Monday, April 27, 2020

meet Thomas "Tom" Bloch..ballerino

One more time I cannot sing the praises of the internet enough that allows me to meet some of the most talented and gifted créateurs of this age. Today’s subject is all about the rigor and training that allows this young man to be a dancer of the dance…. so to speak … and that is his artistry and his creation. This is not a quasi-danseur but a certified dyed in the wool ballerino, if you would, who has danced worldwide as an invited guest performer for several classical ballet companies/troupes as well as taught. 
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“A ballet dancer's goal is to make physically demanding choreography appear effortless” Wikipedia

As it turns out, not only he is a “talent on his toes” but he is genuinely gracious, multilingual, and sincere in his dedication to the art of dance. With his self-effacing demeanor, he is inordinately endearing as well. We are not speaking of some wannabe prancing around people’s living rooms pretending to be accomplished but about a dancer who has performed in legitimate venues as part of established troupes from NYC to Russia to Japan or in other words, an international gentleman of the ballet pursuing a trajectory toward worldwide recognition.
click image to enlarge/ photographer Dean Barucija (@pickledthoughts)
 So now I share with you the pleasure of meeting Tom Bloch, in his own words:
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Jeffrey Felner:  Can you give us a sort of brief resume as to how you arrived at your present professional situation?
Tom Bloch: I had a very different route seeking my professional career. I wasn’t   involved in ballet or dance in any way until I was almost 21when I discovered my love and passion for ballet and quickly tried to get the best training possible; within a year I had scholarships from prestigious summer schools where I met incredible teachers and was suddenly enlightened.  The turning point between treating ballet as a hobby and deciding to make it a profession was thanks to the one and only, Violette Verdy. She told me I would be a dancer to watch and that was my trigger to make ballet my profession. 

*I had the good fortune to cross paths with a very famous dancer and teacher …. Eitan Sivak who simply told me that I have a gift from God, but I might be too old to use it. So it is now or never…  find a ballet academy with a company that will train you well enough but if that’s not possible then forget about it as age is a huge factor. I took his advice and went to audition for several ballet schools and academies but given my age came into issue and I was turned down by most. *Fortunately, the National Ballet Conservatory, in Portugal, gave me my chance. The teacher Marc de Graef insisted the school accept me after my audition. He was not only my ballet teacher but my guide and mentor. Thanks to him I was given the chance to learn and develop and grow as a dancer and artist. He is the reason I have a career.

*Upon graduation, I returned to the USA to dance, where I met the wonderful Kyra Nichols who led me to fall in love with the Balanchine style and technique. Upon moving to NYC, I joined the Manhattan Youth Ballet, where I was trained by some of the finest teachers in the USA.  I had learned the Balanchine way as I wished and improved tremendously in a very short time. After only eighteen months, I signed 2 contracts in Europe and have been working ever since!
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JF: If you hadn’t chosen this particular aspect of the arts, what would have been your ideal situation/dream and why and where would it have been?
 TB: I always wanted to be a model. If it weren't for ballet, my dream life would be to have been involved in the world of fashion. I have always had a strong attraction to fashion and style; its creativity and breaking into that industry always intrigued me.
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 JF:  If you could invite any 5 people to dinner who would they be and why?
TB: Madonna, as my favourite artist and a fashion icon I would love to talk to her about what was behind her "reinventions" in her styles and looks. Next, Raf Simons as I would love to hear about his inspirations and imagination. I would have love to hear his opinion on whether he would design ballet costumes. George Balanchine, his style and ballets thrilled me from the early stages of my career. I would love to talk to the man who changed the perception of ballet …A true genius! Max Richter, the incredible composer. His way of composing such wonderfully crafted modern compositions that aren't dissonant as many modern composers write their music; He is unique and very true to classicism. I’d love to discuss a new piece with him and how the melodies are created in his head. Lastly, my late teacher - Marc de Graef who I would have love to see once more, and tell him everything I had achieved in my career and life. he would be very witty, sassy, amusing and very fatherly, just as he always was with me.
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JF: Can you speak to what you do as an artist and what sets your work apart from so much of what we see on social media? Do you see a downside from “putting yourself out there” with regard to how people react to your images?
TB: "He who tooted not his own horn, the same shall not be tooted" or words to that effect

I can't really tell what really sets me apart from what you see on social media.

