Ever since I was a little girl I have always loved nature and animals, although unfortunately I think I have spent relatively little time in completely natural environments. I grew up in Milan, and even though I used to live near a large park, except for a few bike trips we would sometimes take in the surrounding area, as I grew up the time spent in nature diminished considerably. This is probably due to the fact that if you grow up in an urban environment and do not plan to take trips that include farmhouses or a natural relais you lose the opportunity to be in contact with nature for a considerable amount of time.
Today I think that spending time surrounded by nature and in contact with animals is a great privilege and I try to do that as much as possible; there are some natural spaces even near the coastal city where I am currently spending a few months, but it is always a matter of planning a trip because the environment where I live is actually mostly urban. At the moment my best opportunity to spend time in nature and take photographs is in Friuli, the north-eastern Italian region where part of my family lives.
Natural environments bring great benefits to human beings, as has been proven by several studies; above all, living in areas with green spaces increases people’s sense of well-being. In addition, studying or working in contact with nature can improve attention and make us more present to ourselves. I recently read an interview by actress and musician Persia White, who has always been concerned about environmental protection and animal welfare. She told Wild Elements, ” You have to be really intentional about what you’re choosing to watch and what you’re choosing to support. […] I had this epiphany that if I followed nature accounts, and accounts where people were exploring nature, taking dives into the ocean, watching pandas roll around, that’s a beautiful thing and it makes me feel great. […] Interacting with nature, even in a small way, can be so positive.” In fact, many studies show that looking at nature, even if some times only on a screen, can be a real mood-booster.
Based on my personal experience I can confirm that Persia White has a point and I can definitely relate to her words; I am an active member of the Flickr community of photographers and I really love looking at nature-themed photos posted by other users, especially those of flower fields and animals such as chickadees and mountain hares (I rarely get to visit the mountains, so I hope to have more chances to explore them, also because having spent a lot of time by the sea in recent years I haven’t seen snow in a while). Some of the trips I would most like to take include visiting natural environments, such as lavender fields in Provence and tulip fields in Holland. In addition, I would like to visit European wine regions such as Burgundy and Monferrato because I am passionate about winemaking and viticulture, as you can read in my article on the Lorenzonetto Wine Estate in the Friuli region.
Other benefits of nature show an improvement in energy and a significant decrease in stress (which tends to increase in urban environments), as well as benefits to the immune system, sleep quality and general cognitive functions.
I cherish all the memories related to the time I have spent in nature over the years and enjoy looking back at the photos I have taken in natural environments. As with my article on sunset photography, I have decided to create a top five of my favorite photos taken in nature over the years; my entire collection, which I hope to update more often in the future, can be found on Flickr in my Nature album, which also includes my most-viewed photo that I have included in this article as well (it’s the ivy wall I photographed in the Italian town of Pisogne, near Lake Iseo). I have assigned poetry excerpts to each photo because nature has inspired many poets in their writing and it is well known that nature itself enhances creativity.
1) Snails on a Tree Cortex, Lignano Sabbiadoro (North-East Italy):
The Snail – William Cowper
To grass, or leaf, or fruit, or wall, The snail sticks close, nor fears to fall, As if he grew there, house and all Together.
Within that house secure he hides, When danger imminent betides Of storm, or other harm besides Of weather.
Give but his horns the slightest touch, His self-collecting power is such, He shrinks into his house, with much Displeasure.
Where’er he dwells, he dwells alone, Except himself has chattels none, Well satisfied to be his own Whole treasure.
2) Ivy Wall, Pisogne (Northern Italy):
The Ivy Green – Charles Dickens
Whole ages have fled and their works decayed, And nations have scattered been, But the stout old Ivy shall never fade, From its hale and hearty green. The brave old plant, in its lonely days, Shall fatten upon the past: For the stateliest building man can raise, Is the Ivy’s food at last. Creeping on, where time has been, A rare old plant is the Ivy green.
On the day that would have been Audrey Hepburn’s 94th birthday (she was born on May 4, 1929), I have decided to dedicate an article to the woman, actress, style icon and human rights activist who has been one of the most significant influences in my life (I had previously included her in my International Women’s Day article).
