Katherine Vaz

The problem with books, and literature in general, is that the author can only try to do so much with their writing to evoke an emotion that the rest is left to the reader. However, at a reading, the author is able to take full control of the situation by really putting the plot into perspective. Such was the case at Katherine Vaz’s reading of Our Lady of the Artichokes. We were on campus all day and were told to arrive sharply at 6:30. We decided it would be best to arrive ten minutes early and went on our way. We turn into the hall, facing the auditorium and the room was packed. It became harder to pay attention from the benches outside the room, yet we managed to get a good vantage point.

The first portion of the reading wasn’t actually a reading, as much as an introduction to the topic and some background information on Katherine Vaz. She came on stage and briefly advertised her new book Below the Salt, which focuses on the impact of the Civil War on a young man’s life.

What I liked about this portion was that she described her methods and techniques, which is similar to a behind the scenes peek. She explained how ideas don’t just manifest themselves in her mind, but she actually has to dig for them. It is incredibly painstaking for her to even get started but just as difficult to keep the fluidity going. It made her seem less of a figure and more human.

She went into detail into what really inspires her. Her spark comes from actually feeling something, a feeling that should take you back and appreciate where you have traveled. It was a trend that seemed to appear frequently in her works such as Our Lady of Artichokes and her coming book, Below the Salt.

Credits to Baruch

Credits to Baruch

Unfortunately, I was only able to listen to her reading for a brief amount of time before I had to leave. The reading overlapped with a religious holiday for me. However, while ending this piece, I wanted to focus on the strength of her voice in helping the text have a stronger effect on the reader.


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Powerful Words

For our class, we read Our Lady of the Artichokes throughout the semester. After reading it, we quickly realized that her style of writing offers multiple perspectives behind historical events. She presents this in the form of the actuality of an event and compares it to the perception of the event by certain people. This is a method she frequently uses as in her new novel named Below the Salt, she is able to provide a rich background of information in her telling of the story.

Her visit was primarily a reading but I found it amazing how she was able to take out a passage and read from it in order to demonstrate her ability. Her voice was able to resonate in my ears as she went on to describe tragic moments with beautiful imagery and words. This really helped to paint a picture in my head as I soon found that the story was easy to follow and it was quite memorable. I think that technique is extremely valuable. Being able to paint a picture in the audience’s head is one of the first steps in creating a great story. Doing so without the audience knowing is incredibly difficult and requires expertise in writing which is something the 29th Harman writer has no problem with.


Image provided by disquietinternational.org

Image provided by disquietinternational.org

She gave some insight on how she is able to create stories. She explains that images come to her. It is like a song and how words come to the someone who is creating a song. For her, sometimes stories just come to her which definitely show off the creativity of the writer.

The day was an interesting day for me as I left with a story in my head but also I left with advice from the talented writer herself. We all have great ideas so coming up with an idea is simply step one. After that, you ask yourself “how can I make this thing blossom out?” It includes the branching out of what you want to say and the refinement of all you have to say. In the end, she gives off a vibe that encourages everyone to write.

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Max Flatow

As this class has proved, just being in the city leads to some of the most amazing sights and stories, most of them are worth sharing. A bustling population is even more of a reason photographers find solace in the five boroughs. Fortunately, we had the opportunity to speak to such an artist.

Max Flatow, spoke to us about his experiences, his works, and his techniques. Flatow’s entry into photography serves as a clear example of his passion for the art and his dedication to success. He attended South Vermont College and was unsure of his career path, yet he wanted to pursue photography as a hobby. The school wasn’t very focused on their photography course, so their single darkroom was left locked and unused. Flatow decided to ask the supervisor for the key and he was granted full access to the room to use at his own whim and desire. This opportunity really helped him learn how to use basic equipment and set the spark in his career.

As someone looking to get into photography, Flatow’s techniques were very helpful in helping me understand how to take better pictures. He explained how he avoids using flash and instead prefers to play with the light in the room. He is a fan of natural light and manipulates it to make a more aesthetically pleasing image. Sometimes he blacks out the the subject, forming a silhouette, to bring attention to the colors of the background. He also showed us about the rule-of-thirds, where the subject is placed in a section away from the center to balance a focus with openness.

Credits to Max Flatow

Credits to Max Flatow

Flatow’s main interests remained in two key areas: weddings and food. He enjoyed working on weddings because he found that every wedding project he worked was different and a new experience. He liked food, because it’s different from human subjects and everything is still and constant. He commented on how food photography can be more challenging yet often more interesting.

As Baruch is largely a business school, I was glad to see that Flatow went on to explain the aspect of business and entrepreneurship in his past experiences. He described how he is forced to wear “the many hats” and be able to socialize, make sales, maintain contacts, and so much more. What I found most interesting was how he goes on vacations. In order to avoid any loss in business, he tries to gain clientele in the are which he’s visiting, often abroad. It was obvious that his business led to a great deal of success, with clients such as Harrison Ford, Adrian Garner, and other well known celebrities.

Credits to Max Flatow

Credits to Max Flatow


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Photography In a Professional’s Eyes

Max Flatow came in and gave us the story of his life, well at least the story of his life in photography. He spoke to us about many of his experiences and his work.

Photography was a gamble for him as he went to South Vermont College and was incredibly unsure of his career path and what he really wanted to do. His hobby at the time was photography and the school dark room would later help him foster his ability to shoot and create photographs.

But Max Flatow is a modern photographer and we can definitely see this as he appreciates all the changes in technology that the photography industry have gone through. The expenses of film are no longer a problem as digital allows him to take hundreds and hundreds of photos in order to capture that perfect shot. That is exactly what he does too. As a wedding photographer, capturing the moment is part of his job. In order to do that effectively, he snaps away whenever the moment allows for it.

As a wedding photographer, he explained that in the past, the wedding photographer would have only a few basic shots and then they left to develop them and you would hvae no idea how everything turned out. Technology has allowed for the capturing of the wedding before, during, and after the ceremony.

During his segment of wedding photography, he explained some of his techniques and how angles as well as subject placement play an important role in the composition of the pictures. His pictures offer a breath of amazement as the clarity and composition of these photos are just breathtaking in some sense. Although he does not rely heavily on photoshop, he appreciates the tools that it offers to create certain effects.

He later went on to talk about food photography and how the industry is changing. The industry used to revolve around enhancing the look of food products with dyes and pigments that the product is not something you would want to eat. Recently there has been a shift to create foods that are naturally beautiful and photograph them immediately before they go bad.

He explained that his business started out as a free service and later on became bigger as he started charging people for money. His best advertising is word of mouth. He experiences travel as he would often travel outside of the country in order to shoot his weddings. He is also an adventurer as he may wander off and take pictures of foods during a wedding project. He has gotten the opportunity to meet some very famous people such as Harrison Ford and Adrian Garner.

As a student who wants to develop photography as a hobby, his visit was incredibly helpful as it gave me an idea of how photography became such a big part of his life and eventually he left me some advice through the techniques and experiences he presented to us during his presentation.

My own photo attempting food photography:

Sushi From Jebon

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“I Am My Own Boss”

Not many people can say they are the head of a successful business. But Max Flatow can.

Max Flatow is a self-taught photographer who went to Southern Vermont College. It was a small school with about 450 students. This is where Flatow became a photographer. The school simply gave him a key when he asked about a dark room on campus. How awesome is that? He learned photography from utilizing the equipment that he had. After he learned the art of photography, he began to learn the tricks of the trade.

Flatow uses social networking to show his work to the public and expand his consumer base. It is easy to view his Facebook page and see a lot of his outstanding work. Flatow posts his favorites to the page. Here is a link to the page so that you can decide for yourself.


In addition to the Facebook page, Flatow believes heavily in word of mouth. Passing ideas from one person to another is sometimes the best way to get business. When people are recommended business from a close friend or relative, then they may be more inclined to actually take the person’s advice. Sometimes Flatow will even be the one recommending his work to others.

Flatow takes pictures of everything. From photos of weddings, to children, to celebrities, and food. If you can photograph one, then you can photograph them all. That seems to be a motto of Flatow and it has proven to be successful for him. When he travels, he contacts local restaurants and shows them his work. “Be your own marketer,” great advice from Flatow. If the restaurant likes it (which I’m sure they all do) then they have the option to hire him to photograph their food. Essentially, even on vacation Flatow is always working. But as long as he is doing something that he loves, then he really isn’t working a day in his life. It can get a tad tedious though.

Flatow will often take 800+ photos and narrow it down to 10. It sounds tough, and I’m sure it is. This is why I’m not a photographer, I would not have the patience for that. This is also probably why I am not rich…

All photos from Max Flatow’s Facebook page. Check it out.

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Two Realities

Everyone perceives reality differently, and Katherine Vaz is able to add a unique twist to it in her novels. After reading her book, Our Lady of the Artichokes, I realized that there are two sides to every historical event. One side is the actual event, while the other side is how people involved see the event. In Katherine Vaz’s new novel, Below the Salt, she narrates a story of how John perceives his surroundings. As a writer, she places herself in her characters’ shoes and does extensive research on the events that occurred during the time period.

Katherine Vaz, the 29th Harman Writer-In-Residence, discusses the journey of creating her novel-in-progress. During her reading, she uses strong, descriptive adjectives to portray a realistic setting throughout the passage. Furthermore, these words are strung together to invoke emotions in her audience. In one passage, she narrates, “Twilight is a paint spill…and here you are, here you are born” to describe the birth of John Olves in the jail cell. By creating this beautiful picture, she is able to turn a tragic event into a dreamy one. Her writing style is different from any that I’ve come across before.

In Our Lady of the Artichokes, she uses the same technique to incorporate the two sides of Catholicism. She also includes elements of the New World’s culture into this Old World religion. Through her stories, I am able to have a better understanding of how children from the New World perceived the traditions of Catholicism in Portugal.

Vaz juxtaposes two realities through her writing. By comparing the two, she is giving her audience two perspectives of the story. Also, as a reader, I find myself immersed in her novels because of the effective descriptions she continues to use to develop her story.

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A Self Created Photographer

Max Flatow, originally from Brooklyn, has had an extremely interesting climb to success. Coming from a high school with a great photography program, he indulged in this art. However, college was a completely different experience. According to him, while the Southern Vermont College (a small private school of 450 students) had a darkroom, it was barely used, and there were not many classes pertaining to this area either. However, he was able to make the most out of what the school had to offer and spent countless hours in the college’s darkroom, teaching himself and experimenting with different techniques. He also studied abroad in Spain to expand his knowledge.

Max Flatow is an epitome of the modern photographer. He appreciates Instagram and uses social networking to advertise himself. He calls Photoshop a “digital darkroom” and prefers digital cameras to film because they let him take a thousand shots instead of twenty five, and goes on to describe the growing importance of technology, referring to the fact that the famous Captain Sully plane shot was taken on an iPhone. Ever since he sold his works for the first time at a café, he knew he wanted to be a photographer. As an entrepreneur, Max Flatow appreciates the importance of networking. In high school and college, he worked under the supervision of Mary Howard, who taught him how to run a business and how essential face to face networking is.

“People are gonna get married no matter what.” This is the explanation Mr. Flatow gives for why he started his career mainly as a wedding photographer. However, he has expanded into many other fields, including food. All of his photographed food is natural, and he always tries to include photographs of the chefs, as they are integral in the production of this food. Flatow has been involved in many famous shoots, such as those of Brady Lowe’s pigs.

