I know they meant it as a compliment) but my whole work ethic is so different from hers that I cannot relate to this at all. The only photographer I can relate to - although I have not been influenced by him whatsoever - is Alfred Eisenstaedt.

Alfred Eisenstaedt, Hamburg, 1986, photo by Moni KellermannAlfred Eisenstaedt
Hamburg, Germany
May 5, 1986

I met Eisenstaedt one day in 1986 when he visited Hamburg to attend the opening of an exhibition of his work. Of course everyone knows his most famous photographs but it was only after read the accompanying stories in his book "Eisenstaedt on Eisenstaedt" the day before my photo op that I realized how much we have in common (if I may say so). His equipment was simple, he worked with available light only, he studied the location before the shooting, he observed the people and connected to them and finally he didn't spend several hours bossing folks around. And being typically German, he was always on time.

newspaper article on Alfred Eisenstaedt, text and photo by Moni Kellermannnewspaper article in Hamburger Morgenpost
published May 6, 1986
(text and photo by me)

I did not get the chance to have an exclusive photo session with him, there were a handful of colleagues present as well. Mr. Eisenstaedt was 88 years old at that time, he was in great spirits and just a little insecure finding himself being photographed. He was such a sweet guy! I do not like to ask people for autographs or have them sign anything but I could not resist having Eisenstaedt sign my copy of his book. He took a ballpoint pen and scribbled "Eisenstaedt" in small letters into my book - no first name:

Alfred Eisenstaedt autographsigned Eisenstaedt book

Eisenstaedt is quoted having said "When I have a camera in my hand, I know no fear" which is very close to what I feel like when I take a photo - I simply feel so much being my real self right at that moment that it gives me inner peace and a connectedness to my soul that I may lack in other situations.

Alfred Eisenstaedt, Hamburg, 1986, photo by Moni KellermannAlfred Eisenstaedt in action
Hamburg, Germany
May 5, 1986

Alfred Eisenstaedt, Hamburg, 1986, photo by Moni KellermannAlfred Eisenstaedt with his camera
Hamburg, Germany
May 5, 1986

And I just realized today that the last photo session he did was Bill and Hillary Clinton on Martha's Vineyard. My alter ego Hill Force One really likes this!

So, if you really have to compare me to anyone else, please dub me "the female Eisenstaedt". :)

On the Web:
LIFE on Both Sides of the Camera: Alfred Eisenstaedt’s Surprising Self-Portraits

Photo album: Bongwater 1991-03-07

A catchy album name can make me want to listen to the music. "The Power of Pussy" is a no-brainer, as far as I am concerned. And its impact cancels out the dull band name for me - Bongwater? I wouldn't care.

In March 1991 Bongwater came to Germany during their European tour to promote the album. I met them before their gig at the Japanese-styled Hotel Nippon which by design (ha ha) inspired Kramer and Ann Magnuson to channel their inner John & Yoko. They donned the hotel bathrobes and posed on the bed - it is always nice to work with professional posers who know what to do in front of a camera :)

Bongwater (Ann Magnuson + Kramer) at the Hotel Nippon, Hamburg, 1991, photo by Moni KellermannBongwater - Kramer and Ann Magnuson
Hotel Nippon, Hamburg, Germany
March 7, 1991

And that was just the warm-up. Their show at the Kleine Markthalle (which is an intimate 200-capacity room above the regular venue) was nothing but spectacular - I hope you get an idea from my photos!

But even if it is on my "best concerts I've ever seen" list out of thousands I've seen overall, I will always remember it for something else. And I'm not sorry if I now will have to start talking about boobs again!

It's the only gig ever where a performer teased me and made sure I would NOT take what easily would have been the "photo of the day". As it was a really small stage, Ann Magnuson was very much aware of me being there with my camera. So, during the sequence when she was sporting that bra outfit, she waited for a moment when I was just watching and NOT aiming my cam at her, turned in my direction and - for a split second - flashed her boobs! She knew that I was unable to take that photo and grinned. And I am still grinning back! :D

Bongwater (Ann Magnuson + Kramer) live at the Markthalle, Hamburg, 1991, photo by Moni KellermannAnn Magnuson (Bongwater)
Markthalle Hamburg, Germany
March 7, 1991

Although I didn't get to take THAT photo, I came up with an exceptional number of really good ones which you can drool over in this album here:

As for further watching, I recommend the totally underrated 1987 movie "Making Mr. Right" by Susan Seidelman (of "Desperately Seeking Susan" fame) starring Ann Magnuson and John Malkovich. You can get it from Netflix here or - if you are in Germany, buy a copy for just 8 Euros from Amazon.