I was still a little girl when I first heard of Audrey, who has remained in the collective imagination mainly because of her role as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (which is to this day still an influence on pop culture, as with the case of Blair Waldorf’s character in the Gossip Girl TV show, who is very much inspired by the actress and in some episodes even dreams of being one of her characters). I think everyone has happened to see some reference to Breakfast at Tiffany’s in some places, whether it was posters, images on the web, paintings reproduced for home decor, or prints on T-shirts. The earliest images of Audrey Hepburn that I can recall date back to when I was about twelve years old; the hair salon in my neighborhood had a large canvas painting of a Holly Golightly stylized portrait, and a very similar print was also on the sweatshirt of a school friend of mine. My first viewing of Breakfast at Tiffany’s was right around that time because it was a much-quoted movie among my peers; I was so enchanted by this movie that it prompted me to watch her other famous works as well shortly before I started high school. This was also thanks to my cinephile grandfather, whose video library also included a box set of Audrey Hepburn’s major films. I have seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s many times over the years; a few times with my mother, once with my grandmother (I remember she loved it so much), another time with a high school classmate who was a die-hard Audrey Hepburn fan, would buy Audrey-themed books (it is thanks to her that I bought the magnificent volume titled “The Audrey Hepburn Treasures” with the beautiful pink spine that you can see in one of the photos in this article) and was fond of Tiffany & Co. jewelry; in the early 2000s and for much of the 2010s silver bracelets and long heart-shaped Tiffany & Co. necklaces used to be very popular among teenage girls (just a few days ago, the Tiffany & Co. flagship store in New York opened its new landmark building). Once with another friend I dressed up as Holly Golightly; we had a photoshoot after school, recreating the party scene in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and it was a lot of fun.
I remember that we would constantly re-watch some of her films, commenting on them together, and a bit of Audrey Hepburn-mania had broken out; by then all my classmates knew me as a cinephile, and I was often given biographies and movie-related books as gifts. A couple of friends bought me Mark Shaw’s mini volume “Charmed by Audrey: Life On The Set of Sabrina,” which contains a series of portraits taken by Shaw for LIFE magazine on the set of the film Sabrina (1954), which I still keep in my old apartment in Lugano.
I have accumulated quite a few books about Audrey Hepburn’s life over the years, including photographic ones (I still have a few on my wish list), and my admiration and respect for her, also thanks to the various characters she played, truly stand the test of time.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF AUDREY’S LIFE AND CAREER: What is it about Audrey Hepburn that fascinates me so much? Probably her timeless charisma, her inner beauty that also shone through on the outside, and her innate class, in addition to her immense artistic talent and her humanitarian efforts with UNICEF, for which she became an Official Ambassador.
Audrey was someone who managed to overcome the difficulties and obstacles she encountered along the way from an early age; born in Belgium and raised between England and the Netherlands, before beginning her film career she lived under the Nazi regime, due to which she suffered starvation and other hardships during the war. Following the Liberation of Holland from the regime, she studied dance and also took lessons in London, where she began acting in several theatre musicals, which were followed by small appearances in a number of films. Following her incredible success playing the lead role in the Broadway musical Gigi, she was cast in Roman Holiday (1953), for which she won an Oscar for Best Actress. Audrey’s career is marked by a series of films that are to this day considered cult in their own right, despite the fact that over the years she chose to devote more and more time to her family and would lead a private life in Switzerland, where she loved raising her two children, taking care of animals and her vegetable garden. After her last film appearance in 1988, Audrey was appointed Official Ambassador of UNICEF, for which she carried out important missions to help children in Third World countries. Her travels also included destinations that at the time were torn by civil wars, but Audrey never got away from her humanitarian commitments, which earned her the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Jean Horshalt Humanitarian Award. She passed away in 1993 following a long illness, and to this day her sons Sean and Luca carry on her humanitarian efforts and devote themselves to charitable causes in her memory (son Sean Hepburn Ferrer has also published a volume titled “Audrey Hepburn: An Elegant Spirit”, which I highly recommend, and son Luca Dotti has also published the volume “Audrey At Home”, which tells personal stories about Audrey’s cooking and which I would be very interested in reading).
MY FAVORITE AUDREY HEPBURN MOVIES: I have seen most of Audrey Hepburn’s movies except for a couple that I have yet to catch up on, namely Wait Until Dark (1967) and War and Peace (1956), the latter because I want to read Tolstoy’s novel first and see its various film and TV adaptations later.