One thing that could be seen right off the bat was Max Flatow’s appreciation of technique in photography. As he went through the slideshow of his various pictures, he described his mindset and the technique he was trying to use in each photograph. He began by talking about “depth of field,” in which everything but the subject is a blur. With lighting techniques, there are endless possibilities according to him. He described the silhouette shot he took of a couple, and how, the right shutter speed combined with the proper amount of light gave him the perfect shot.  There is also the rule of thirds, in which the subject is not in the center of photograph, but towards one side. However, the one thing that must be kept in mind and he made this very clear, was that “even though a lot of techniques are cool, do not overuse them”.  One technique that stood out to me was the tilt. I had no idea simply tilting the camera could have such a large impact on the dynamics of the picture.

Efficient, modern, and elegant: three words that describe Max Flatow’s photographic career and style. His ability to appreciate the natural is what makes his work that much more appreciable.

Here is a link to one of my personal favorite photographs groups by Mr. Flatow:



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Beautiful Words Create Beautiful Images

As the 29th Harman writer, Katherine Vaz, stepped on to the stage, she was greeted with polite applause. She began with an introduction of herself, what brought her to Baruch on that rainy evening, and a short description of her works. It could be clearly seen that she was very comfortable in this type of a situation, and was rather enjoying herself. The audience, now full of food, was ready to hear this reading.

This was the first reading I have attended, and I felt intrigued by the anticipation in the room, as it seemed that everyone else knew what was to be expected.

It looked as if a spotlight had been placed on Ms, Vaz, with her yellow dress illuminating her surroundings. She spoke clearly yet casually about her newest work, Below the Salt to be released in January. This is her fifth work in her collection of publications, which also includes Our Lady of the Artichokes, a collection of short stories.

Her most recent work has some striking similarities with the ones that preceded it. For example, there is religious aspect that is prevalent in many of her short stories in Our Lady of the Artichokes as well. Below the Salt, in which she read excerpts from important sections, tells the story of a mother and a child during the time of the Civil War, banished from their homeland due to the fact that they did not wish to convert to Presbyterianism.  The main character is the child, John Olves, and the story tracks his progression through life’s stages.

Ms. Vaz used her powerful voice to provide the audience with images of what was happening in the story.  As I looked around, I saw many people with eyes closed and brows furrowed, trying to picture the beautiful words she spoke. Describing the mother and John’s time in captivity, she read the phrase “He ate nothing but the music of birds” before explaining that his mom taught him how to sing. She also went on to speak about the religious significance. The guards in the prison were using John to “break her”. The mother’s response to this behavior was “I’ll go hungry but feed my baby”. This speaks to the religious backdrop of the story and the moral lessons that most religions provide, such as respecting other human beings and taking care of children.

Katherine Vaz was able to seamlessly transition between reading her story and anecdotes from the time she wrote the novel. As she read about John going to fight in the Civil War, there was a very powerful line which caught my attention. “’We are all condemned to this world,’ John said.” She continued on to describe some of the horrors at which point she started to explain how she acquired the knowledge to some for the details she used, such as the starving at Vicksburg. She studied letters of soldiers from the Library of Congress. After sharing a quirky story about Lincoln and a librarian, she continued to read her story as if she had never stopped. This allowed the reading to be smooth, and easy to follow.

Overall, I was not only impressed by Katherine Vaz’s ability to read to an audience, but also with her writing technique. Her description of a love scene involving spoke to me greatly. The setting was described as “The sun flattens on to the river. Red meets blue”. The sun and water converging is not only symbolic of the two lovers meeting, but is, simply put, beautiful. As she said herself, she believed that she should not “hang a tassel off every sentence”  but let the words speak to the reader.  Both her words and personality were a joy to be around, and I look forward to the release of Below the Salt.

Credit: Christopher Cerf

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Documenting True Beauty

Before coming to Max Flatow’s presentation, I always believed that photographers specialized in one subject. However, Flatow has changed this mindset because his photographs have proven that he “shoots everything.” His wide-ranged portfolio reveals how he is willing to travel around the world to capture the beauty of many things. One photo I remember clearly is the photo of the couple in the middle of a field. He cleverly uses the wind to spread the veil behind the bride, creating a dreamy effect. Not only does Flatow document a connection between the couple, he also captures the mood. As the viewer, I am able to experience the moment in the photo.

Flatow mentions that he doesn’t use flash. Rather, he uses exterior artificial lighting. He is able to create effective shadows in his images. One photo that stands out is the image where two flower girls are standing on the stage. There is a single light in the middle that brightens the photo just enough so that the viewer understands the setting. The fact that subjects are not posed makes the photo even more perfect. The beauty of these photos can easily capture the audience’s attention because the moment is real. His innate ability to snap a photo at the right moment proves that photographers can be successful even if they are self-taught.

Although Flatow is a photographer, he also seems to be a businessman. He understands that his portfolio needs variety if he wants people to hire him. With experience in taking photos of various subjects, he has opened doors to many opportunities. He does not forget to mix up the techniques he uses before taking each photo.

After looking at these photos, I was inspired and determined to take photos of my own. It has always been a trouble for me to take photos at the “right” moment. However, after attending this presentation, I learned that many great photos are not posed. Rather, it’s the natural expressions of the subject that makes the photo just “right.” Photography is also about experimenting and choosing one out of hundreds that best convey a theme. Although it requires a lot of work, Flatow’s portfolio has motivated me to document special moments I see around me.

The Veil- taken by Max Flatow

taken by Max Flatow

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“The Story Just Came To Me”

I wish stories just came to me. I, normally, have do some serious thinking before I can write long essays or even shorter ones. Coming up with a good idea can sometimes take me ages…

This is not always the case with the author Katherine Vaz. She described the story of her new book at the Fall 2012 Harman In-Residence. Her book is titled Below the Salt, and it follows a young man whose life surrounds the Civil War. If you want anymore of the plot, then read the book. All that I am going to say is: you won’t be disappointed, its great. 

The book didn’t start out that way though.

“I wrote for about a year, stuff that was so terrible that I threw it in a box.” We all have those moments, don’t we? I know that I may be writing an essay and decided to scrap everything that I’ve done because it sucks. But hey, it happens. Move on. Keep writing. Which is exactly what Katherine Vaz did and if she didn’t, then we wouldn’t be able to read her great work. And her work is great.

Vaz’s writing is very immersive. When she sets a scene, the setting comes to life.

“I am a big believer of going to the place and feeling it on your skin … And that’s important.” First, she goes to the setting of the book and experiences the setting. She feels it on her skin. But then—and here’s where the magic happens—she writes about it, and the reader can feel it on his/her skin. Many writers strive for that skill and few succeed, Katherine Vaz being one of them.

She is an extraordinary writer and an interesting speaker; Vaz has forever influenced my writing.

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A Dream for Me, A Living for Him

Becoming a photographer had been a dream for me for several years, until my reality check hit me and I fell back into the real world like those people who wanted to become a rock star realized after multiple auditions that it just not going to happen—though for me, the journey ended before it start. For this reason, I admire anyone who is determined to be or has became a photographer. Luckily, I was fortunate enough to be able to hear from one of these “heroes”, Max Flatow, who came in on November 6th and talked to us about his career path.

Max Flatow is a self-taught photographer. Even though he didn’t plan to become one, he developed this interest during college and whoa-la! Time flies by—this is his seventh year into the profession already. In fact, he was uncertain whether or not to become a photographer for several years, until his experience in Spain changed his mind forever. He took many pictures during his trip, and had a gallery show in a small café. I guess the satisfying feeling he got when he knew that people were appreciating HIS images was really affecting—why else would he change his mind?

During the conference, he said that approximately 85 to 90 percent of the photos he took were for weddings. Then he showed us some of his photos. I really liked them. There was one particularly caught my eyes.

Max Flatow

I wouldn’t consider this the best of all, but it was surely the most meaningful one in my eyes. From the white scarf flowing in the wind in that specific angle, the couple showing off their love with a gentle kiss on the lips to with the color of the image and the background—all I could say was that everything made sense. I don’t know how to further analyze it except for one word, “WOW!”

He also took photos of food, though he admitted that it was a stressful job because most foods need to be photographed in a critical condition. Many of the slides in the presentation were taken in an angle; and the subjects tended to be put a little off to the side. He liked facial expressions and black-and-white photos, and he especially stressed that he didn’t like camera lights. When one of our classmates asked him that “is it a good idea to take pictures with Iphone”, he laughed. He simply loved the idea.

He said, “Well, the worse thing that can happen is your phone’s battery dies. Then you charge it and then shoot again!”

Well, there goes an alternative way to become a photographer. I should try it sometimes.

Max Flatow

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Feel the Love

Max Flatow lives the life of our envy. His job takes him around the globe to some of the most beautiful places on Earth where he has the pleasure of witnessing life’s most blissful moments. As a photographer, Flatow is invited to photograph couples on their wedding day, whether it is in Canada, the Caribbean, or India, just to name a few locations.

Visiting our Arts in New York class, Max Flatow had an infectious light in his eyes. Though appearing to be a timid character in his gray suit and newsboy cap, he soon began to capture our hearts and minds with his enchanting photographs and inspirational words.

Equipped with a slideshow of his favorite images, Flatow presented each piece and its story. One of his favorite weddings to shoot, not surprisingly, was his own.  As a smile spread on his face, he showed a photo of his wife with immense pride. Standing in a lake at sundown with her wedding dress half submerged, she was well illuminated against a backdrop of dark trees and brilliant pink clouds. He knew that the photograph was excellent, but this knowledge was veiled by the immense love and admiration that he felt for his subject.

It was this kind of love that he sought to capture in the couples that he photographed. When asked of his approach to capturing the ideal emotion from the wife and groom, he replied, I tell them to “look into each others’ eyes and feel the love”. He stressed the importance, however, of letting them look natural, or else he would get a “contrived, toothy grin”; and nobody likes that.

Flatow’s style is quite unique, as he tries to focus on the entire aspect of the wedding day, from the tedious preparation, to the romantic kiss, to the amusing reception, and all the nuances in between.  “Clients expect one thousand photos of the day”, he says. His assignment lets him take photographs from unconventional angles and experiment with light; and his results are astounding. His signature style is to photograph the silhouette of his subject and take advantage of the natural light in the background.

Though an established photographer with his own growing Brooklyn-based business, Max Flatow received no formal education in his field. He was briefly exposed to the art in middle school and was later able to experiment with it in college. Though Southern Vermont College did not offer any photography classes, it did have an excellent dark room. With permission, he was allowed to use the facility to experiment with film photography and augment his skills.  It was just a hobby then, but it would set him along a road to success. After a trip to Spain, he realized that photography was his life-passion. He started to sell his photographs at a coffee shop, and later worked for free to build his clientele. His photographic interests vary from weddings, to travel, to food.

Regardless of what he captures, he brings a fresh approach to his field of work. Redefining the significance of photography in our culture, he promotes the use of any kind of camera — as long as photographs are taken. “Shoot as much as you possibly can”, he tells us. Whether it be a professional camera or an iPhone, he wants the young generation to understand the joys and rewards of photography.

Image provided by www.maxflatow.com/index2.php#/home


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Imagery– the Most Powerful Yet Invisible Technique

I first heard of Katherine Vaz from my IDC class. We had to read a book named Our Lady of the Artichokes, a collection of short stories for homework. As always, I resisted the reading. When I was reading, however, I was captured by her wild and rich images, and was quickly overwhelmed by every single word of the book. So of course, it was exciting to hear that she was going to be the 29th Harman Writer in Baruch College.


