photo journal

how to hide a double-0 spy boy

Jul 3, 2012 | Leave a comment

There’s no mistaking that this Ford Econoline van parked outside of The Pelican Club in the French Quarter was once part of the Louisiana Coca-Cola Bottling Company. That bold stripe from head to tail begs for a Starsky and Hutch comparison.

On the topic of New Orleans, last night I watched the James Bond film, Live And Let Die.  There were great scenes filmed in the French Quarter and swampy waterways around New Orleans. I always dug this film as a kid especially the jazz funeral that turns into a second line parade. A British Secret Service agent is killed and his body is surreptitiously placed in a coffin as the funeral procession erupts into celebratory dancing. It’s a fantastic scene that took place on the corner of Dumaine and Chartres Street right in front of the fictitious club Fillet of Soul. Its Harlem counterpart in the film, also called Fillet of Soul, was at the corner of East 92nd Street and 2nd Avenue. See screen grabs below. Oh to have been on that movie set with those fine 70’s rides!



weeds, flowers and spills

Jun 26, 2012 | Leave a comment

One of the great things about walking around the city taking photographs is the small details that you see at the street level. You miss things if you cruise past them on a bike or in a car. I’ve walked all over Brooklyn and Queens looking at buildings and cars but sometimes I’m much more impressed by a struggling weed or flower growing out of a tiny crack in the pavement. However this same weed growing in my postage stamp garden irritates the living hell out of me. I want to destroy it. It’s nature’s way of saying, “Fuck you.” But the flowers are saying, “I love you Christopher.” There’s one rampant invasive plant called Japanese knotweed that can completely take over a yard if not kept under control yet I’ve seen it growing as an ornamental plant in a huge botanical garden in Helsinki. The cold winters there keep it in check but in my Brooklyn backyard that bamboo-like plant will grow up your leg if you aren’t watching. One man’s invasive species is another man’s ornamental plant. Which leads me to graffiti…

I like some forms of graffiti and street art like throw-ups, wildstyles, stickers, Banksy‘s stencil art and Invader‘s tile creations but I usually not tags because I can’t read that but that’s my fault. One particular artist’s work keeps showing up under my feet, literally. His name is Paul Richard. He does works in mixed media but I like his portraits of gentlemen on sidewalks using a dripping paint technique that is not too far removed from Jackson Pollock or your morning pancake syrup masterpieces. On the sidewalk right behind this 1969 Dodge Sweptline D100 pickup truck is one such portrait. See street view shot. I love their simplicity and I often mistake them for spilled paint which is exactly what they are. Click on his name above the link above and search for the Works on Paper. 

driving in my big black car…

Jun 19, 2012 | Leave a comment

“…nothing can go wrong. I’m going and I don’t know how far. So, so long.” So sang Memphis/New Orleans legend Alex Chilton in the song “Big Black Car” by his band Big Star.

Another legend, Otis Redding who left his home in Georgia and headed to 926 East McLemore Avenue, the address of Stax Records in Memphis, sang about cars among other things in his classic duet with Carla Thomas, “Tramp”

Carla: “You know what, Otis? I don’t care what you say. You’re still a tramp. That’s right. You haven’t even got a fat bankroll in your pocket.
You probably haven’t even got twenty-five cents.”

Otis: “I got six Cadillacs, five Lincolns, four Fords, six Mercuries, three T-Birds, Mustang. Ooh, I’m a lover…”

belgian blocks and iron blocks.

Jun 12, 2012 | Leave a comment

In Greenpoint, Brooklyn I found a fine example of a second generation (’63-’66) Plymouth Valiant parked on a section of Kent Avenue paved entirely in rectangular granite called Belgian block. There aren’t many cobblestone streets left in New York so it’s nice to discover them while hunting for cars. Oh by the way in 1963 Plymouth phased out the aluminum block engine and went with the iron block.
The hard to read graffiti on the green door appears to be a quote from the recently departed filmmaker and designer, Hillman Curtis. I’ll leave you with another quote from him:
Be prepared to reinvent yourself. Be prepared to go out on a limb occasionally, and be prepared to do the things that you feel strongly about that maybe other people don’t, that maybe don’t have an immediate source of income or revenue.”

I prefer Gareth Kennan.