The Audrey movies I loved the most are among the actress’s best known. Roman Holiday (1953), in which she plays Anna, a European princess who decides to wander around Rome rather than submit to the obligations her role entails, aided by a journalist (Gregory Peck) who stays with her for the duration of her vacation. Sabrina (1954), based on a hit Broadway musical, tells the story of a Long Island chauffeur’s daughter who, after spending two years in France, makes both of her father’s wealthy employer’s sons fall in love with her (this film also marks the beginning of Audrey’s collaboration with French designer Hubert de Givenchy). Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), mentioned earlier as the film for which Audrey Hepburn is best known, is based on the eponymous novel by Truman Capote; in the film Audrey plays the role of Holly Golightly, a beautiful and sophisticated girl who lives by offering her company to wealthy men, and her life after she encounters her neighbor Paul (George Peppard). The movie is a love letter to New York City and is one of the reasons why New York-based jewelry store Tiffany & Co. is so popular today. This brought Audrey to the top of her popularity making her an iconic character, especially for her looks in the film. I really loved Funny Face (1957), based on a Broadway musical, in which Audrey stars alongside Fred Astaire, who in the film plays a New York fashion photographer named Dick Avery (closely reminiscent of real-life photographer Richard Avedon) who is smitten with shy bookstore clerk Jo Stockton (played by Audrey) after photographing her by chance and is convinced he can turn her into a successful model. It is a film that got mixed reviews but is wonderful for both its fashion and Gershwin’s nostalgic music.
Charade (1963) is a Hitchcockian-style thriller film set in contemporary Europe; it is about a woman who, after her husband’s murder, is pursued by three men who want the money her husband stole from them. Audrey’s character is helped by the charming Peter (Cary Grant) but soon discovers that he is not who he says he is. Although it is a very different film from the ones audiences are used to seeing Audrey in, I enjoyed this thriller mixed with the romantic comedy genre and the two leads are incredibly charming. The film also has some genuinely humorous moments, and again its fashion is marked by sophistication and refinement, thanks to another successful collaboration with Givenchy and the popularity of ready-to-wear in the 1960s. Last but not least, My Fair Lady (1964), inspired by George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion. It was a particularly difficult film for Audrey, who was cast in place of Julie Andrews for the lead role (after the latter had played the same role on Broadway) and was later dubbed into the sound parts. Nevertheless, I think Audrey is very good in playing the part of Eliza Doolittle, who is transformed from a simple flower girl by snobbish phonetics professor Henry Higgins into a high society lady. The Edwardian-era costumes of the 1910s were reproduced by Cecil Beaton, and although they did not influence the fashion of the time, they are incredibly feminine and help bring out Audrey’s natural beauty.
AUDREY AND FASHION: Audrey Hepburn used to say, “Don’t neglect your clothes, because they are the first impression you make of yourself.” Today she is remembered not only for the roles she played but also for her style and the impact both she and her characters had on the fashion world. Her son Sean Hepburn Ferrer recalls in “Audrey Hepburn: An Elegant Spirit”: “My mother was convinced that every woman should find a look that suited her and then adapt it by following fashion, rather than being a slave to fashion itself, forced to change looks from season to season. […] It was then a matter of creating a personal look that works and continuing to follow it over time.” Her fruitful collaboration with Givenchy led her to favor top-quality clothes and to follow the philosophy of “less is more.” She was also very careful about choosing the right accessories and would pay close attention to the quality of shoes in particular (Sean recalls that she was close friends with shoe designer Salvatore Ferragamo). Givenchy is the one who influenced Audrey’s look the most, as Sean said, “Audrey saw the dresses Hubert made for her as a beautiful vase that could enhance a simple meadow flower, while Hubert saw them as a vase that can maintain a certain simplicity so as not to detract from the natural beauty of the flower it holds. As a result of their collaboration, we often refer to my mother as the most elegant woman in the world. But style and elegance were rooted in their spiritual values. They were born within. They were not a way to be noticed, on the contrary a form of modesty.”
I don’t remember exactly what was the first Paul Thomas Anderson film I ever watched because it has been a few years but I’m pretty sure it was Magnolia; considered to be one of the first films that introduced the director to a wide audience, I watched Magnolia one afternoon about ten years ago and it made a huge impression on me. I was eighteen at the time, and although it was a complex and very long film (more than three hours), I remember it as something unique, something quite different from most of the films I had seen up to that time.
Over the years, I have had the opportunity to see all of Paul Thomas Anderson’s films and have noticed that they always have one or more factors in common with each other, including autobiographical elements.
Anderson’s themes concern celebrity culture, media, patriarchy, and commodities in the postmodern America of the late 20th century, with a focus on the preponderant media culture in our lives, to the point that reality and media are inevitably interconnected. A cinephile from childhood, growing up in the San Fernando Valley (born in Studio City, the heart of the Hollywood film industry) and the son of a well-known television personality (Ernie Anderson, voice of the ABC channel), Paul Thomas Anderson experienced firsthand the rise of dominant masculinity in the Reagan 1980s, and many of the male characters in his films seek to reinvent themselves while simultaneously trying to outgrow their past. As with many of the films released in the postmodern media culture of the late ‘70s/early ‘80s, Anderson’s films often revolve around the relationship between father and son, which is often difficult and troubled. Moreover, as author Jason Sperb points out in his book Blossoms & Blood: Postmodern Media Culture and the Films of Paul Thomas Anderson, “many Anderson characters ambivalently engage in endless cycles of consumption while the physical act of labor – of actually producing a material good with use value – seems nonexistent.” In Anderson’s films, many of the characters work as salesmen and represent the center of transactions that are part of everyday life, as well as having both dissatisfaction with and dependence on material wealth.