As a class, we went to her Sidney Writer-in-Residence Reading in October 23rd. After warm welcome, Katherine Vaz began her reading. She was reading a part from the third book she wrote, named Below the Salt. She said that she had never read it in public, so that was her “debut”. As she began reading, her writing style appeared right from the first word that came out her mouth.  It was clear that this book and Our Lady of the Artichokes shared many things, from themes to techniques. The one thing that caught my eyes, however, was the same thing that inspired me the most during my reading—her use of imagery.

The whole time, the powerful images she created through those spoken words jumped right into my head. Before I noticed, my brain was full of different scenarios from the story. The scenes connected and composed a movie within me, as if it was right before my eyes as the reading went on. The experience was amazing. I always thought imagery was the basic component of a story, so I had never paid enough attention to them. And I had to say—it wasn’t an experience that you could realize it right away. Maybe it was because of the author’s voice, or maybe for some other reasons, Vaz’s voice pulled me into her story. As soon as the reading began, I was dissolve into my own imagination triggered by her low and magnetic voice.

She later had a Q&A section. She said that the stories were created based on her own events, and that she was a big believer for “going to the place and feel the place on your skin”. Hum… “Feel the place on your skin”… This might be the reason for her success in creating such dominant details. After all, if I have to make a comment on her fiction, I would have to agree with one of her reviewers—that they “glow with a fairytale magic—yet uniquely”.

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Max Flatow

“Everyone with an iPhone or camera can be a photographer.”

Oftentimes you would come across someone with a really nice and expensive DSLR camera and call themselves a photographer. Max Flatow, however, believes otherwise. Flatow went to middle school with a photography program but when he went to Vermont college, he wasn’t offered many courses that pertained to what he wanted to study. However, he was given access to a darkroom, where he got to play around with different techniques and improved his photographing skills. He studied abroad in Spain when he was still in college, where he took pictures that he was able to display at a local cafe to sell himself as well as his work and about fifty to seventy people showed up. From there, his career finally took off.

His talent has brought him to opportunities and projects in different cities in the US and even to different countries like India. There, he shot photos for a couple that was getting married. A lot of his projects are for couples getting married because “People are always going to get married no matter what.” However, he is not only interested in photographing weddings but he “like[s] to shoot everything.” Some other subjects he had taken photos of are football players, bands, and of course, food. In the past, he even shot music photography.

There are many different techniques that comes up a lot in his pictures. Some of them include the rule of thirds, depth of field, using artificial lighting, and taking advantage of natural settings. In a lot of his indoor shoots, he has a large spotlight that can produce the appearance of shadows and darkness, such as the one with two flower girls and the one of a couple walking down the steps. In another photo taken outdoors, he used the wind to take photos that were untraditional, with the veil of the bride flying in the air.  Unlike most photographers, he takes a lot of photos that are in the moment and candid, such as the couple on the streets of Manhattan, because he understands that many people aren’t fond of being told what to do and how to pose. At the end of the day, he says that out of the hundreds and thousands of photos he takes, his clients choose the one where they are acting most naturally and make them feel as if they are reliving the moment.

Flatow’s passion for photography was definitely emphasized as he went through his slideshow of photos. He used each and every technique to catch the subjects in their most beautiful angle and lighting, which encourages me to play around with a camera for the photography projects. The fact that he learned all his photography skills on his own is really inspiring and definitely makes me want to learn how to use a camera to its fullest potential.

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Max Flatow: Photography Boss

“If you have an IPhone, you can be a photographer.” That’s a pretty bold statement Max Flatow makes, considering the fact that his career revolves around being a photographer.


Flatow is based in Brooklyn and has been doing this for seven years. His love for photography stems from a 7th grade program. In order to better his skills, he worked by and taught himself. In college, he found a darkroom and taught himself the techniques. Still, he didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life. All that changed after his study abroad trip to Spain. When he came back to America, he showed his pictures took a local café and they decided to hold a gallery for him, where he sold the pictures.


From that, he worked for many set designers, which led him to be exposed to famous photographers. He even got a job in video production. But he didn’t like it so he quit to become a full-time photographer.


After he created his business, he needed to build clientele. The only way he saw he could do this is by using Facebook and doing work for free.


He likes to take wedding pictures, but he is versatile. In these shots, he doesn’t like the standard picture where the bride and groom stand in the middle. Instead, he creates a more dynamic image by applying the “rule of thirds”. He does have his preferences. He “doesn’t use flash”. It’s either natural light or his assistant would create an artificial light. Flatow likes shooting in black and white because it gives “classic taste, but only when appropriate”. Still, he loves to shoot silhouettes.


Besides weddings, food is another area where Flatow enjoys. He isn’t a fan of the pretty product. He rather see the backstory on “how it’s produced and caught”. Before he goes on a vacation, Flatow would call the restaurants and ask them that when he is there if he could take a picture of their meals. According to Flatow, “Chefs love when people take pictures of their creations”.


In all, Max was an interesting guy. As a young Brooklynite, he runs his own business and he is “his own boss”. He knows the classical techniques of working in a darkroom as well as the modern skills of Instagram and Photoshop. Most important is that his pictures are amazing!

Credits goes to Max Flatow

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A Love for Photography

Being a professional doesn’t necessary equate to a formal education in school. For Max Flatow, his professionalism in photography is essentially self-taught. It is the result of practice and experience. One would expect a well-established photographer who was self-taught and had built his own career to be somewhat haughty; Mr. Flatow, however, was very friendly and appeared to be easygoing during his class visit to Baruch College on November 6th.

Mr. Flatow’s interest in photography began in 7th grade and persisted to his college in Vermont, where he took advantage of a fallow darkroom. Because no one was using it, he had full control over the room, experimenting with lighting and chemicals, and eventually compiling a photo journal. He lightheartedly said, “You have got to start somewhere.” Although advancement in camera technology has nullified the effectiveness of a darkroom with Photoshop (Mr. Flatow playfully called it “digital darkroom,” or otherwise the “light room”), he quickly adapted to digital cameras. Reflecting upon his own decisions as he told us his story, he was very cheerful and seemed to smile quite often. He was never sure whether or not he wanted to become a professional photographer as he was discouraged by the people he knew, saying that it “isn’t tangible” because of very portable cameras and iPhones.  It wasn’t until his study abroad in Spain where he sold some of his travel photographs in his first gallery showing at a local café that inspired him to become a full-time photographer.

Working with Mary Howard, Mr. Flatow’s career took off at a great start. He was able to get exposure to how professionals work. He eventually quit the job and started his own business. Although he is an optimistic person, in both speech and the work that he does, he never expected to be immediately successful. Instead, he offered to do much of his work for free knowing that he wouldn’t get customers right away. He explained quite frankly that it was an effective way to build relationships, networking, and even to learn how to run a business. One of the many other ways to get publicized was, of course, through web services. And I think many of us would agree with him when he said, “Facebook works wonders!”

Mr. Flatow takes photos of a variety of subjects, of weddings, food, celebrities, travel, buildings, and corporate portraits. In particular, there were two fields that Mr. Flatow was really interested in; they were weddings and food. From the slideshow of photographs he showed us, I could tell that he especially liked to play with light, depth of field and angles. The first photo of a newly married couple standing on the meadows was incredible. The couple was set toward the right side of the image while the bride’s veil stretched across to the left. The positioning of the subjects forced the viewers to not only look at the beautiful couple but also at the amazing scenery.


Credits to Max Flatow


In another wedding photo, set in a church, Mr. Flatow used the light effectively to capture a gorgeous silhouette image of the couple. His silhouette photo of two children dancing had a similar effect, differing only because the silhouette shot of the two children used a staged light. He, however, told us that he never used camera flash.

Silhouette Shot of the Couple – Credits to Max Flatow

Silhouette Shot of Kids Dancing – Credits to Max Flatow

His food photos were so clean and sharp that it almost appeared to have been edited using Photoshop! Particularly, he took photos of almost all his subjects, including food, at a slightly tilted angle. One could tell that he loved his work when he added, the tilted angle in his shots “creates a little bit more excitement.”

Credits to Max Flatow

Why does he love his work so much? It is because, as he puts it, “I’m my own boss.” He is able to do what he enjoys. He travels, gets in touch with chiefs, eats wonderful food, and encounters many cultures. Max Flatow is certainly a talented photographer with a sense of fulfillment and playfulness.

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Eating Songs, a Story of Brilliant Magical Realism

I was honored to have Katherine Vaz, the 29th Harman Fellow at Baruch College, as the guest reader for a very special reading of her soon to be published new novel, Below the Salt, on the evening of October 23rd. It was a peaceful evening of joy and reunion. Miss Vaz seemed to be enjoying herself as she conversed with her friends and perhaps new acquaintances before the reading. Clad in an elegant yellow dress, she gave off an aura of grace and friendliness.

Katherine Vaz – Credits to Baruch College

After a light snack, the room seemed to be filled with anticipation for Miss Vaz’s reading of Below the Salt, a book that she had been working on for the past eight years. Her previous works followed a similar theme of mother, love, sadness, and share Portuguese ancestry; and so it was no surprise that this book, Below the Salt, and the one we read, Our Lady of the Artichokes and Other Portuguese-American Stories, also shared those themes. Below the Salt is set during the Civil War period, a time of tumult and breaking bonds between families in the North and South. The breaking of bonds, shared sadness and music are but some of the magic ingredients that help shaped the tragic yet loving story of John Olives, the protagonist. Although the pace of the reading was slow, it gradually gained momentum. The story’s tension and beauty vacillates as Miss Vaz builds the context through her firm voice, increasing speed during tension and slowing down as climax approaches.

Miss Vaz’s use of metaphors of music and songs add a spectacular effect to her story. Particularly in the beginning, John and his mother are starving in prison as they are not given food. Having nothing but air for her son to eat, John’s mother offers her son a kind yet cruel reality, “We’ll eat some songs, John …, eat the chattering of little birds.” More to John’s cruel fate, he was ultimately separated from his mother after being both rescued by Americans from prison. And when John finally found a lover, Mary, Civil War broke out and he had to leave to war. The battle scenes were incredibly detailed and the realities of war, all too vivid. Due to starvation, he ate a man and a horse. He couldn’t escape reality by eating songs like he did with his mother. And when he returned after the war, Mary was already engaged to another man.

John’s tragedy seemed to be boundless and too real; yet at times, it feels like a fantasy. That is the magic of Miss Vaz’s novel. She is able to tie closely through vivid descriptions and soothing metaphors to create a sense of magical realism. Of course, as she explained after the reading in the questions and answers section, she did not come up with those metaphors and descriptions on a whim. She did a lot of research that focuses on what might apply to the characters and their personality/history, sitting in libraries and living in the towns that John was in. She, however, was hesitant to write this novel. She playfully explained, “I don’t want to do that much research.” But before she knew it, she was reading and writing a lot about her topic; after a year, she finally found the determination to write the novel. To future aspiring writers, she told us that her motto was, “No one knows where to start, simply put anything down.” To start, it’s about finding “the heart of the material and character.”