However, many people react that I have a unique look and physique and that I can look sexy but never sleazy. I always try to have different styles in my photos and most of the reactions are more than very good.
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 JF: Do you have any mentors, whether in dance or fashion, that you admire or try to emulate and why have you chosen them
TB: I really admire Roberto Bolle and Friedemann Vogel as they have always been the dancers I looked up to as they represented the type of body that I have. I always admired how they dance with elegance and exquisite precision and have demonstrated that ballet is not a circus, but a fine art. 
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Special thanks to Klaus Wegele (@dancemovements), Mario Malhöfer & Tom Ge, Dean Barucija & Nick Trautman for their images

Sunday, April 12, 2020

The Future of Fashion … a fantasy wish list

In these extremely sad and uncertain times, the fashion industry is taking a huge hit on every level. So, I decided to write about what the next wave might be like in a perfect world. I offer a sort of wish list as well as a cautionary tale…. after every tragic era in the history of civilization came an upheaval in the status quo or what one might look at it as a rebirthing…. Fashion is severely in need of a recalibration.
Why can’t we go back showing fall, spring and couture ... all the adjunct collections like pre this and early that were for buyers only and not for the entertainment of the masses (thank you who have no clue why these pre seasonal collections exist. If I had to point a finger, I’d point it at Ms. Wintour, aka the assassin of fashion, who turned it into a 3-ring circus by trying to pander to a generation of that she doesn’t understand nor relate to while decimating Condé Nast as a fashion media empire.
The aspirational customer of the 60s 70s and 80s has disappeared as fashion has now become visually available to everyone from Abu Dhabi to Zanzibar. Now the latest generation isn’t so interested in just having a key chain with a logo as they once were but now they want to own the look which is sadly nothing more than tired retreads of what once was minus the luster, chic, status and style of that brand.
The glorification of no talent designers who have ad dollars behind them is insulting and tragic. We need a media that is honest to a fault and is not influenced by the almighty ad dollar. The great fashion arbiters of times gone by… think Vreeland, Fairchild, Sheppard, Morris and many more who actually reviewed clothes and not venues or first rows in hopes of pandering to those who haven’t the vaguest clue about the business of fashion.
The glorification of the freakish attributed to the likes of that so called designer at Gucci, the Rooskies who got rich by turning fashion into a side show, the faux intellectuals ( Miuccia & the meatball) who think clothes come with cliff notes attached to justify what they look like and lastly those who just create fugly clothes to hang on a rack at astronomical prices that so few can really afford or even want.
Where are the design whisperers ... the ones who can turn a Brandon Maxwell or a Christian Siriano into a 21st century Bill Blass or Galanos? Where are the brands that once ruled the roost of Seventh Avenue? The times when true top shelf fashion was king and shock and awe were at the bottom of the list instead of at the top.
Where is the prestige and reverence that was once afforded to some of the most prestigious names in fashion such as YSL, Ungaro, Mainbocher, Montana, Ferré, Lanvin, Mugler, Courrèges and scads of others… the only thing that remains is the name which is unidentifiable except by name... what happened to the brand signatures… where are the whisperers at LVMH and Kering?
Fashion is more than selling a tube of lipstick or a handbag or a pair of shoes... it is about selling clothes… clothes that women and men covet and want to wear as well as own. What happened to that aspect of fashion? If the latest looks are available at the local second hand store then who needs the pomp and circumstance of runway shows that are attended by an audience of those who have no relation to the business of fashion other than that they wear clothes or rather as a means of self-promotion by being present.
There are so many untapped talents as well as extraordinarily talented designers who go unnoticed either because they don’t have that almighty ad dollar or they aren’t being worn by some D list wannabe celebrity or some trailer trash family with more silicone and Botox in them than any plastics factory. Where are the once great editors and stylists who traveled every back street and walked up and down rickety staircases to find the hidden treasures behind those doors that are never opened today.
The retail business has changed dramatically over the past 5 decades when big stores only carried big brands and the small specialty stores were at the vanguard of what was about to happen. The mom and pop retailers of that era truly were the directional retailers and then the big boys decided they wanted some of that action and fucked it up royally. Well… take a look at what happened ... it’s not a pretty picture …store cloning. I long for the days when there was such a thing as co-op advertising and hitherto unknown designers made the front pages of WWD and found their way to editorial pages of Vogue, Bazaar and Fashion of the Times. Now we have carbon copy retailing and media while almost every store and magazine look the same and feature the same brands…. The poor consumer has lost the ability to stand out in a crowd by wearing clothes that aren’t seen in every store in America.
I pray and hope that in this next iteration of fashion, après the pandemic, that true talent is recognized and that the fashion media becomes an unbiased and utilitarian vehicle that promotes the best of the best and does not pander to only the ad driven brands. Mrs. Vreeland had it right she said words to the effect of give them what they never know they wanted. She wasn’t a businesswoman she was a fashion enthusiast/aficionado and consequently brought fashion and fantasy to the printed pages as well as aspiration. Fashion was far less democratic and far more restrictive in terms of appeal and affordability. What we didn’t have then and have now is fast fashion (H&M or Forever21) and it is they who should be pandering to the masses not the top shelf media and prestige brands borne of fashion’s glory days.
Imagine reading a review that omits the venue, omits the front row celebrities and wannabes and only discusses and solely critiques what came down the run way ... you immediately thin the herd of who is actually interested in the business of fashion.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

