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    ©Harry Benson

    Matthew Miele and Justin Bare’s documentary Harry Benson: Shoot First is an entertaining, at times astonishing, look at the career of a man who is responsible for countless iconic images from the past 50 years. In addition to a dizzying succession of photographic images, the film includes an array of testimonials from famous contemporaries and subjects in addition to family members, plus droll commentary from the 86-year-old Benson himself. Dan Rather, Carl Bernstein and Bryant Gumbel are among the journalists who weigh in on Benson and his work; Sharon Stone, Joe Namath, and (sigh) Donald J. Trump, among others, contribute anecdotes about their own experiences with the venerable photographer.

    One of the film’s striking motifs is Benson’s uncanny ability to be in the “right” place at the “right” time, whether in Memphis when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated or on a beach when the famously camera-shy Greta Garbo was taking a swim. Another running theme is how the charming Scot befriended almost everyone he shot, a diverse group including Muhammad Ali, Richard Nixon, and Mark David Chapman. His talent and tenacity resulted in a huge collection of photographs unmatched in their immediacy and intimacy, from shocking images of a dying Bobby Kennedy to dreamy photos of reclusive chess champion Bobby Fischer nuzzling a white horse.

    ©Harry Benson

    ©Harry Benson

    Though mainly known for shooting celebrities and political figures, Benson also traveled to places like Mogadishu, Somalia, and the West Bank, capturing war- and poverty-torn locales and their inhabitants with an unflinching eye. As the film makes clear, he never stopped to consider whether or not to take a picture, no matter how sensitive the subject. Thus the film’s title and his reputation among some as a ruthless competitor.

    Early on, the film documents what Benson is still best known for: dynamic black and white shots of the Beatles taken when he accompanied the fledgling band to the U.S. in 1964. These playful pictures were the first images many people saw of the Fab Four. They, like many to come, trusted Benson, who–like all good photographers of people–was able to break down his subjects’ guard, often uncovering something truthful.

    The documentary juxtaposes Benson’s often provocative shots of celebs with his somber studies of Civil Rights era marches and riots. (He also managed to get disturbing close-ups of KKK members and rallies.) The photographer seemingly threw himself into the midst of the action, no matter how dangerous; his journalistic instincts were honed early in his career in the dog-eat-dog world of Fleet Street, where he worked for the Daily Express. Later his photo essays for Life magazine would shape how people experienced the big (and often tragic) news of the day.

    ©Harry Benson

    ©Harry Benson

    Benson was covering Robert Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign, so he was at L.A.’s Ambassador Hotel when the senator was assassinated. He automatically began taking pictures, including one of an anguished Ethel holding up her hand. Of course those pictures are iconic now, but some, like Carl Bernstein, wonder about ethics. “That’s an excuse that photographers use when they can’t get the shot,” says Benson dismissively. Clearly not everyone loved his methods. Garbo’s nephew wonders why the photographer persisted in shooting the aging actress, resulting in a picture she hated.

    Much to the frustration of his fellow photographers, Benson was renowned for his ability to capture scenarios previously thought impossible, including Michael Jackson’s bedroom at Neverland Ranch and Joe Namath’s bachelor pad at the height of the quarterback’s playboy heyday. He aced difficult assignments, including a devastated President Nixon on the day of his resignation and a bald Elizabeth Taylor in the hospital after brain surgery.

    ©Harry Benson

    ©Harry Benson

    Late in the film we get a glimpse of Benson’s humble beginnings when he goes back to his hometown outside of Glasgow and meets up with a childhood friend. Here the photographer talks about his “rough and tumble” childhood, and having to leave school at 13 to work as a delivery boy because his grades were so poor. Photography got him out of a hopeless-seeming situation. (At 86, however, he still retains the scrappy attitude of his youth.)

    Despite its fast pace, dazzling parade of celebrity stills and largely amusing recollections, Harry Benson: Shoot First ultimately winds up being more than just a fabulous eyeful. It’s a veritable timeline of recent history captured through the lens of a remarkable talent who never hesitated to take his shot. As he points out: “A great photograph can never happen again.”

    Harry Benson: Shoot First opens Friday at the IFC Center, with simultaneous release through On Demand, Amazon, and iTunes.

    Marina Zogbi


  • In addition to the kick off of a Trump presidency, this winter is forecasted to be brutally cold. So why not embrace the frosty temps by looking cute in a fabulous, statement-making coat!

    Recently, Canadian first lady, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau was seen wearing an “ELODIE” coat from House of Mackage for the Remembrance Ceremony at the National War Memorial.