Sperb writes: “His films explicitly posit characters’ drive for financial success, as well as their conspicuos consumption, as an emotionally unsatisfying journey, filled with moments of excess, egomania, and greed. These same people are often situated as socially marginalized. […] Anderson’s early films, set in the media-saturated commodity culture of upper-middle-class Southern California, also suggest that no other meaningful options exist. They often end on a cautious note of reconciliation that implies patriarchal capitalism is the solution to the same problems it created.”
I have enjoyed many of Paul Thomas Anderson’s films, both for the structure and unfolding of the plot and for how they address the themes expressed. Here below are five of his movies I have loved the most, in no particular order:
1) Magnolia (1999): although not considered by critics to be the director’s most successful movie (he was only 28 years old at the time of its release), I believe there is something incredibly magnetic and captivating about Magnolia, Anderson’s third movie, which remains one of the landmark movies of independent cinema at the dawn of the 21st century. Magnolia features a series of intertwining plots and characters, with a cast full of established and audience-pleasing actors, like Tom Cruise as Mackey, a ruthless motivational guru who profits from dispensing secrets to middle-aged men about how to “seduce and destroy women” and who to this day remains one of Anderson’s most iconic characters. The central themes of the film are the disintegration of the white middle-class family, the ephemeral satisfaction provided by success and commodities, and the deconstruction of masculinity. Magnolia is an epic story set in the San Fernando Valley which depicts in an almost apocalyptic way the inadequacy of the characters in outgrowing their past; the stories of these characters intersect during one day, with a great importance given to random fate, while also touching on themes of guilt and redemption. It is thus a movie that strikes more of an emotional resonance than a linear plot in itself, and I think viewers who enjoyed the movie as I did happened to identify themselves with what one or more of the characters were feeling. It is perhaps the director’s most autobiographical film, and although he later pointed out some of the film’s flaws (such as its excessive length), he also said, “I consider Magnolia a kind of beautiful accident. It gets me. I put my heart-every embarrassing thing that I wanted to say-in Magnolia.” The movie is a tribute to Robert Altman, Anderson’s mentor; it is a profound story about childhood, love and illness in the world of Southern California television celebrities. Magnolia is not for everyone, but there is no denying that it has something incredibly lyrical and meaningful about it.
2) There Will Be Blood (2007): one of the two Paul Thomas Anderson movies starring Daniel Day-Lewis, I only got to watch it eight years ago because I was still in middle school when the movie was released. I think it is undeniable that There Will Be Blood is one of Anderson’s masterpieces; it was an incredible success with audiences and critics, winning Oscars for Best Picture and Best Lead Actor, and is considered one of the best American movies of the decade. The plot emphasizes how chasing perfection is dangerous and virtually impossible, and this is especially evident in the destructive journey of Daniel Plainview’s character (played by Daniel Day-Lewis), which is also a critique of ruthless capitalism, intersected with the religious theme as well. Indeed, one Hollywood critic said that There Will Be Blood, filmed near Marfa, Texas, “tackles all the big themes about America: blood, oil, religion.” It is the story of a silver miner in the early 20th century who makes the pursuit of oil the center of his life; in the process, he buys all the land he can by destroying the competition in what is an unscrupulous quest to gain absolute power over everything around him (the character was inspired by oilman Edward Doheny). As highlighted by Sperb in Blossoms & Blood, Plainview’s character also embodies the figure of the salesman because he cons people into selling their land. Another of the themes taken from Anderson’s earlier movies is the figure of the surrogate father, as well as the father-son relationship (after one of his employees is killed in an accident, Plainview decides to raise his orphaned son). Unlike some of his previous movies, there is neither love nor redemption in There Will Be Blood. I think it is wonderful both visually and in terms of plot; the long narrative sequences of isolation, interrupted by sudden bursts of violence, were influenced by Stanley Kubrick’s style (especially from The Shining), as well as the film’s dialogue-free opening sequence, which is very reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey. A reminder of the industrial origins of the state of California (well before the advent of the entertainment industry), There Will Be Blood is a film that stays with viewers even after its ending, both because of Day-Lewis’s masterful performance, which finds humanity in a character with monstrous traits, and Anderson’s skills as a screenwriter, which as Sperb states: “The strength of Anderson’s writing abilities is that he never loses sympathy for his characters-he never loses sight of how they see the world, even if he doesn’t expect audiences to empathize with them at their worst.”