meet Erick Monterrosa: photographer extraordinaire

CELEBRATE: to honor especially by solemn ceremonies or by refraining from ordinary business, b: to mark (something, such as an anniversary) by festivities or other deviation from routine and 3: to hold up or play up for public notice 
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The the solemn ceremony here is photography and the rasion d’etre for the celebration is the human male form. In my opinion, you couldn’t find many who would disagree that Mr. Monterrosa quite literally celebrates the male form with more finesse, skill and taste than so many that we encounter on social media platforms ….  He leaves them in a trail of dust.
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His is not the work of a “snapshot photographer” … he is quite literally an artist whose tools are his camera, his lighting, his setup and his taste level for exhibiting the exquisite attributes of beautiful men.
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Today, much to my utter delight, Erick has offered his own insights into his private life and his profession … but if you do the math (there are about 250-275 words on a typewritten page) then here is a 130 page volume that proves what I’ve just stated.
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Jeffrey Felner: How would you say the internet and social media, especially Instagram, have affected the world of photography and how far to push the envelope?

Erick Monterrosa: I wouldn't be the photographer I am today without the internet. More than 30 years ago, art was exclusive to the upper classes. Magazine powerhouses like Vogue, Elle, Vanity Fair, etc., played a major role in exposing first world countries to the works of top ranked photographers, such as Meisel, Avedon or Demarchelier. However, third world country boys like me didn't have access to these publications. They were either too expensive, or their distribution was simply nonexistent. It was the internet that built a bridge between art and the masses. I no longer needed to pay for a printed magazine in order to gather inspiration; I now do this from home through social media. This is why I treat my Instagram feed as an online gallery. I want my audience to have that sort of experience whenever they click on my account. I feel small creators like me are more empowered than ever thanks to the internet. I wouldn't say I don't love the idea of my work being at an art gallery, however it's no longer a prerequisite to be successful. 
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 JB: Much has been written about creatives who have a signature look; would you say you have one? Want one? … and how would you best describe yours? 

ER: I definitely think I have a signature style, which has taken me years to develop and yet it is constantly evolving. I'm inspired by eroticism and the human body. My photography goes around three key elements, which I call my holy trinity: art, fashion and sex. The images I create lie somewhere within this spectrum, as I avoid falling into one single genre. I always joke about my work being too pornographic to be fashionable, too fashionable to be artistic and yet too artistic to be pornographic.
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JF: If you could invite any 5 people to dinner who would they be and why?

ER: I don't know if I could invite 5 people, I admire at the same time hahaha. I would rather focus on just one, so I get the best out of the experience. No other name comes to my mind but top model Coco Rocha. As soon as I knew the existence of the fashion industry, I was exposed to her covers, editorials and behind-the-scene videos. I was so impressed, not only by her looks but her ability to pose in very dramatically. Later on, I found out she was a Jehovah’s witness which led her to avoid posing nude in front of the camera. This is groundbreaking, as models are expected to show their bodies if the concept requires it. The way she managed to get so big in the industry without sacrificing her values inspired me to stick to my gut, even when my values are quite the opposite of hers. I'm not religious and I'm all about nudity. 
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JF: What would you say has been your most rewarding or fulfilling accomplishment/s to date and why?

ER: My biggest accomplishment has been my ability to be supported by my art, which is something I was told would never happen. I'm far from rich, but money isn't really my drive. I feel accomplished just by waking up every day knowing I'm doing what makes me the happiest.
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JF: If you could “rewrite” your career path … how would you change it and why? Or how did you decide that this is your career path and why?

ER: I rarely regret things in my life, but I wish I had moved to Europe at an early age to have proper photography training. I have a business degree, which I pursued because I had no art related options back in my country Nicaragua. I was never a business person, but a frustrated artist. It took me a while to come to this realization. Where I come from, art is a joke, thus doing what I loved the most was perceived by my family and peers as a phase; something a young immature boy would do just to have fun. In college, I worked as an event photographer and that's when I realized photography gave me purpose. Suddenly, it became part of my identity. Till this date, I'm fighting to get proper education. It's a personal goal of mine, even when many tell me I don't need it. find him also on his website....
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