Jun 5, 2012 | Leave a comment

Upon first glance I thought this was Dwight Schrute’s Pontiac Firebird but upon further reflection and a little detective work I found out it belongs to a little old lady in Bed-Stuy who attends the local church twice a week. No doubt she is praying for lower gas prices.

on fillmore place: henry miller

May 29, 2012 | Leave a comment

The first time I walked down Fillmore Place I felt as if I was on a movie set. The narrow street of mostly Italianate buildings seemed like the idyllic NYC street scene. Except for the graffiti, you wouldn’t have to do much set decoration in order for it to look like late 1800’s Brooklyn. Author Henry Miller who lived nearby described the street in his book Tropic of Capricorn:

It was the most enchanting street I have ever seen in all my life. It was the ideal street for a boy, a lover, a maniac, a drunkard, a crook, a lecher, a thug, an astronomer, a musician, a poet, a tailor, a shoemaker, a politician. In fact this is just the sort of street it was, containing just such representative of the human race, each one a world unto himself and all living together harmoniously and inharmoniously.”

It would please me if an astronomer owns this mid-60’s Chevy Nova SS but I’ll settle for a candlestick maker.

I LUV you Obi Wan Kenobi.

May 22, 2012 | Leave a comment

I know what you are thinking so don’t say it! This shot isn’t as nice as the others but when I first saw this Chevy Luv (light utility vehicle), I couldn’t help but think of the yellow Toyota Land Cruiser I posted two weeks ago. I’ve seen this tiny truck parked on Vanderbilt Avenue by the Brooklyn Flea (vintage vinyl, pickles, Star Wars action figures) several times but in this instance the deteriorating window frames in the apartment building behind it seem to match nicely with the louvered windows of the truck’s camper top.

Interesting note that the Chevrolet LUV was a Japanese Isuzu design. I guess General Motors couldn’t design anything small?

imported from iraq and the variety of 99 cents

May 8, 2012 | Leave a comment

This 1982 FJ45 Toyota Land Cruiser was imported from Iraq and belongs to Saraghina owner, Edoardo Mantelli. He always comes up with great rides so I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next in his stable of coolness. The P & G Variety 99 cent store is closed now but I’m glad I was able to capture the yellow and red sign pairing nicely with the graphic pinstripes on the Toyota. Next week I’ll have a yellow pickup up that sort of matches this truck. Stay intertuned. Since today is my birthday I decided to post a pic of me arriving home in a sweet 1965 Chevrolet Malibu

24 hour party people, horses for courses and boxy design

May 1, 2012 | Leave a comment

Continuing with our Swedish design theme, here we have the classic, boxy Volvo 4-door sedan. Most times this model doesn’t strike a chord with me but for some reason this one in this particular setting has deemed itself worthy. Perhaps it’s because it’s parked on the street that was once home to a favorite person of mine or maybe it’s the way the spray can markings on the street and the diamond-shaped tiles have your eyes darting about. No matter. The fact is that it works for me and the rest if horses for courses. That last bit reminds me of the Beatles manager George Epstein.…Brian Martin. No that’s not right either. It’s George Martin. It was George Martin, their producer and Brian Epstein, their manager which leads me to this last bit which is the trailer for the excellent film about the Manchester music scene in all its post-punk, Brit Pop glory.

skinnier with rubber

Apr 24, 2012 | Leave a comment

The second 1800 series Volvo  in Williamsburg, Brooklyn within a few blocks of last week’s offering. This one has the original hubcaps plus a skinnier bumper with rubber guards. Here’s an article about record holder Irv Gordon. Oh and by the way, Diana Reyna did win her re-election. She is a member of the city council and the first woman of Dominican descent to be elected to office in New York State. 

templar and dodging the bullet

Apr 17, 2012 | Leave a comment

Here we have the coolest Volvo of them all from the 1800 series designed by Swedish designer, Pelle Petterson. This is the model driven by Irv Gordon who holds the Guinness world record for highest mileage in the same vehicle (probably at 3 million miles as of this post.) Roger Moore‘s Simon Templar character in the 60’s TV series The Saint also drove one of these wedge-shaped wonders. Favourite quote: Penny Parker: “It’s the first time I ever heard a bullet.” Simon Templar: “The one you don’t hear is the bad one.” Stay tuned to next week’s episode where we’ll have another Volvo 1800 in red from the same neighborhood.

thelonious monk, swedish design and danish fashion

Apr 10, 2012 | Leave a comment

Here’s a nice late-60’s Volvo 122S hot off the presses. I shot this one on Sunday as I was roaming around the ‘burg searching through the bins of record stores for my white whale, otherwise known as a copy of Thelonious Monk‘s Monk’s Time on vinyl. I found the record btw at the trusted Academy (Annex) Records. Check out this clip of Thelonious Monk commenting on his band member’s new pants. 

I like the smooth lines of the Volvo 120 Series along with the wedge-shaped P1800 (coming next week) as opposed to the boxy (or rectilinear as they like to say) shape of later model Volvos.  Graffiti by DANO.