This fashion thread was created by Rina from La Vida Prada on Twitter a while ago. Her account is one of the most popular on the platform and it is part of High Fashion Twitter; I find the thread comprehensive and I think it touches on many different aspects of fashion so I chose to include it on my blog.
1. How would you describe your aesthetic? (use pictures if you want)
Being born in the 1990s, I grew up following the Y2K aesthetic because I became a teenager in the early 2000s; during that time I often wore low-waisted jeans (which I later came to dislike) and mini tank tops. Even looking back at photos from that era, I realize that I would often wear belts with large buckles with big Gucci or D&G logos. Over the years, my style has changed a lot, and I have to say that the old money aesthetic is the one I identify with the most; it is an aesthetic that focuses mainly on quality instead of appearance and also includes the preppy style, which I have always loved very much. I don’t like to sport brand logos excessively; I usually prefer high-quality outfits and accessories with a sophisticated and elegant touch. I also love Parisian style and the recent quiet luxury trend.
2. What other aesthetics would you like to be? (use pictures if you want)
I was very fascinated by the coastal grandmother aesthetic (think Diane Keaton in Anything Can Happen, with comfy, light-colored clothes) and the coconut girl aesthetic (which communicates a 2000s summer vacation vibe), which I got to learn more about thanks to one of the brilliant YouTube videos by ModernGurlz. I would also like to try the dark academia (in homage to The Secret History by Donna Tartt, one of my favorite novels) or light academia, which uses a more neutral color palette following the white and beige tones.
3. What is the next item of clothing you’re planning to buy?
Probably a few pairs of high-rise jeans by Zara.
4. What items are on the top of your wishlist?
I don’t list them in any particular order, but I think they are a Saint Laurent clutch, a black jumpsuit by Norma Kamali, and a short floral dress by Dolce&Gabbana.
5. Do you own designer anything? If so, what? (makeup and perfume included).
I became aware with the world of Made in Italy luxury fashion from an early age through my father’s work (I also currently work in the fashion industry), so I own several items from European designers. As for clothing and accessories, I love mixing and matching high-street fashion with luxury designers and brands. A Burberry trench coat from the Christopher Bailey era, a Burberry cashmere scarf, and a pair of Giorgio Armani men’s scarves that my father used to wear when he was younger. I really love my Chanel graffiti hobo bag from the 2007 resort collection because my mother gave it to me for my birthday a few years ago. My Balenciaga Triple S black/pink sneakers. A long evening dress in blue from Ralph Lauren’s Lauren line. As for perfumes, I mainly buy those from luxury maisons, mainly Armani and Dolce & Gabbana (of the latter brand my favorite is Light Blue, one of the first I bought) but I also love the more youthful ones from Juicy Couture and other niche perfumes. For makeup I mainly use products from the beauty industry (BioNike, Max Factor…), but I have a fondness for lipsticks by Dior and I also own a couple of Chanel nail polishes (although I generally buy nail polishes from brands that belong to the nail care industry).
6. What is a designer item you really want?
Is the book on the history of the Burberry fashion house published by Assouline to be considered a designer item? If not, I’m mainly interested in vintage garments going back a few years or decades (e.g. Ossie Clark’s vintage dresses, since I recently visited a retrospective of the British designer and wrote about it on the blog. If we are thinking of something more recent, I saw pictures of the Jacquemus giant bag parade in Paris a few days ago and would be interested in a Jacquemus Le Bambino bag.
7. Do you buy sustainable?
I try to buy sustainable as much as possible, despite the fact that this often means spending more money. However, I believe in buying clothes that will last and that come from a “transparent” supply chain; I like to buy from sustainable brands such as Reformation, Sézane and Faithfull The Brand, as well as People Tree, which is one of the most popular brands in the sustainable fashion field.
8. What are your thoughts on sustainability?
I studied the concept of sustainability in detail during my graduate course in Fashion Business with NYC Parsons School of Design and analyzed the negative impact of fast fashion on our planet. I have always been environmentally conscious and have often donated to causes that are concerned with the preservation of the planet and its inhabitants. I believe that all brands should move toward sustainability; we should buy less and focus on key wardrobe items that are primarily quality garments and whose making does not come from the exploitation of workers in developing countries.
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