In the questions and answers session about Our Lady of the Artichokes, it was clear that stories greatly impacted Miss Vaz’s life and writing style; she grew up hearing stories about saints, religious rituals and death. Some of the stories included a particular practice of Latin Catholicism where people were allowed to be angry at status if something bad happened and should thank the statues by decorating them if it helped them. Hence, she integrated those stories into her book. It made perfect sense then that the book, Our Lady of the Artichokes, was composed of several stories about.

Cover of Katherine Vaz’s book, Our Lady of the Artichokes.

This was the first time I attended a public reading of a book. Frankly, I used to think all public readings were boring because it made me think of lectures. Katherine Vaz’s reading, however, spirit away that thought. The detail and meticulous effort dedicated to her works is admirable; her enthusiasm and pace of reading made the story of Below the Salt extremely enjoyable.

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iPhone Photography

“You don’t need thousand dollar equipment, last year’s photo award was made with an iPhone.” Max Flatow embedded in our minds that anyone could be a photographer, and we don’t need a pricey camera to be one. He shares that even as a professional photographer, he uses his iPhone to capture the moments he wants to keep.

Flatow tells us that his love for photography started in seventh grade. “I’m self taught. I spend a lot of my free time honing my skills.” He had motivation, which made the art of photography more the interesting for him to discover techniques on his own. He took over an unused darkroom in college and started studying photojournalism. After his study abroad trip to Spain of his senior year, he decided to hold a gallery at a local café, where he gained some attention and were able to sell some of his artwork. He worked for a set designer, Meredith, by painting sets, which gave him great exposure to photography.

What exists everywhere, no matter where in the world? Food. Flatow works mostly on wedding photography, though he also photographs food on the side. On his job, he actually does a lot of travelling, and at every new location, he tries to contact local restaurants to have their dishes be photographed professionally. One couple had him travel to India. He describes that trip to be the most interesting wedding he’s ever been able to photograph. The couple walked onto the scene on elephants! The vibrant colors he captured allowed us to peer at what amazing time and experience he had on the job.

Going through his slideshow, he would also stop to tell us the techniques he used for each picture. He gave us pointers on how to create a depth in field effect, perfect a silhouette, and more. He inspired me to take photos of my own to capture everything around me. He was self-taught, and it only takes practice. Maybe I can get there some day.

All taken by Max Flatow

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Max Flatow: Photographer and Entrepreneur

Max Flatow’s career as a photographer began in the dark room during middle school.  As he continued his education, his interest in photography grew.  After high school, Flatow enrolled in Southern Vermont College, where he was given complete control over the school’s abandoned dark room.  Much of his time was spent in here, and he said that he “essentially taught himself.”  During his final year of college, he spent the entire year abroad in Spain.  When he came back to America, Flatow had some of his travel photos displayed at a local café, and this is where his career began to take flight.

Fresh out of college, Max held a few jobs before becoming a full time photographer.  He worked for Mary Howard, a renowned set designer, and for a post-production video editing company.  After working these jobs, he realized that this was not his scene, and he made the decision to become a photographer officially.  For the first 1-2 years, he did a lot of his work for free to get his name out there.  He worked for another famous photographer in addition to taking his own snapshots.  “He taught me not only how to run a business, but also how to network myself,” Flatow said about his employer.  He values the importance of being both a professional and an entrepreneur.

With the transition from film to digital, his photography was revolutionized.  Flatow effectively applies the principles of “Depth of Field” and “Rule of Thirds” to his work.  When using depth of field, the subject is focused, whereas the remainder of the backdrop is blurred.  In order to obtain this effect, one must open the shutter and allow light to enter.  He said, “I try to be as versatile as possible with my lighting,” and it should be noted that he never uses a flash on his camera.  As for applying the rule of thirds, Flatow tries to put his subjects off to the side because it “creates a more dynamic image.”  To top off his techniques, Flatow has picked up a slight tilt to his photography.  “A lot of these photos, I’m just capturing a moment,” he said, “And adding a tilt creates more excitement.”

This Brooklyn-based photographer has been quite successful for being in the business for just seven years.  He has photographed a wide array of subjects from weddings to desserts.  He has even shot portraits of celebrities such as Harrison Ford, Cee Lo Green, and Steve Nash.  But what I enjoyed most about his presentation was his mindset as a photographer.  “I am my own boss,” he exclaimed towards the end of his presentation.  While Max Flatow realizes there are many difficulties to being an innovator and an entrepreneur, he focuses on the positive light and attempts to let it shine through his photography.

Photo Credit: Max Flatow. Here he uses lighting and depth of field, along with his “signature tilt” to capture the perfect wedding photo.

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Below The Salt was Above The Standard

I have never been to a public reading before. I didn’t know what to expect. But Katherine Vaz, 29th Harman Writer-In-Residence, did a stellar job!

Vaz read excerpts of her work in progress, Below The Salt. The story revolves around John Olves before, during, and after the Civil War.

In the prologue, the audience learns that John as a three year old was in prison with his mother in a different country. The prison guards were holding the son as “collateral” and they tried to starve them. But the mom appealed to the guards by telling them “I’ll go hungry, but feed my son.” In addition, the parent and the son sang with the birds. As Vaz describes, “They eat with songs.”

In my opinion, the most powerful scene had to be when John was in the Civil War. After the Union victory at Shiloh, the battlefield is described as gruesome with the “sameness of death.”

During the question-and-answer session, Vaz revealed that she did extensive research at the Library of Congress (LOC) on the Civil War. This transitioned to one of her anecdotes about LOC when she asked if she could look at specific documents on John Olves. The librarian was relived because she looking at research and “not checking if they are somehow related to Abraham Lincoln.”

As stated before, the main character was a real person. Vaz took the historical evidence, but spinned it to create the story. In addition, it was interesting to know that she “needed to feel the setting.” She spent six months living in Jacksonville, Mississippi. It just shows me how difficult it is to write a book. It took Vaz eight years to compose this masterpiece.

Her voice was clear and powerful. When I closed my eyes and heard her, I could picture myself standing there with John as he is surveying the dead bodies or as he is drinking his first hot chocolate. It was magical and surreal to visualize all this.

I do have one regret though. It is that I should have given her a question. It was my first book reading so I didn’t know what kind of question was appropriate to ask. I am hoping that next time, I will be braver to go up to the microphone!

Katherine Vaz

Katherine Vaz


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A Snapshot of a Photographer

Max Flatow’s interest in photography began in the 7th grade. Although he took a break during high school, because his school had no dark room, in college his interest in the art revived South Vermont College’s dark room. He says that starting off in the dark room was helpful because he was able to experiment with the chemicals and lighting on his own.

Though he had a college professor to teach him about the dark room, “I am essentially self-taught,” he says. And he has taught himself well. Today, he is a Brooklyn based photographer, a professional for seven years,  who has traveled the world taking photos of weddings, food and celebrities. In giving his presentation, he was inviting, friendly and eager to share stories about his art.

While studying abroad in Spain during his senior year of college, he took many pictures that he featured in a café for his first show. This turned out to be a huge success and he sold all his work. After graduating college, he worked for set designer Mary Howard and was exposed to fashion photographers. Although this was a learning experience, he quit because this was not what he wanted to do.

He started his own business and at first did a lot of work for free to build a clientele. He says that the biggest help was being taught how to market himself. He emphasized marketing and mentioned how word of mouth could be used, but also that “Facebook works wonders.” Marketing through social media can help aspiring photographers and has certainly helped him travel the world in his career.

Before traveling, he makes calls to try to set up photo shoots in these foreign countries. He gets to go to foreign weddings, and take pictures of exotic food, which he mostly gets to eat afterwards. Most people are very receptive of his requests and because of his reaching out; he has been able to go to places like India and South America not just for his travels, but for business as well. He also gets to take portraits of celebrities and has taken shots of big names like Harrison Ford and Steve Nash. His photos are featured in travel brochures, menus and magazines.

Credits to Max Flatow

As for his style, he likes versatility in lighting. In his slideshow presentation, he showed his versatility, with some photos very dark, and others nicely lit. He never uses flash on a camera; rather he has an assistant stand with a light in a certain place to make for the perfect shot. He experiments with depth of field and the rule of thirds by often putting his subjects off to the side for amazing effects and creating a more “dynamic image.” He enjoys black-and-white and will convert to it if he thinks it enhances the shot. His tilts create excitement and though most shots are candid, he will have couples pose for the perfect shot they want.

In person, Flatow is young, energetic and passionate. Being young, he also keeps up with current photographic technology. He shoots pictures with an iPhone for himself sometimes, even though he admits a camera is better. He also says he loves Instagram. However, his professional work is all done by camera and the photos in his presentation were unique, dynamic and showed a variety of lighting and placement techniques. He loves traveling and his job, calling himself an artist and a marketer. But above all he says, “I am my own boss.” And the decisions he has made in both marketing and photography in addition to his warm and friendly personality have started an excellent career.

Credits to Max Flatow Blog


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A Beautifully Abstract Writer

Katherine Vaz, the 29th Harman writer-in-residence was thrilled to be at Baruch to give readings from her new work, Below the Salt. After eight years of work, this would be her 5th book, based on a true story about the Civil War. Similar to Our Lady of the Artichokes (which she also discussed during the questioning portion of her visit), her new work has some abstract ideas and family ties, and it sounds like a very interesting read.

Photo Credit to Christopher Cerf

The prologue to her story begins with John, and his mother who is sentenced to death. To avoid hunger in jail, they sing and eat their music, surviving off their voices, and the music around them. They feed off the chattering of the birds, and the songs of other villagers who sing for John and his mother. The prologue shows strong family ties and love as John’s mother protects him and cares for him while in prison, refusing cake so that John may have it. She says, “I’ll go hungry but feed my baby.” At the end of their struggle, John’s mother is spared and fined, rather than executed.

The story progresses and John goes off to fight in the Civil War. Vaz did extensive research on the war to find stories that she could incorporate in her book. The details she finds are chilling, such as killing off horses and burying them, but they provide a very clear image of the horrors that happened during this time. She uses many similes, metaphors and personification that add to the power of her writing. She even used her own personal experiences, which provide great details, such as using a wheelchair orchestra to close the love scene in her book. It was easy to follow her writing because her voice and reading were so well done. Her pace, volume and phrasing allowed any listener to visualize the stories of the Civil War she was portraying.

After the reading, she was very receptive to questions. She discussed her process, and writing, but mainly focused on her research. Traveling to places like the Library of Congress, she spent a lot of time searching for and reading first hand documents. Taking stories from these transcripts and using them in her writing for accurate history gave it a very authentic feel. “I’m a big believer in going to the place, feeling it on your skin,” Vaz said. All of her efforts and searching for that feeling paid off in her writing, as the reader gets a very realistic depiction of the feeling of the Civil War.

When asked about Our Lady of the Artichokes and where some of the odd religious rituals came from, she replied that her family had influenced those stories. She grew up hearing the stories of the saints and those superstitions so she was able to write about them in detail. And to aspiring writers, she says, “no one knows where to start.” But she emphasizes finding the heart of the material and going from there. I think using personal stories and history to enhance writing like she did is a successful way to get writing flowing. Her enthusiasm and detailed/abstract writing made for a very entertaining presentation.

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Katherine Vaz: A Dreamer who created Reality

On the evening of October 23rd, Katherine Vaz came to speak on behalf of her experience as the 29th Harmen writer and her upcoming publication of her 5th literary work.  Her book, entitled Below the Salt, is a novel that is placed in the mid 19th century.  The main character, John Olives, is imprisoned with his mother, who was arrested for heresy.  Her novel explores the interdependence of a mother and her son as they journey to America, and eventually wind up in the state of Illinois.