Ann Magnuson Official Website
Ann Magnuson on MySpace

Photo Freeware of the Day 2009-08-20: CrazyCam 3.0

This is the hottest day of the year, so let's go crazy.

iMac users may have already played around with "Photo Booth" but now there's a similar program for Windows available, too! It's called CrazyCam and does many of the things that Photo Booth does. It uses Adobe AIR which enables it (like Java) to run on any Windows, Linux or Mac computer.

All you need to have fun is a webcam.

CrazyCam will add a filter to the camera live image and lets you take filtered snapshots or video clips.

This morning, anticipating the hot weather, I tried the "Water" effect first. I spontaneously recorded this as my first video - I had only some coffee and not combed my hair yet but toyed with a new computer program, so basically a very typical early morning ;)

So, how does it work?
Here's a little tutorial, as I could not find any on the web.
  • Make sure you have a working webcam. If you have Skype, you can test it there.
  • Check whether you have Adobe AIR installed already (if you are using Tweetdeck, you have). If not, download Adobe AIR from the original website and install.

  • Get the CrazyCam AIR application from this website. It will install CrazyCam. If you want to save the file for use on another computer, take this direct download link (right-click, save as...) and install.

  • After install, you will have an icon CrazyCam 3.0 on your desktop.

  • When you start the program, the webcam will be turned on and you can see the live pic in the program window.

  • There are four red buttons in the menu below the live image

  • 1. Mode - select photo or video mode
    2. Icon - displays the selected mode by showing a camera or clapperboard symbol. This button works as the shutter release and video start and stop button
    3. Grid - toggles between single live image and a list view of all images
    4. Fx - the effects button

    CrazyCam screenshot 1
  • Select an effect/filter by clicking the Fx button before you take a picture or record a video. You will see your live image and the effects displayed below:

    CrazyCam screenshot 2

  • Choose an effect like "snow" and click the camera button:

    CrazyCam screenshot 3

  • Clicking the grid button will display the pictures you have taken. Click on a thumbnail to view the full resolution image. To get back to the grid view, click on the large image:

    CrazyCam screenshot 4

As in Photo Booth, all images and videos are horizontally flipped, as in a mirror. You can see that in the images above the text on the shirt is not "HOT" (as in "Hot for Hillary") but "TOH".

Another issue with the current version is that the files are stored as JPG but are PNG inside. Firefox and Opera display them both as JPG or PNG but Internet Explorer 8 will only recognize the original images when named PNG.

If you want the images to appear correctly, you have to use a freeware tool like Irfanview which offers batch conversion. You can convert them to jpg and flip them at once.

CrazyCam 3.0 is made by Maarten Cox.

The following images are some I tried this afternoon. These are converted and flipped and have the original camera size resolution. I used the Monochrome, Sepia, Trippin', X-Ray and Snow effects. And all my charm.

self portrait CrazyCam 1

self portrait CrazyCam 2

self portrait CrazyCam 3

self portrait CrazyCam 4

self portrait CrazyCam 5

self portrait CrazyCam 6

self portrait CrazyCam 7

Photo of the Day 2009-08-16: Sunday Morning Stroll

Sunday morning in Bulmke 1 / Gelsenkirchen, 2009, photo by Moni Kellermanntrees on Sunday morning 8am
Bulmke (district of Gelsenkirchen), 2009-08-16

Sunday morning in Bulmke 2 / Gelsenkirchen, 2009, photo by Moni Kellermannresidential building with grocery
Bulmke (district of Gelsenkirchen), 2009-08-16

Sunday morning in Bulmke 3 / Gelsenkirchen, 2009, photo by Moni Kellermanntree on Sunday morning 8am
Bulmke (district of Gelsenkirchen), 2009-08-16

Sunday morning in Bulmke 4 / Gelsenkirchen, 2009, photo by Moni Kellermanndog in window on Sunday morning 8am
Bulmke (district of Gelsenkirchen), 2009-08-16

Sunday morning in Bulmke 5 / Gelsenkirchen, 2009, photo by Moni Kellermanntrees on Sunday morning 8am
Bulmke (district of Gelsenkirchen), 2009-08-16

This is what my 'hood looks like on a lazy Sunday morning in August. I love to walk the small streets up to the little bakery that opens at 8, the wind carrying the smell of freshly baked bread rolls in my direction. I made it home with the rolls still warm. Orange marmalade, coffee, bliss.

Photo album: Emily Remler live 1985-06-11

After digging out the old contact sheets, I decided to put more than those 2 pics online from the previous post. I still have to break free from the typical newspaper or magazine publishing style of limiting myself to one or two photos, especially if they are from a live show. I have the tools (a film scanner and this blog) but my mind still has some catching up to do.