Apr 10, 2012 | Leave a comment

Technical glitch today but stay tuned because tomorrow we’ll be exploring Swedish design and Danish fashion…

larry fink and soul extraction

Apr 3, 2012 | Leave a comment

Instead of going on and on about this fine Cadillac on my street I thought that I might just let my fingers move across the keyboard and see where it takes me… Last week I met photographer Larry Fink and heard him talk for an hour on a wide range of subjects from flash photography to digital camera shutter lag. He likened the latter to blowing up like a puffer fish and waiting for that moment when you can let it all out i.e. release the shutter. One irreplaceable instant as he says. Larry had grown accustomed to the immediate and solid punctuation of his film camera but the 1:1 shots I saw taken with his small digital Ricoh GR in Argentina further confirm that it’s really never the camera. His hour long visit was a mini course in not only photography but also a peek into how an artist views the world. Larry has soul. I could tell from the minute he walked in to the room and started blowing a harmonica. His photography reflects that and he can extract your soul just by talking to you let alone capturing it on film or digital sensor. Larry’s got my soul and keeps it in a Mason jar at his farm. Check out Larry’s blog.

jacques tati, english pewter and everyday situations

Mar 27, 2012 | Leave a comment

Introduced in 1955, the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia (designed in Germany by coach builder Karmann) looked like a squashed Beetle. The Ghia’s smooth lines and curves were constructed from hand-shaped alloys (English pewter) and fancy welds to give it a distinct look and subsequently a heftier price tag. It was Volkswagen’s flagship model at the time and made the bolt-on Beetle look even more utilitarian. The Bug did get the Karmann design treatment though with the Convertible/ Cabriolet line.

There is a wonderful French film by Jacques Tati called Trafic (Criterion DVD out-of-print!) that is filled with colorful cars and characters. It’s the story about a car designer (Tati resuming his M. Hulot role) trying to get his latest vehicle to an Amsterdam car show. If you’ve seen any of Tati’s films starring his alter-ego Monsieur Hulot, you’ll know that they have numerous sight gags, precision comic-timing and very little dialogue. I highly recommend all of them especially this one and Playtime. Here’s the trailer for Trafic.

Jacques Tati stated in an interview on French television that his films sometimes tell a story through hundreds of details: “I try to bring a smile to familiar everyday situations. In Trafic, it’s automobiles.” I hear you Monsieur.

built for spite and to keep sally out of the alley

Mar 20, 2012 | Leave a comment

One more late-60’s MG from Alexandria, VA. The MGB classic roadster in Dark British Racing Green. Hard to choose between this one and last week’s hardtop. Maybe both? One block away from this spot on Queen Street is The Spite Housea narrow house built to discourage neighbors from driving their carriages through the alley and to prevent loitering. 

stuck on the van wyck with nicki minaj

Mar 13, 2012 | Leave a comment

A fine example of an early 70’s MGB GT. This 2-door coupe is a little more refined than its convertible, roadster cousin and the Pininfarina-designed “greenhouse” hatchback really looks sharp. Kind of reminds me of a poor spy’s Aston Martin DB5.
I always imagine myself cruising through the English countryside with Chantal Goya tunes on the radio, maybe stopping off at The Hare and The Who for a pie and pint but the the reality is I’m probably stuck on the Van Wyck with Nicki Minaj and cold White Castle. Fail not for sorrow, falter not for sin, but onward, upward, till the goal ye win.

the audacity of mirrors and hobbitses

Mar 6, 2012 | Leave a comment

Another fine truck from Alexandria, VA. Look at those side mirrors! How large they loom! Ready to take out unsuspecting pedestrians and cyclists in a single swipe but hopefully that will  never happen.
This early-70’s Chevrolet C20 Deluxe came stock with those mirrors and are especially useful when towing blind spot-inducing trailers and caravans. I shot this truck with my friend Doug who happened to live a few doors down from a family I was visiting. We picked up right where we left off some 15 years prior meaning that the conversation immediately turned to music and all of the great bands we used to see during our college days.