In her piece, Vaz expresses her fascination with New York through the thoughts of the mother.  To quote John’s mother, “In the beginning, there was New York.”  The mother marvels at the various skyscrapers and wonders what it was like to be a part of the construction of New York City.  Throughout the rest of the novel, they travel to Illinois, where they encounter a group of life changing missionaries.  However, Vaz’s work would not be complete without the thematic twists of love and war scattered throughout.

When the mother and son become closer with the missionaries, they run into the Catholic sacrament that is the Eucharist.  The mother does not believe that the “communion bread” is truly the body of Christ, himself.  Here outpours the internal conflict of reality and religion, with which many people of society struggle.  As a young child, Vaz grew up a devout Catholic, but was deeply scarred later on in her life.  “People get tired of the magic and want the real,” Vaz commented after her reading.  She enjoys delving into the ideas of reality and dreams, which she frequently transitions back and forth from in her writing.

At the conclusion of her reading, the floor was opened up for a question and answer.  One of the initial questions asked by a member of the audience was how Katherine comes up with the thought provoking ideas for her writing.  To answer that question, she compared the way ideas come to her to the way that songs come to the everyday person.  Then, an aspiring writer from the audience claimed she had an idea on a future writing piece.  She was having difficulty finding a starting point, so she asked the Harmen writer for some advice.  “Less is better than more when starting to write,” Katherine gently told the student.  It allows the writer to key in on one focal point, rather experience an array of confusion with countless ideas.

Since her first publication as a writer, Vaz’s career has taken off.  She has given talks to the Library of Congress, and she even spent six months in Jacksonville to conduct research.  “Research is mostly about how it might apply to my characters, not what they do, but who they are,” she noted.  When carrying out studies, Katherine Vaz looks for signals that will give her a better understanding of both her characters and herself.

Photo Credit: Baruch.cuny.edu

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Food & Wedding Capturer

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Photo from MaxFlatow.com

Max Flatow was not the type of man I was expecting to come in and speak to us about photography. I pictured a flamboyant, eccentric, artsy type of guy who would speak hyperbolically on the wonder of photography. Instead, the real Max Flatow entered the room, a stout man with a beard who seemed by all appearances just “run of the mill”. All things changed when he started to tell his story and as he showed us his portfolio of photographs from food to wedding parties. His company is currently based in Brooklyn and has been for the past seven years. His passion for photography began in the 7th grade when he stepped into a darkroom. She is totally self-taught and truly believes in “practicing your own techniques.”


In his senior year of high school, Flatow traveled abroad to Spain where he took many different types of photographs. Upon his return, he asked a local café to feature his prints and it was upon selling his work that he decided, then and there, that he wanted to become a professional.

As a person interested in business, I really liked how Flatow explored the business side of having your own photography business. Many artists neglect and even despise the business side of their art, but it is very important perhaps the most important aspect to “look after.” For, one can create the best artwork in the world, yet be unable to continue due to lack of funds. Flatow stressed the importance of networking and “social networking in particular.” He also spoke of the importance of building a clientele, and how sometimes you must work “pro bono” to build a customer base.

The second half of his presentation consisted of him showing the audience some of his work. He asserted the importance of weddings for his business, and how “each wedding is very different” something I never had thought about. He spoke of the “rule of thirds” and depth of field. He often utilized silhouettes to give his photographs a certain tone to them. He liked to give his photos a little tilt, giving the viewer a new perspective on an otherwise conventional photograph. His work on shadows was of particular interest to me. I really like how shadows can be photographed and the different perspectives they can give a scene.

In his final segment, Flatow spoke of photographing food and the specific challenges that accompany this niche. He spoke of the trend towards the natural in preparing the food to be photographed; Glue and Lacquer is being replaced by the foods natural substance and color. The actual process of food is often the most interesting and I agree with this exactly. I want to see how the food is made. It is much more interesting than staring at the static finished product.

Flatow presentation brought me a fresh outlook on photography, and actually instilled in me an interest to be an amateur photographer, every now and then.

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Dancer or Artist? A Spotlight on Jody Sperling

An avid connoisseur of dance and the avant-garde performer Loie Fuller, Jody Sperling gave a keen lecture on October 4th at Baruch College’s building on 17 Lexington Avenue.

Sperling has been the artistic director of Time Lapse Dance since its start in 2000. She attended Wesleyan University, where she earned a BA in dance and Italian, and holds an MA in performance studies in NYU, according to her website, TimeLapseDance.com. She opened the 2 hour-long lecture with images and video clips from her company’s past performances, whose style is heavily influenced by Loie Fuller. Via her iPad, the multimedia presented beautiful modern dance categorized by ethereal, fluent movement that is sculpted and manipulated by light. Sperling explains the extent to which the transformation of light projections and color plays an important role in creating the illusion of abstract objects like flowers, water, fire, patterns, and animals like the snake in the famous “snake dance” by Fuller. The stage is a canvas in which she fully utilizes the light projections and sweeping spinning movements to “sculpt” a perpetually moving piece of art.

In one video clip shown, she twirls, arms creating grand sweeping movements, on a box that projects red, orange and yellow lights. Superfluous, lush fabric creates an environment around the dancer that envelops her, making the shape of the body nondescript, she says. Sometimes, there may be bilateral lights of two different colors that play with each other on the abundant ripples of the fabric, which is often white. Green and blue lights combined with fluent movement might mock the essence of an ocean, for instance. Sperling explains how sticks, used as invisible extensions of the arms, are responsible for creating the grand movements, which can be attributed to Fuller. The use of mirrors is sometimes incorporated into the performance, as the running dancers disappear and then instantly reappear. It gives off a kaleidoscopic, transcendental experience.

Sperling allotted a significant part of her lecture to describing the heavy influence of Fuller’s signature “Snake Dance.” It is created by waving the stick extensions, attached to the thick layers of fabric, in a cycle of oscillations. The trail of fabric in motion creates the illusion of a slithering snake. This is one of the factors that caused Fuller’s fame to escalate, which also spurred the rise of impersonators. According to Sperling, the Snake Dance was actually first performed in front of a live audience in France by an impersonator. Sperling showed students old art deco posters advertising the dance, explaining that there are no actual images or video of the real Loie Fuller performing.

Sperling is the definition of a visual artist, just as she is the definition of a dancer. She embraces every facet of visual art, while drawing inspiration from history, to create an impressionable work. Aside from blood, sweat and tears, donations are what keep the company alive, she explains. Visit her website TimeLapseDance.com to buy tickets or to donate.





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Fuller’s Dance in Sperling Style

Two weeks ago, my classmates and I went to the 17 Lexington Ave building for a class by a guest speaker. Thinking that I am going to hear a boring speech on how someone named Jody Sperling succeed in life, I was surprised to find the lesson focused majorly on another person and how that person had influenced her. Ms. Jody Sperling gave us a small but very interesting lecture on Loie Fuller, a great dancer, in which she told us the life story of Ms. Fuller and the reasons for her to go into this business she had started.

Of course, as an introduction, she told us a little bit about herself. Jody was a student at NYU, where she began her career as a dancer (majored in Performance Studies). Ever since she fell in love with the Fuller style dancing when she was performing the Butterfly Dance (one of the symbolic dance of Loie Fuller) in the Library of Congress, she continued to invest in her interest by starting her own company. As the lesson went on, I noticed that, as a dancer, an entrepreneur and a choreographer, Jody Sperling is similar in many ways comparing to Loie Fuller. Perhaps that is why Jody had decided to focus on Ms. Fuller’s dancing styles when she founded her company—Time Lapse Dance.

Loie Fuller is the mother of modern dance, who actually invented the idea of abstract dancing. She was influenced by her father, who was in a business closely connected to music, and thus began her career as a very young dancer during the temperance movement. From how Ms. Sperling talked about this woman, I could tell that Ms. Fuller was her model. She told us that Fuller was very innovative and almost daring in a way, even from today’s point of view. Inspired by Skirt Dancing, a very popular dance during the period, Loie Fuller took the idea of “moving with the skirt” to a whole new level. She added light effects into the performance, which was never done before, and changed the complex clothing into a simple, long, white and silky costume. When she danced, as Jody described, “her body disappeared into the fabric”. Lights shined on her clothes, and because of the fabric, the different colors were displayed on the dress that Fuller wore. The whole dance became a live movie.

Jody Sperling, on the other hand, also wanted to do something different, added new elements into the “Loie Fuller Style”. Instead of following the “traditional” classical music trend, Jody used different music styles. In addition, she put in many different instruments from a variety of cultures to reflect the diverse pool of themes she wanted to show. For example, in a recent piece, Jody brought in a different theme by adding the turbulence into her background music, which immediately changed the entire mood of the performance along with the change of colors in lighting.

Loie Fuller was the creator of many symbolic dances, such as the Serpentine and the Butterfly. Although not recognized as an individual artist at first, Fuller worked toward her goals, despite all the obstacles, and eventually debuted in Paris with her name on the billboard—Loie Fuller. Jody also experienced many problems when she first started the company. With all the fundraising and dancing, she had to work as a businesswoman in addition to a dancer. However, like Loie Fuller, Jody Sperling is now well known for her achievements in Fuller style dance. She even invented her own spinning techniques along with her co-workers. She described it as a “meditation”, in which you would find “the new center of yourself and the world around you”.

The dance, as Jody told us, was a completely new experience every time. “When you dance”, she said passionately, “it’s amazing how a person can occupy such an amount of space with all the fabric.” If possible, I would definitely like to try this dance, for a feeling of “extending beyond ourselves” is not easily found in today’s world.

From http://artsedge.kennedy-center.org/students/features/understanding-art/~/media/ArtsEdge/Images/Articles/Students/features/rebellious_streak/rebellious_key.jpg?as=1&dmc=0&w=610

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Jody Sperling, a Passionate and Creative Follower of Loie Fuller

A woman of passion, Jody Sperling spoke graciously with a bright smile as she talked to us about her works and, even more notably, about Loie Fuller. Her love and style sprung not from a childhood idol but from an accident in 1997 when she was working as the Illustrations Editor for the International Encyclopedia of Dance. Together with Elizabeth Aldrich, Sperling choreographed a modern interpretation of Fuller’s The Butterfly Dance. She was initially against performing it at the Library of Congress but yielded to Aldrich’s persuasion. Experiencing the Fuller’s unique dance style first-hand, she became spellbound by its movements that utilized the entire body, which demanded her body to move in sync with the costume.

Sperling’s eyes seemed to sparkle when she formally introduced us to Loie Fuller. Fuller was a pioneer in dance, costume motion and lighting in the 19th century. Her career, however, did not begin in success; others stole and imitated her style but she was unable to win the copyright case. Her dance was judged as “no story, no character, no emotion” by the court. Fuller was not dishearten and became even more determined. She struggled to find a sponsor in France. But when she found one, her astonishing and flamboyant dance singlehandedly stunned France. Her style and techniques, as Sperling put it, “spawn modern dance.” The dance was all about the dramatic transformation and motion of the fabric, thus creating a vortex of shapes. Its effects were further enhanced by projecting vibrant lights onto Fuller’s white costume – each revolving light was human operated. Using such a technique, Fuller became more than just a dancer, she was the scenery.

Advertisement of Loie Fuller's Dance at the Folies Bergère. Poster by PAL (Jean de Paléologue).