I am presenting you the photos in chronological order here and I think there is more than one picture that captures the sensuality that I saw and heard.

Oh, and I am even more frustrated than a few days ago when I think about my favourite Emily Remler albums not being available for purchase, not even as mp3 on Amazon or so. She was a great guitar player and deserves to be discovered by a generation who did not get a chance to see her live or buy her albums then. So, what's the bottom line? A few crappy vids on YT and illegal downloads from youknowwhereshare? D'oh!

Click on the photo to see the whole album.

Photo of the Day 2009-08-10: Emily Remler live 1985

Emily Remler live at the Hamburg Fabrik 1985, photo by Moni KellermannEmily Remler
live Fabrik Hamburg, 1985-06-11

When I asked my favourite German jazz guitar player Ali Claudi back in 1981 why there are no great women guitar players, he told me to check out Emily Remler. So I did. Which at that time did not mean firing up YouTube or checking torrents but walking to a record store, begging to have an album being imported which you had no chance to pre-listen to and which then was totally overpriced.

I bought all her 80's albums and still listen to two of them, Transitions (1983) and Catwalk (1984). Both albums are great to listen to from start to finish but are sadly out of print (Hello, Concord? Stop being so ignorant and re-issue those albums and shove those stupid compilations). I prefer Catwalk over any other Remler album simply for the fact that it showcases her own compositions. You can easily find out whether you will like her and her music: Here is a very short YT video of her playing "Mocha Spice" (from Catwalk). To me that is everything I like about Remler condensed in two minutes. If you like that, chances are you will like a whole album.

In the summer of 1985, Remler had teamed up with fellow jazz guitar legend Larry Coryell and was touring the European Jazz Festival circuit. As often in this case, they performed at the Hamburg Fabrik. I am not a big fan of too many jazz guitar players, Coryell being no exception, but of course I had to see Emily Remler perform. The audience consisted of the usual suspects, i.e. jazz enthusiasts and amateur fretboard molesters, male, of course. I spent the concert right at the left front of the stage and took some nice pics. Halfway through the performance, I kind of had it with the dudes worshipping that dude on stage and between two songs shouted "Catwalk". Remler heard it and turned to Coryell, beaming like a schoolgirl and whispering "She knows my song!". That was so cute!

After the show, I went backstage and chatted with the duo and took one photo of them. I never printed it but today, while preparing this blog post, decided to add it here as a "bonus photo", just like you would add a bonus track to a digital release of an album. I planned to display it in smaller format to not distract any attention from the live photo. Then I saw the writing on the wall (literally). I really discovered it today, 24 years later and didn't pay any attention to it when I was taking the photo. See for yourself:

Emily Remler backstage at the Hamburg Fabrik 1985, photo by Moni KellermannEmily Remler and Larry Coryell
backstage Fabrik Hamburg, 1985-06-11

"Drugs will kill you" - Emily Remler died of an accidental heroin overdose while being on tour in Australia five years later. Spooky, eh?

Photo of the Day 2009-08-09: Toast Hawaii

Toast Hawaii - photo by Moni Kellermann
Now you want one! (Well, that's the idea of a pic like this, he he...)

"Toast Hawaii" became very popular in Germany in the Fifties when it was introduced by TV cook Clemens Wilmenrod who had come up with the idea.
The recipe I use is exactly the one that I know from my childhood days:
  • a slice of fresh white bread (from the bakery, not the rubber plates from the supermarket)
  • a slice of boiled ham
  • a slice of pineapple (can)
  • a slice of Gouda cheese
Put in oven and bake for about 15 -20 min. at 390°F/200°C until the cheese is melting. Decorate with cocktail cherry.

Guten Appetit!

Jane, Bree & Me

Moni Kellermann passport pic 1972When I was 16, I saw Bree Daniels. She was a hooker and definitely not happy but to me she was a cosmopolitan woman, and she was living in New York.

I was so impressed that at least I wanted to have the same haircut as her.

Jane Fonda plays Bree Daniels in the thriller "Klute" and she deservedly won both a Golden Globe and an Oscar for her performance. I pretty much watched every Jane Fonda movie after "Klute".

Later, I bought the German edition of "Jane Fonda's Workout Book". Being the classic pear-shaped (and not long-legged) type, I have always admired her lanky frame. I liked the book for the many pics, the exercises that I could manage to replicate and the empowering words.