    Trudeau, with her husband Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

    Her choice of overcoat that piqued our interest in the Canadian outerwear brand, and in their collection of luxe, high-end cover-ups.

    For those that don’t know, House of Mackage specializes in outerwear for both men and women. Check out 3 gorgeous additions to their latest line of coats!



    We’re partial to this camel version of this maxi length, cashmere blend belted wool coat. Notice the classic smoking jacket inspired notched lapel and semi-fitted silhouette! Supa dupa fly!



    This cloak is the perfect overcoat when you’ve reached maximum winter layering. The HELINA is a double- face wool creation that’s longer in the front with zippered closure at the collar.



    TV Star Priyanka Chopra is seen here wearing a classic down-filled number that comes complete with a split hood that doubles as a sumptuous shawl collar.

    Happy winter! Stay warm.


  • old-stone-posterJohnny Ma’s solid debut feature Old Stone is a naturalistic yet surreal tale of a Chinese taxi driver whose good deed results in a bureaucratic nightmare. When cabbie Lao Shi (Chen Gang) is distracted by a drunken passenger and hits a motorcyclist, he brings the victim to a hospital rather than wait for the police or ambulance to show up. Though he has probably saved the man’s life, his flouting of procedure causes him no end of suffering at the hands of callous officials and others, including his own wife. As outrageous as Lao Shi’s predicament may seem at times, it is not really so outlandish in a country where insurance policies exist specifically for rescuers of elderly people who have fallen, in case the Good Samaritan gets sued for causing the mishap.

    The Shanghai-born, Toronto-raised Ma switched from a career in business to documentary filmmaking in 2008 (after receiving an MFA in film from Columbia University). His unique sensibility is reflected in Old Stone, which is has both both a raw, realistic quality and a moody, noir-ish ambience. Though the film (like its protagonist) eventually makes a sharp turn into a very dark place, it doesn’t feel disjointed or tonally uneven, as events build to an almost inevitable ending.

    Lao Shi’s decency is apparent in the accident’s aftermath, when he ignores the advice of rubbernecking bystanders and takes matters into his own hands. A cool, taciturn type, the cabbie is a classic misunderstood antihero, seemingly at odds with the world (Chen does a great job embodying this). Because he has brought the unconscious motorcyclist to the hospital, he is responsible for the man’s medical bills; rather than withhold life-saving surgery, Lao Shi hands over his credit card. Fun fact: Chinese victim compensation laws often stipulate that drivers must pay an accident victim’s lifetime medical bills, as opposed to a relatively small fee for killing the person. (Thus the appalling practice of drivers backing up over pedestrians they have hit to make sure they’re dead.)

    Courtesy of Zeitgeist Films

    Courtesy of Zeitgeist Films

    Unsympathetic police officers inform Lao Shi that it was against procedure to leave the scene before they arrived, as does the cab company, who declare that insurance probably won’t cover the accident. Lao Shi tries handing out cigarettes and arguing his case, to no avail. (Cigarette bribes and smoking in general occur frequently throughout the story).

    At first Lao Shi doesn’t tell his wife, Mao Mao (Nai An, the film’s executive producer), who runs a daycare center in their home, about any of this. The couple, who have a tween daughter, are clearly struggling financially. Meanwhile he visits his comatose victim in the hospital and contacts the man’s wife about the mounting medical bills, but the distraught woman can’t and won’t pay. When Mao Mao finally finds out about the accident, she takes her husband to visit a well-to-do lawyer–the husband of a daycare client–for help. Realizing the futility of the case (“It would have been easier if the guy died at the scene”), the lawyer demurs and Mao Mao begs, humiliating Lao Shi. They fight and she leaves him, yet another blow.

    The film’s tension ratchets up as the desperate, formerly mild-mannered Lao Shi both hardens and falls apart, drinking constantly and transmogrifying into an angry, abusive driver. At one point while intoxicated, he wanders into a surreal outdoor dance workout accompanied by tinny synthesizer music, an echo of his daughter’s earlier dance recital. The soundtrack in general becomes increasingly moody and discordant.

    Courtesy of Zeitgeist Films

    Courtesy of Zeitgeist Films

    He finally tracks down the drunk passenger who caused the accident at a wedding reception. When the man refuses to provide a statement to the police absolving the cabbie of responsibility, Lao Shi tries to bribe him and the scene ends in an ugly spectacle, filmed by various guests on their phones. (Like the accident bystanders, they seem blank-faced and heartless.)