I love Alexandria specifically the Old Town neighborhood because they have a proper chip shop, Eammon’s; a proper coffee shop, Misha’s; and a bar named Bilbo Baggins. What more do you need?

pardon the paronomasia on oronoco

Feb 28, 2012 | Leave a comment

Over the next few weeks I’m going to feature some vehicles that I shot in Alexandria, Virginia. I would have never guessed this little town to be a hotbed of cool automobiles. Here’s a nice early-70’s Ford F-Series Ranger. I love the pun on the awning which leads me to comment on some of the more interesting ones in my Brooklyn neighborhood …the former fresh seafood joint on Bedford Avenue called Off Da Hook and a new pet supply shop on Halsey St. called Who’s Your Doggy?. Fantastic.

taiwanese gangsters and exploding citroëns

Feb 23, 2012 | Leave a comment

This Citroën 2CV or “deux chevaux” always conjures up scenes from French films but I found this utilitarian, wood-grained beauty on the streets of Helsinki. I wonder if this car belongs to former Finnish Citroën rally driver, Ari Vatanen?  Maybe he’s at the kuntosali working out? Speaking of French films, I watched the excellent Diva last night about a young French mail courier who loves the opera and making bootleg tapes. His audio recording becomes mistaken for a tape that would implicate a police chief involved with the mob. It all makes for a very New-Wave thriller complete with an exploding 11-horsepower Citroen Traction Avant 11B and mirror-sunglassed Taiwanese gangsters. The chase scenes are very reminiscent of another film favorite of mine, The French Connection.


bird watching and champagne

Feb 14, 2012 | Leave a comment

I’ve been watching this ’76-’77 Ford Thunderbird in lovely Metallic Champagne color for months now. Keeping track of its movements and patterns, marveling at the wonderful color and aerodynamics, but I’ve never been able to capture it in its natural habitat. This past Sunday I found this rare bird all alone. I moved in close taking extra caution not to disturb the nest and snapped my shot.
I could probably do a mini-show just on my neighborhood’s cars alone but I need to find the right spot just like my subject matter. There is a new men’s barbershop opening up in what was previously a house of worship of some sort. Maybe they could let me grace their walls with these cool cars. I could invite the owners of the cars to come by, park out front and get a shave and a haircut. Check out the vintage Thunderbird ad below. 

a jeep grows in brooklyn?

Feb 7, 2012 | Leave a comment

I have no idea where I shot this Jeep Cherokee. Red Hook? Williamsburg? Maybe one or two of you budding location scouts could troll around the Brooklyn map in street view mode and find it for me. UPDATE!! Location has been found. This was shot on Van Dyke Street, Red Hook, Brooklyn. Thanks to Lisbeth Salander for hacking into my metadata!
It’s been said that the Jeep Cherokee gave rise to US automakers designing more SUV’s. I wish they would have taken their inspiration from the stylish, original Land Rovers. Jeeps were supposed to be true utility vehicles, not style-icons but this one certainly looks cool with it’s blacked-out-for-stealth purposes. Sort of like a post-apocalyptic vehicle that runs on Willie Nelson‘s marijuana stash.

putting out fires in austria and ladies dresses

Jan 31, 2012 | Leave a comment

If you are going to drive around New York City then you might as well do it with style and panache. This Land Rover has that in spades and so does its owner, Edoardo Mantelli. In addition to being owner of the fantastic pizzeria, Saraghina, Mantelli also runs the women’s fashion label, Tocca. In fact I’m wearing one of his dresses right now. Not really but I would if I could squeeze my pizza-stuffed body into one.
Getting back to the Land Rover, this particular vehicle was presumably once in the fleet of the Freiwillige Feuerwehr Thaur, the volunteer fire department of Thaur, Tirol, Austria. I love the bold color against this dark background and a little snow on the ground. So to recap, the owner of the pizzeria and designer of women’s fashions drives around in a fire department truck from Austria. That’s the kind of life I want to lead. 

you just haven’t earned it yet, baby

Jan 27, 2012 | Leave a comment

Haps Friday peeps. I’ve been hooked on The Smiths lately hence the title but here are photos I wanted to share with you of the Saragina pizza and octopus salad mentioned in this week’s earlier post. Audio/stills clip of the late Kirsty MacColl’s version of YJHEIYB.

the dancing prostitute and the neopolitan pie

Jan 24, 2012 | Leave a comment

This 1965 Ford Econoline pickup is owned by Massimiliano “Kiko” Nanni, the one-time, part-owner of the Bed-Stuy pizzeria, Saraghina which he named after the dancing prostitute in Fellini‘s . I shot this photo last year when the truck was parked right in front of the restaurant. I have a shot of the other owner’s Land Rover in pretty much the same spot. Last year the Auto Ego section of the NY Times ran this story about Kiko and his Econoline with lots of great photos. I encourage anyone who has never visited Bed-Stuy or anyone who just loves pizza to come out and try Saraghina. I highly recommend the capocollo pizza and the octopus salad. In fact if you get in touch with me ( I live in the ‘hood) I’ll be your personal tour guide. Word is that Kiko has a new Mediterranean place called Celestino a few blocks down from the pizzeria. Like.