(Poster credits to Jean de Paléologue)

As Sperling enthusiastically talked and showed us more of Fuller, through pictures and video clips of Fuller imitators, I was taken in by Sperling’s knowledge, eloquence and passion. I soon found myself mesmerized by the eccentric yet elegant dance style. Although Fuller’s dance style was visually appealing, a few photographs that Sperling showed gave us a fair idea of how extraordinary and difficult it was to perform dances in. It seemed impractical to perform a dance in a dress that was over ten feet long while holding two equally long flexible sticks on both hands. Just holding out our arms for more than two minutes would be exhausting; now, imagine Sperling doing it for an entire show. But with effort, dedication and determination, it was possible. In the clips that Sperling showed us on her and her Time-Lapse Dance Company for the dances, “Dance of the Elements” and “Clair de Lune,” we could see that natural and graceful movements that the dancers made. At one point they appeared to be butterflies flapping their wings and the next as whirlpools swirling in an ocean of blue. They seemed to move almost effortlessly despite the challenges in terms of stamina and the complexity of the dance. Together with the continuous changing of lighting colors, Sperling and her dancers were dazzling.

Modernizing and interpreting Fuller’s dance style with contemporary technologies and dance style was daring. Despite her struggles in fundraising for her company’s dance performances, which typically cost about $40,000 a show, she persisted in her efforts to outreach to sponsors, individuals and friends for fundraising. Sperling and her company were able to rise to the challenge and prevail spectacularly. They were able to perform in the Fall for Dance, Tripeca and SoHo stage, and other countries. As a person with so much success, forming and sustaining a dance company for ten years and dancing and choreographing thirty five dances in twelve years, Sperling was very humble when she came in to speak to us. Her firm demeanor revealed strong hopes for the future as she showed us her modern interpretations of Fuller’s dance style.

Without a doubt, Jody Sperling will capture the hearts of even more people through her passion, determination, efforts, and dances. And in doing so, she will surely revitalize the essences of Fuller’s stunning dance style and inspire others to contribute through their own creativity.


(Photo copyright by Hans Gerritsen)

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Time Lapse Sperling

Before entering the room, I thought to myself, “How is someone going to talk about dance to us?” Dancing is something you would have to experience, not just something to be told about. This presentation, was surely more of an experience than I had anticipated.

Jody Sperling is a dancer, choreographer, dance scholar, and founder and director of Time Lapse Dance. As she progresses into her presentation, her love and passion for dance became readily apparent. She used her iPad to help her with her presentation which started 0ff with a little background of herself. Then, to give the audience who seemed a little distant something to connect to, she asks, “How many of you watch Friends?” This caught the audience’s attention, and she proudly tells them that there is a Loie Fuller poster used as a prop.

Who is Loie Fuller? Jody Sperling’s inspiration from the 19th century. Fuller created an adopted version of the skirt dance called the serpentine dance, which involved motion and light; with an elaborate costume with extended sleeves. The extension of sleeves gives more room for more fabric, which creates the beautiful patterns and colors when light was projected on the dancer. The depths of the costume would create depth in colors, which dance across the blank canvas. The costume, props, light, and movement of the dancers are what creates a new genre of dance and modernizes dance.

Notice the dimension and depth of the colors

Sperling plays a few videos for the audience to see the dancer dancing without sleeves as well as elegant dancing colors. The video of the dancer without a costume on served to be significantly less interesting. However, when the costume is put on with the projected lights, the dance is given life. She also presents the difficulties of the dance, such as syncing with all other dancers on stage. Spinning and dancing isn’t hard and is more like second nature for them. Once the dancers find a common pace, the rest of the dance will be magnificently sewn together.

Without the costume

Of course, creating your own company would cost a lot of money to get it started. Her passion for dance drove her to find the ability to start her own company. She provides a feeling of drive and perseverance. Ms. Jody Sperling tells her audience about fundraising ideas and asking for donations; she also explained some events that she held such as a little thrift sale and wine-tasting event. To surprise us a little, Sperling ends with a note that New York City Department of Cultural Affairs gives out millions of dollars more than the National Endowment for the Arts.

Jody Sperling has become an inspiration. She encourages others to do what they love to do. She is an excellent example that with time and dedication, you can really become whatever it is you want to be and fulfill your dreams.

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Who’s That Dancing Woman?

I was on the elevator and the woman across from me politely commented “you went to Stuyvesant” and chuckled. We got out and went our separate ways. As I entered the classroom, there was the same woman again. Apparently, the woman I just met was Jody Sperling, our guest speaker for today’s class.

She was gave us an interesting view on her life and how she went on to become a dancer. However, before jumping directly into the details of her own life she whipped out her iPad and her presentation began. She wasn’t just a dancer, she has an amazing knowledge for dance and credibility can be found in her writing as she told us she has written for various publications including the Village Voice. Her presentation really began by introducing Loie Fuller. She was Jody’s inspiration when it came to dancing. Fuller’s technique can be found in the Serpentine dance. A new type of dance was born. It was no longer the dancer moving around anymore. Instead, Fuller created a new experience that was exhilarating and intricate with the many various props, lights, and movements to create special image and picture for the audience. It is this aspect that the dance becomes surprisingly modern. The use of technology has modernized the dance world and created the new genre of modern dance.

Sperling showed us videos and it becomes obvious that Fuller has left her mark. From personal experience, she explained the difficult and tiring mechanics necessary perform routines. There was definitely something different about Sperling’s dance and Fuller’s. It seemed that as a modern dance, evolution is important. Sperling emphasized how she incoporates Fuller’s technique by using the sheets of fabric in her dances. As we watch, we can see familiarity in the lighting and its effect on the dancer as it enshrouds her completely. But dedication and hard work pulled through to recreate the Serpentine dance literally in new light. With the advancement in technology, the creation of different types of light and light angles along with smoke machines can do wonders.

Sperling showed us how added props can do so much to imagery. She did this by showing us a video of a dance without the large amounts of fabric and then another video with the fabric on. Without the fabric, the stage became empty whereas the incorporation of fabric filled up the stage like a peacock showing off its colorful tail feathers. The dance was imbued with life.

Her work as a dancer has led her to the creation of Time Lapse Dance. She expressed passion for dancing and explained how managing a company can be difficult, especially when it first starts up. She explained to us how funding is difficult and a lot of it in the beginning is out of pocket. She works closely with other dancers who do a variety of dances and acrobatics.

Jody Sperling is definitely a great role model. Her numerous achievements and experiences have left an amazing impression on me. Seeing her follow her passion for dancing to the fullest extent showed me how living your life while doing what you love is quite possible as long as you put the time into it.

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“How about this?”

…Her Managing Editor, Elizabeth Aldrich, had wrote across a post-it note stuck onto a picture of Loie Fuller, all atop Jody Sperling’s desktop when she was working as the Illustrations Editor for the International Encyclopedia of Dance. Loie Fuller was a free-dance practitioner and became famous for her choreography with significantly outsized silk costumes illuminated by her unique use of the vibrant colors of theatrical lighting, Sperling introduces with a slideshow of Loie Fuller. She adds, at first she relented, but was encouraged that it would be a fun and unforgettable gig to choreograph and perform Loie Fuller’s butterfly dance in a “15-feet pink wings”.

Jody Sperling elegantly slicing the air with her 15-feet pink wings http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_rfTHfsLr5BI/TVIhxyZj7PI/AAAAAAAAAls/pw-sGvTD4jI/s1600/GhostsParadeDavidGonsier.jpg

In her presentation of how and why she became the founder of a modern dance company in New York City, Jody Sperling explains that it was Loie Fuller’s confidence and passion for dancing and her unique use of theatrical lighting in the 19th century that deeply inspired Sperling to follow her own dreams as a dancer and choreographer to start her own dance company, Time Lapse Dance. (http://www.timelapsedance.com/) Heavily influenced by Fuller’s colorful swirls, Sperling’s choreographed performances at Time Lapse Dance mesmerized a great number of friends, family and dance lovers to help keep the twelve-year-old non-profit company running and well-funded. Jody Sperling’s slideshow transitions over to show photographs and videos of herself and her dance group performing a “re-imagined” Fuller’s Serpentine Dance by smoothly blending colors with graceful movements of silk and using mirrors to challenge the idea of symmetry. One does not have to see the dance in action to witness the flow in her choreography and her effective manipulation of the space around her, but the photographs clearly show the elegance with her every step.

Elegance, Symmetry, Balance http://www.timelapsedance.com/files/images/Elements_Web_txt.header.jpg

Usage of Mirrors

One might assume it is simply a dance of waving fabric around, but Jody Sperling explains it is in actuality a difficult form and requires a lot of patience, coordination and practice. Although it is of silk material, the costume is heavy, especially to be propped up at 5-feet further from her regular wingspan, Sperling continues, backing up with physics concepts of torque. It is a beautiful concept of dance form, integrating all principles of visual art: movement, unity, harmony, variety, balance, contrast, proportion, and rhythm/pattern. To create a harmonious colorful-themed Loie Fuller inspired choreography for numerous dancers on stage to be performed to music is a talent Jody Sperling has, and she shared with us a glimpse of exactly that.

Look what I found at the 23rd St R/N/Q Train Station later that day!

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Fluid Passion

As Ms Jody Sperling began her presentation to the group of thirty or so freshman, there was certain inquisitiveness as to what she would be describing and how she would “show” the audience what was being described.

Of course, there was the initial introduction. She described her educational background (BA from Wesleyan ‘92 and MA from NYU ’96. She described her interest in dance, choreography, and art history. There was the description of the dances she has been a part of, choreographed, and studied. However, it was shocking to see that the main point of her discussion was not her career or her awards, but rather her interest in one of the greats in dance history, Loie Fuller.

When it came to Fuller, the audience could observe the passion and the knowledge Jody Sperling spoke. The knowledge was expected. The passion however was above and beyond what was expected. She provided a full biography of Loie Fuller, along with a slideshow of her life. To show the audience the prominence of dancers such as Loie Fuller, Ms Sperling asked a question that definitely sparked some interest. She asked whether or anyone watched Friends, the popular sitcom. After most of the class raised its hands, she went on to explain how one of the rooms in the show had a poster of Loie Fuller in it. This shows how artistic culture has permeated today’s pop culture,

At one point, there was a picture which showed Fuller dressed as a man, during her childhood. According to Ms Sperling, Loie Fuller had to constantly contend with gender discrimination and performance houses not meeting her requests as a performer. The discovery of the serpentine dance was “revolutionary”. She commented on how different this performance type was than what Fuller did later in her career and spoke about Fuller with extreme reverence, at one point calling her a “fearless innovator” and revealing performing the serpentine dance was a great moment for her, professionally and personally. Here is one of her renditions of the dance.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-igiPhmpSl0 (Courtesy Joyce Theater)

Ms Sperling went into great detail into the time transcending “Serpentine Dance” originally performed by Fuller. She described the dance as “vibrant” and “multi-layered”. Some of the (what seemed like) ancient images she showed were mesmerizing, as the movements, even when still, had a certain fluidity not seen in many other dance forms. The Serpentine Dance, as described, is performed with many layers of skirt clothing and constant movement. A fact that definitely captured attention was when she mentioned the amount of upper body strength needed to perform this dance. She spoke of how the elbows never come below the shoulders, and how people need to be pretty strong to do this.This proved how much talent and strength this beautiful form of dance really requires.