    Things take an intriguing turn when Lao Shi discovers that the victim had a life insurance policy. He visits the hospital one last time and winds up causing an unanticipated outcome, setting him on a strange, new path. The scene’s suspenseful aftermath explains several flash-forwards that Ma has sprinkled throughout the film and leads to its sensationally chilling finale. Both shocking and logical, film’s conclusion once again brings home the Chinese adage, “It is better to hit to kill than to hit and injure.” Both a commentary on the Chinese legal system and an offbeat thriller, Old Stone strikes a satisfying balance between the two.

    Old Stone opens on Wednesday, November 30, at the IFC Center.

    Marina Zogbi

  • Finally! In the women’s fashion realm, the Shacket has become a larger influential force this fall. Perfect for  layering addicts who like to stylishly stay warm during the colder months, looks like the piece isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Here’s what you need to know about this thick-and-chic versatile garment. 

    Stripe Shacket from ASOS


    Photo Credit: ASOS

    The insulated button-down known as the Shacket is the hybrid shirt + jacket that has been making the rounds in the men’s fashion world for some time. “It’s thick enough to act as a jacket, but equipped with the same layering capabilities as an open oxford,” reports Refinery 29.

    Yet, in terms of women’s fashion, the Shacket has been slow to rise into prominence — that is until now.

    Men’s Shacket from Western Rise 


    Photo Credit: Jakob Schiller

    And Here’s An Example of a Women’s Shacket from Gucci


    Photo Credit: Net-A-Porter

    Earlier this year, presented over 15 styles of Shackets, and British clothing emporium Topshop even created a customized hybrid button-down for model Karlie Kloss, per The Telegraph. Jacqui Markham, global designer director for Topshop told the newspaper that the popularity of the Shacket has grown to such an extent that they “now consider the piece as a key spring/summer staple.”

    Authentic Washed Shacket from Top Shop


    Photo Credit: Top Shop

    However, during this autumnal season, we’re seeing that this trend is stretching out into winter with more selections for women cropping up like a military-inspired one from Glamorous and J. Crew.

    Buffalo Check Shirt-Jacket from J. Crew


    Photo Credit: J. Crew 

    What layering looks are currently rocking this season? Share with us in the comments. Happy fall season, folks!

  • invite_banner_basel Miami 16

    “NYC based arts organization Art for Progress (AFP) teams up with local Miami artists to celebrate the link between Cuban and South Florida culture for Art Basel 2016.”

    NYC based arts organization Art for Progress (AFP) teams up with local Miami artists to celebrate the link between Cuban and South Florida culture for Art Basel 2016.  The events will take place in South Beach with an art exhibit opening on Friday evening and a rooftop- fashion, music and performance art event titled, Cosa Rica is set for Saturday night.

    The art exhibition, “P.U.E.N.T.E.” which opens Friday evening (6:00pm – 9:00pm) December 2nd, will feature eleven artists (Nestor Arenas, Willie Avedano, Orestes De La Paz, Michael Gray, Catalina Jaramillo, Brandy Lynn, Guido Mena, Cristina Victor, Sterling Rock, Belaxis Buil)working in various mediums (paintings, sculpture, installation, textile and drawings).

    After many decades of frosty relations between the U.S. and Cuba, the recent positive developments have brought a feeling of excitement and hope to the Cuban people of both South Florida and Cuba. The exhibition observes the relationship of the artist to their environment- changing landscapes and ability to adapt-retreat, refuge  and escape. The show which will run through Sunday, December 5th and is curated by Belaxis Buil whose work has been exhibited in “Intersectionality” and “Taz” at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami, Art Shanghai, China, Tacheles Museum, Germany and Art Basel Miami.

    michael_gray-paintingMichael Gray

    On Saturday, December 3rd, AFP will host a night of fashion, performance art, dance theater and music overlooking Miami Beach.  A site~specific fashion show featuring Belaxis Buil designs (contemporary Cuban inspired, ready to wear) will highlight the evening, but Cosa Rica will also feature provocative performance art, video and sound installations from Daniel Maldonado, Willie Avendano and Orestes De La Paz as well as a dance performance by Hellektrick Danse Theatre.  The music for the evening will be curated by NYC based DJ/Producer Gatto.  This special night is a celebration of identity- revival and reinvention of the Cuban- Cuban American identity. The event is 8pm-12am, rooftop at 1052 Ocean Drive Miami Beach.

    Tickets for “Cosa Rica” can be purchased here. Advance tickets only.

    Belaxis Buil DesignsBelaxis Buil Designs