In 1989, when Jane Fonda came to Hamburg to promote her movie "Old Gringo", I jumped at the occasion. I could take a photo! Me! Yes! It turned out that due to the demand, there would only be one photo op (for all) and one press conference. No individual interviews or photos. Now I only do those photo calls when I really have to. Or in this case, when that's all I can get. It was Jane Fonda, after all.

photographers waiting for Jane Fonda, Hamburg 1989

So I found myself in a room of the Hotel Atlantic together with about every other Hamburg photographer, waiting to take the same picture that everyone else would take. Those familiar with the working conditions had brought ladders. So we waited. And waited. We started to take pictures of each other and waited. Then she sailed in, very professionally and slowly turning around and smiling. But something was terribly wrong. Those boobs! Jane Fonda, my former well-proportioned slim workout goddess, was parading in front of my lens with big boobs. Damn that macho moustachio Ted Turner!

Jane Fonda newspaper article, Moni Kellermann pictured

Many years later she had them removed but they are still in all my pictures! :( Okay, so those photos were only snapshots anyway but I really really would love to not have those, erm, things in them. And even if I crop the photo, I can still see them, if you know what I mean.

Jane Fonda, Hamburg 1989, by Moni Kellermann

Oh, Jane. Please come back. With your new porcelain knee, you don't have to jog around the Alster twice as you did in 1989. We can walk around the lake once, like I always do. I will not tell the paps so I don't have to push them and their ladders into the water to get my exclusive compensation. We can twitter about it later: #janefonda #proportionfail #corrected #kellerfrau #happy.

R.I.P. Willy DeVille

Willy DeVille, Hamburg 1988Willy DeVille (†August 6, 2009) w/his wife/manager Lisa (†2001)
Hamburg, Germany, March 13, 1988

Peacock Eye

Peacock Eye cake Pfauenauge-Torte
It was much too hot to wear my new Supra sneakers yesterday. I should have known it but then I really wanted to try them out because they are so beautiful and brand-new.

I went to my favourite café in the city of Essen, together with my dear friend S. They had run out of my beloved Kremschnitte, so I settled on a slice of cake called "Pfauenauge" (peacock eye) which was delicious!

I always regret that I can't eat more than one piece because those cakes are really rich. But I plan to not leave this planet before I have tried all their cakes ;)

inside Café Overbeck

The café has maintained its wonderful Fifties style and atmosphere despite some (thankfully) careful restoration.
It attracts a mixed audience although it is most frequented by older ladies like me ;) who love the slow pace and the absence of background music.

Café Overbeck

Barack my birthday!

My Supra SkytopsThis is what I got myself for my 53rd birthday: A new pair of kicks and this blog.

I have been making plans for a blog for several years but never could decide on anything – Wordpress on my own server or Blogger, a personal blog and/or a photo blog, English or German or both and so on and so on. Last year I felt inspired to create a blog on Hillary Clinton's speeches and interviews which was easy because I had a cause and I didn't have to write anything personal. At least I could get myself to test-drive Blogger.

So, here I am. Finally. I know you have not been waiting ;)

At least I have stopped procrastinating and set this up. I have plenty of interesting ideas but putting them into action can be complicated for me at times. If I have too many choices, I may get mentally stuck. Like starving in a supermarket in front of a shelf with 99 brands of yoghurt because I can't decide which one to pick.

Fuck perfectionism, I don't have time for that anymore. So, I didn't finish whipping this blog template into shape 100% (I spent hours on it yesterday and ran out of time), I linked a dummy "About" page (#webdesignfail!). I didn't write my bio yet (#PRfail!). And anyway - shouldn't I be cleaning the windows right now?

But I promised myself to get this entry written on my birthday - and yes, this year.

The "Song of the Day" is called "One For My Baby", an instrumental version by jazz guitar player Wes Montgomery, which is, as Orrin Keepnews wrote in the record's liner notes "a rich and leisurely exploration [...] that searches and finds all the "quarter to three" A.M. atmosphere that the song's lyrics talk about."

For me that song has always been somewhat of a birthday tune because the whole album was recorded on my 5th birthday - August 4, 1961 in NYC. And if that date looks a little familiar to you now, it's because it is Barack Obama's date of birth. Yes, Wes Montgomery recorded that album the day Barack Obama was born. You wouldn't have known that, right?

I have plenty of photos, stories and knowledge to share – and will be practicing my English along the way.

I promise you will not be bored.

A female singer who does a handstand for me in the middle of the hotel lobby? The Dalai Lama behind the scenes in Hamburg? Zappa backstage? Musicians, movie stars, writers and photographers, empty places, soccer hooligans, cats and dogs (not raining). Oh, and I haven't mentioned Joni M. yet, have I?

I will take a walk in my new shoes today, figuratively and literally, snap a few pics while doing so and share them with you later.

"Happy Birthday, Mr. President", and have a nice day, y'all.


moni k.