It must be ensured that these types of arts have to be preserved. In a shocking statement, Ms Sperling stated that Believe it or not, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs actually gives out millions more than the National Endowment for the Arts. She said the NYFA provides at times millions more than the NEA. Even though New York City is one of the most culturally and artistically prominent places in the world, there is no reason it should be outdoing the government of a country that stands for diversity and acceptance of different cultures. Companies such as Time Lapse Dance Company, founded by Sperling in 2000, have trouble competing with others for these funds. Even though it may not be economically feasible at this time for the government at this time, it must go higher on the priority list. Sure, science and technology are extremely important in their own regards, but this type of dance can be considered both an art and a science, making it that much more advantageous for today’s youth to learn about. Loie Fuller clearly influenced many talented dancers and choreographers such as Jody Sperling, and they need support from people like us and required funding in order to continue past traditions of cultural advancement.

A Still From Sperling's Own Serpentine Dance

Credit: Time Lapse Dance Company and Julie Lemberger

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Loie Fuller and Jody Sperling: Innovator and Artist

As I squeezed into class, unfortunately a few minutes late, I took a seat in the back and had to take a second to realize what was going on. I was still out of breath from my run from the vertical campus to the 23rd street building. I looked to the front of the classroom and saw a woman facing the rest of us and while sharing a story with clear passion.

“America’s first modern dance…” These are the words Jody Sperling used to describe the legacy that Loie Fuller left behind. Sperling is a dancer, a historian, an entrepreneur, but most of all, she is an artist. Loie Fuller was a dancer, a visionary, but most of all, an inventor. Fuller was able to create new forms of art that affected generations to come, generations like those of Jody Sperling.

Sperling’s appreciation for dance and for Fuller was heard throughout the entire presentation and clearly showed the impact that Fuller had on Sperling’s career. Sperling traced Fuller’s life from the tavern she was born in, to the endless career travels, to her unfortunate death in the late 1920’s. The anger in her voice grabbed my attention when she discussed the producers and “husband” that wronged Loie Fuller. Sperling made it clear to the class as a whole, that many largely popular dance forms of the 20th century had traces that eventually led back to Loie Fuller. It was as if Sperling were protecting her own kin.

credits to http://www.myspace.com/braziliangirls/photos/38641348

Fuller herself was an incredible woman who went on to accomplish incredible things. From the moment she was born in the back of a tavern, her life was already interesting. Originally a successful burlesque dancer, Fuller knew that her passion lied elsewhere. She created the Serpentine Dance and immediately started climbing the ladder. She vibrantly used extensive yards of silk fabric, making it seem as if she “had a million folds [for] every one yard.” Her career eventually led her to Paris and many obstacles had her traveling back and forth, between the states and Europe. Her success attracted the attention of copycats and placed a big problem. But Fuller decided to push the envelope further by developing patented techniques to use light from different angles of the theatre and phase it into her dance. She served as the prime example of someone who could fight with great obstacles and still accomplish great feats.

credits to www.victoriangothic.org

Today Jody Sperling does a great job of shedding light on Fuller’s career and its modern day impact. Sperling herself has gone on to found the Time Lapse Dance Company, produce dance shows, and wear all the hats of a contemporary artist. She discusses the effort required to raise funds for productions and all the means that one must consider, from fundraisers, to grants, to simple email lists. The presentation culminated on a note where Sperling made it evident that the arts industry was difficult and challenging, yet one where true passion, dedication and commitment would yield positive results.

Fuller is a great source of inspiration for Sperling, to the point that Sperling performed one of Fuller’s butterfly pieces in the Library of Congress. Sperling lightly joked of the difficulty in hoisting up two remarkably long poles on her arms and then swaying them as to convey the same beauty that Loie Fuller discovered. The presentation had me wishing I was alive in the era to see the beauty of Loie Fuller’s dances and her innovative use of fabric and light.

Source: Jody Sperling Publications

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Shifting Forms

Many choreographers look at the past when they are searching for inspiration; Loie Fuller became Jody Sperling’s inspiration. This was surprising because the Serpentine Dance, developed by Loie Fuller, is a very modern form of dance. This was a learning experience for me because I have never heard of this form of dance. She had presented Fuller’s background and the development of the dance with a sense of excitement and familiarity.

She was able to describe various aspects of Fuller’s performance, from costume to effects. It turns out that the skirts worn by Fuller were made from layers upon layers of silk. Though burdened by the weight of the cloth, she was able to move swiftly to the rhythm of the music. Not only is the Serpentine Dance innovative, the colors projected onto her skirt were constantly changing. This creates an additional effect on top of the spiraling patterns from the movement of the skirt. Sperling explained that filmmakers had to paint each shot when they broadcasted Fuller’s performances during the black-and-white film era.

Jody Sperling

Sperling’s passion for dancing the Serpentine Dance was even more evident when she played recordings of her performances. Her explanations of each setting proved that she is experienced in this field. In one of her videos, she explained that she had to stand on a platform with various-colored light inside, so that the same effect can be replicated. From her videos, one can observe that Sperling has incorporated the basic elements of Fuller’s Serpentine Dance into her own, creating a new style. In the video’s shown, Fuller’s original version of the dance was paced quicker, while Sperling’s choreography were more elegant. Nonetheless, this presentation has taught me that it can be difficult for this form of dancing to gain the audience’s approval.

Not only is Sperling a choreographer and dancer, but she is also an entrepreneur. As the owner of Time Lapse Dance, she has various fundraising plans to earn money for performances of this form of dance, such as wine-tasting events. As she explained during her presentation, many dancers want to own a company and perform, but it is difficult to maintain and continuously apply for dance funds. From Jody Sperling, I learned that with passion came dedication and determination.

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Jody Sperling: Revivalist of a Golden Age of Dance

Jody Sperling’s time-lapse dance is sensationally redolent of the golden age of dance. With costumes that extend the physiological boundaries of a human body, time-lapse dancers create the illusion of incessant metamorphosis in imitation of nature’s ever changing forces. Just as passionate and remarkable as her choreography, Jody Sperling stands out as a unique artist in New York City.

My Arts in New York class recently had the pleasure of meeting Jody Sperling. With a humble air, she presented the origins of her creative art form.  Standing before the classroom, Sperling looked no different from us, with the exception of maturity. We could not have imagined just how brilliant this woman was, yet it was evident that she was someone special. Her quick body moved about the room with a confidence and satisfaction that can only be derived from the fulfillment of a life-long passion.

As Sperling began to speak, her love for dance became more and more apparent. With gleaming eyes, she informed us that time-lapse dance grew from the seeds of serpentine dance, which were sowed by Loie Fuller in the late 19th century. Taking ideas from skirt dancing, Loie Fuller made her costumes more elaborate by adding hundreds of feet of white fabric. In dance, her body would become completely enshrouded by her moving dress. According to Sperling, Fuller’s costume would become a blank canvas onto which vibrant colors and patterns were projected with a magic lantern. These colors would become alive upon Fuller’s dancing body. Still amazed at this concept, Sperling described how Fuller would contort her long sleeved dress to resemble the fluttering wings of a butterfly. Besides admiring Fuller’s ingenuity, Sperling commented on the pure nature of the dance. Unlike the popular Vaudeville performances of the time, serpentine dance was acceptable for all age groups to enjoy. First achieving fame in France, Loie Fuller mesmerized her Parisian audience with her angelic form of dance. Her ideas have spun, leaped, and twirled through the century, finding a home today within the work of Jody Sperling.

Enthralled by the impact of the serpentine dance in the past, Jody Sperling has revitalized this dance form by fitting it into a modern context. Writing in the Dance Magazine to describe Fuller’s work and compare it to her own, Sperling states “In a full circle of technology, my recreation of Ballet of Light uses projections to simulate the effects that Fuller created, more magically, with lanterns. If you look between the pixels, maybe you’ll find Fuller’s ghost”. It was essential for Sperling to keep Fuller’s technique. Adding elements of experimental dance and modern technology, Sperling created her own form of art that appeals to the present-day audience.

To describe the dance is one thing, but to witness it is another. Jody Sperling and her dancers beautifully spin, with their arms in motion, creating marvelous patterns of fabric in the air.  Keen on perfecting her work, Sperling admits that the hardest part of dance is for the dancers to synchronize their movements. However, once the dancers all establish pace, they gain a uniform elegance. Spinning for minutes on end isn’t difficult, she says, because it’s a natural movement.  Just as we feel still on the revolving Earth, the dancers find balance in their spinning.

Jody Sperling has a contagious enthusiasm for her work. Not only does the harmonizing of music, dance, fabrics, and lighting all create an ethereal spectacle for her audience, it also creates a sense of balance within herself. Sperling is an artist, but more importantly, a revivalist of history.

Jody Sperling in time-lapse dance. Photograph provided by www.theconstructioncompany.org

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Choreographer, Dancer, & Historian

Jody Sperling is a dancer, choreographer, and historian. She attended the renowned Joffery Ballet School in New York as a child. She went on to receive her Bachelors from Wesleyan College in ’92 and her Masters in Performance Studies from New York University in ’96. She was fascinated with avant-garde style as well as the social history of dance.

Loie Fuller and skirt dancing is Jody Sperling’s source of inspiration. She describes Fuller as a “fearless innovator, both technological and scientific”. She is “one of the mother’s of modern dance”. She goes on to explain how Fuller was born next to the fire in a tavern and how as a child, she ironically gave talks in the Temperance movement.

Kate Vaugn developed the concept of “skirt dancing” in London. Loie Fuller, according to most historians, learned the “skirt dance” in London at the Gaiety Theater. Fuller adapted the generic “skirt dance” into her own form called the “serpentine dance”. Unlike the 1880’s Burlesque style, the serpentine dance focused on the shape of the movement, not the body. In skirt dancing, the body was obscured by the ruffles and folds of the fabric. Loie Fuller had her 1st success performing her “serpentine dance” in New York. Unfortunately her art had no legal protection and therefore many imitators began to copy her unique style. Fuller left the United States for Paris, where her performance was viewed as revolutionary. She used cutouts within the stage to allow light from below to illuminate the stage and the dancer. She was the first to project images on herself and her costume. She also made her own set and scenery. Unfortunately, the photography of the time was unable to capture Fuller’s innovations.
Jody Sperling took much of her inspiration from Loie Fuller, herself. She employs the mixing of colors and shades to create something new. She describes using a green light from the west and a blue light from the east to create a blending of color on the skirt’s fabric. The folds are illuminated in blends of blue and green. In describing her use of Loie Fuller as a model, Sperling states, “People sometimes say what I do is “reconstruction” and that is wrong. I use the word “re-imagination”

One of Sperling’s dances, she named, “Turbulence”. She explains how the fabric shows the movement and body’s wake. More specifically, she tells of how as we move we displace the air around us just as we would if we were in water. The fabric captures the displacement of the air that our movement creates.
Just as in Sufism, Sperling explains how in spinning we find a calmness and stillness. The constant movement becomes a “new normal” for us, and we learn to take comfort in its steadfastness.
Sperling’s newest piece is called “Ghost”. In one of the sections she recounts, “I wear a bodysuit with LEDs on it that I can trigger manually in performance. It was quite a feat to rig this up, but it’s fun to improvise the lights in relation to the pauses in the music. This concept was inspired by an act from 1893.”
In summary, Jody Sperling, as a multi-faceted artist and historian, continues to innovate in the fields of dance, lighting, technology, and costumes.

Sources: (Youtube & http://www.foxresidential.com/img/agents/264.jpg)

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A Well Choreographed Presentation

Jody Sperling is a dancer, choreographer, and dance historian. She is the founder of the Time Lapse Dance Company and has produced her own shows. She also proved to be an expert on Loie Fuller by giving a presentation on her, showing the historian element in her repertoire of talents. As she came to give her presentation, her passion for the dance was very evident. She was excited, and delivered the media presentation with enthusiasm for her work. Though the topic of modern dance, its evolution and Loie Fuller may seem distant from the crowd of college students she was presenting to, she tried to relate to us. She shared the fact that a poster advertising a dance that Fuller was in was used as a prop in “Friends,” a show many of us have seen. It was creative information that I found enjoyable because I had that “a-ha!” moment of realization when I knew what poster she was talking about.

Her presentation on Fuller was very informative. Fuller had a huge part in creating modern dance and she revolutionized the skirt dance. She made the focus more about the dress and fabric rather than the body of the dancer. She performed in white dresses with long sleeves of silk and held long sticks to extend the sleeves. This way when the dancers turned and moved, the extra fabric would turn around the dancer, creating an eye catching silk vortex. Fuller also developed the Serpentine Dance. This new dance was like an evolved form of the older skirt dance, but with stage light cast onto the skirts and fabrics at different angles. At first, the dance was not appreciated, but Fuller moved to France where she was able to impress crowds with her new technique. The combination of the spinning fabric and lights around a dancer attracted audiences and the dance became popular.

Photo Credits to Wikipedia

Jody Sperling went on to show us a portion of one of her own dances, Dance of the Elements. She did both the choreography and the dancing for this dance, which represents the elements like water and fire. Her spinning movements created a sense of timelessness that mesmerized me and probably any other viewer. Her motions and the colored lights that matched the elemental dance (a blue-ish glow for water for example) made it so that time was still and all you could focus on were the shapes and patterns that the spinning fabrics made. The changing piano music in the background I thought complimented her elemental movements and the feel of the dance perfectly.

Photo Credit to Joyce Soho/Copyright Nan Melville

Fundraising is key to any performance. Sperling shared with us that in order to get her company out there and known, she produced shows. But in order to do that, she needed to fundraise. She reached out to many different people, especially family and friends, for money that would help put on her first production. The American system makes it very hard for dancers and other artists because everyone is competing for a limited amount of public funds. Corporate funds have dwindled and this discourages people from the arts. However, there was hope. She told us that the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs gave more money to arts and productions than the national program did. In our economic times, it was reassuring to hear that NYC still supported the arts, since they are usually the first programs to be cut. I know that back in my high school and in my sister’s school, cutting back on dance and arts residencies was the first thing the schools did when their budgets were cut. But I appreciated those programs when I had them and it is uplifting to see the city still supporting them. It is even better to see that Jody Sperling and her company continue to fundraise and work with their budget, producing great works that many viewers, including myself enjoy.

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Jody Sperling and Loie Fuller

Back in the 1800’s the technology to create a moving picture was still in the primitive form. The frame rate was slow and there was no color. To counter this, certain people would take footage and literally hand paint each frame to give color. Apparently, the Lumière Brothers were one of the groups who did this. And of course they would only take important motion pictures to work on. Supposedly one of the colorings that they did was of Loie Fuller in 1896.


However some historians have doubts about the true identities of the dancers. Jody Sperling is one of these historians who has an extensive knowledge on dances like these. Sperling is also a choreographer and a dancer; she is passionate about her work on stage and off. She formed her own dance company aptly named “Time Lapse Dance” due to the heavy influence from past dancers and magnificent styles. Here is a link to their website http://www.timelapsedance.com. It is a non-profit organization so one can imagine how tough it is to maintain. Much of money that keeps the company running is from donations. Donations can be hard to come by in this day in age, so a certain strategy is used by Sperling and fellow members of the company is to use a network. Sperling asks people she knows for donations, and then those people ask more people… so on and so forth. Using a network like this is savvy and practical, which is one of the reasons she has managed to maintain and operate her entity.

Now, onto the art of the dance.

By: Cliff

Loie Fuller is famous for the dance called the ‘Serpentine Dance.’ Fuller developed this type of art due to the receptiveness of the audience. She uses copious amounts of fabric to spin around. After more development in the art, she used colored lights to point at herself to give awesome illusions of movement and stillness as Jody Sperling described. She is very knowledgeable about the art because she performs it herself. She was even asked to perform at the Library of Congress, which is a huge accomplishment.

Sperling uses certain props and a number of dancers in her version of the art. She showed us a certain video in which the dancers used mirrors and spectacular lights to portray an amazing sense of movement and the flow of choreography and ribboning fabric. Fuller developed a system of lighting that, while effective, was still primitive technology. Sperling has the advantage of using 21st century technology in her art, which elevates it to a new level.

The appreciation for real art is lacking in the world today. So much of the world today is caught up in the mundane reality of the Internet and mindless behaviors. The youth of today is staying in and wasting away on the Internet and other technologies of our age rather than going out and experiencing the world that surrounds them. Hopefully the inspiration that Jody Sperling found with the art of Loie Fuller can be shared with the youth of today to keep art alive in America. Even if people do not particularly get involved in the art of the ‘Serpentine Dance,’ just learning about it can spark an idea. And all Loie Fuller started out with was an idea; and now, she’s a legend.

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Jody Sperling: Dancing the History

Jody Sperling is a dancer, choreographer, and art historian. She has performed all over the world. As someone who is knowledgeable in all dances, she decided to talk to us about serpentine dance and a certain Loie Fuller.

I looked around the class and everyone had confusion painted on their face. This discussion was going downhill until Ms. Sperling brought in pop culture.

“How many of you watch Friends?” Sperling asked.

The entire class woke up. Everyone who is anyone has seen Friends. Even though it ended eight years ago, people (including me) still watch reruns and enjoy them. Apparently there was a poster of Loie Fuller in the rooms of one of the characters. I was shocked; so much so that when I came home, I tried to find the episode with the poster.


Look at the poster all the way to the right!

Sperling gave us a brief biography of Loie Fuller. Loie was born in a tavern because it was the only place in the entire village with heat. Through the use of pictures, the audience sees how she changed. Eventually, Loie moved to Europe to pursue her career in performing arts.

It has been rumored that Loie discovered serpentine dancing accidentally. During one performance in Quack M.D., Loie saw that the audience liked the way skirt moved with the light. From there on, she kept developing this style. One way was that she made the skirts bigger and bigger. Another way was that she synchronized her movements with lighting, which was harder back then because humans operated it.

Jody Sperling doesn’t speak of serpentine dance as a historian, but instead as a fellow dancer. She told us that for a celebration at the Library of Congress, she performed a serpentine dance piece. She told us how difficult it was. It’s not easy to carry the skirt around. I thought that one needs to carry the skirt with their hands, but really they are holding on to the poles that make the skirt move. There must be a balance of weight when the poles are being held. If one hand is lower, the dance can’t be done properly.

At first, it was difficult to picture serpentine dancing in my mind. When Jody Sperling showed us a video of a 1890s dancer performing the dance, it was just a lady twirling her skirt around and no sound. It’s not Jody Sperling’s fault considering that movies back then didn’t have any sound. It wasn’t until Sperling showed her performance at Library of Congress that I saw how music and light plays a vital role. Without it, all you have a woman swinging her skirt around. Another disappointing thing is that there are no videos of Loie Fuller dancing! There are only pictures of her. It would’ve been nice to see dancing and comparing her movements to other dancers who performed the serpentine dance. Maybe that is why Loie Fuller has mesmerized the dancing community. Today, no primary sources exist of Loie’s performances. This mystery teases art historians and makes them want to learn more about her. It is not just in arts, but also all throughout human nature. We are all attracted to mysteries whether it is the Bermuda Triangle or D.B. Cooper.

Jody Sperling ends on a political note. She compares the American Arts programs to that of Europe. In Europe, the state subsidizes a lot of it, while in America, as she says, “makes it unfair for all.” An interesting fact that she pointed out is that the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs gave out more money than the National Endowment for the Arts. How one city can give more money to its art programs than an entire nation is astonishing. To know that NYC can find funding for art programs is remarkable. Especially with this mood in Washington where politicians are screaming for spending cuts and art/music programs tend to be the first programs to be cut. Overall, Jody Sperling talking to us was a lively and enjoyable experience.

Jody Sperling



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A Woman of Many “Elements”

Jody Sperling has been managing her own dance company for just over a decade now.  While this may not seem like such a long period of time, Sperling has still managed to compile quite a resume.  As a scholar of dance, she has earned various dance degrees and has been recognized recently as a dance historian.  In 2000, Sperling founded her own dance company, “Time Lapse Dance.” By creating her own company, Jody has now found a way to continue pursuing her passions as a dancer and a choreographer.  When viewing these accomplishments and feats of Sperling, one might begin to wonder what sparked this fire within her.

Photo Credit: Alexandre Fuchs/Time Lapse Dance

When asked about her inspiration, Jody Sperling points to one of the most influential dancers in history: Loie Fuller.  Born in 1862, she began dancing at a very young age.  Fuller is credited with “spawning” modern dance today with her uniquely developed dances.  As a young woman, she performed in white dresses with long sleeves made of silk.  With long sticks holding her sleeves up, Loie would then spin and twirl to make her dress appear to be changing form.  Her unorthodox style of dance was known as the “Skirt Dance,” or the “Butterfly Dance.” Loie Fuller revolutionized dance during her time because she placed emphasis on the dress, not on the body.

At first take, Fuller was not the most successful at marketing her unique style of dance.  She did not achieve public renown until she took her talents to France.  While in France, her technique of skirt dancing was stolen, and she tried to file a lawsuit.  Although she did not win her suit, she was fortunate enough to upstage the imposters who stole her original dance.  From here, Fuller’s career took flight, and she set the foundation for skirt dancing today.

Jody took her inspiration’s work and added her own little twist to it.  She spent the early part of her choreographing career further developing the “Serpentine Dance” of Loie Fuller.  In addition, she shed light on Fuller’s work by adding mirrors and colored lights, which provided the base for Jody’s “Dance of the Elements.”  For her dance, she conceived a spinning technique that keeps the fabric going for an extended period of time.  Jody stated how the elongated spinning “produces a new stillness,” one that peeks the curiosity of the audience.  As her career continued to flourish, Jody was invited to perform her dance in the Library of Congress.

Photo Credit: Julie Lemberger/Time Lapse Dance

But with all great success comes a sense of determination to overcome challenges along the way.  Jody Sperling founded her own company and produced her own shows, but how did she get her companies’ name out in the open?  A woman of many professions, she considers herself an “entrepreneur.”  Fundraising is essential to obtain the necessary money for shows.  Jody describes the difficulty in finding public funding, and she says, “Corporate funding has almost disappeared.”  Despite her economic struggles, Sperling persevered, and her company survived thanks to donations from family and friends.  While listening to her presentation, one can feel her passion for dancing through the struggles she encountered as an aspiring choreographer.  She leaves people with this idea that they, too, should find their own passion and run with it regardless of life’s obstacles.

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In the Spotlight

A series of close-up, 360° views of guest artists and speakers. The goal here is to weave together direct quotes and background information about their lives and work to create  vibrant portraits. Let us see them, hear them, understand what makes them tick!

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