Carmen Amaya: Queen of the Gypsies


I've recently discovered (thanks tumblr) how amazing Carmen Amaya is. Just look at her!


But that's not all.


She was widely regarded as one of the greatest flamenco dancers of all time, shaping the way the dance has changed over the years. Amaya, of Romani origin and born in the slums of Barcelona, became known as "Queen of the Gypsies"; you can tell from the still photos and video that she had that beautiful gypsy passion.


Amaya began dancing at the age of four, and once she hit her teenage years her career kicked off as she travelled the world. Of course, she appeared in Hollywood movies during the 1930s, when interest in all things exotic was at it's peak. 


Sadly she died in 1963 at just 50 years old, after suffering kidney failure. However, her stunning dance had already shaped the flamenco world.



Amaya donned the "traje corto", a tight fitting suit, and traditional fast paced footwork, both usually reserved for men - shocking for the time. Watching her feet, it's no wonder that on several occasions she ended up putting her foot through the stage during her performance! 


Prior to this, women's flamenco had mainly featured arm and upper torso movement, however Amaya created something all her own by combining feminine grace with strong masculine moves. She did, however, begin to concentrate on a more feminine style towards the end of her career.


 She is incredibly inspiring, and now I really want my own "traje corto"!

Broken lenses: After 120 years Kodak files for bankruptcy

Sad news came over the last few days; the once glorious Eastman Kodak empire is very probably ending as the photographic pioneer prepares to file for brankruptcy. First Polaroid, now Kodak, have fallen in this digital age. It is very difficult to discuss Kodak in the present tense, as the situation looks far too grim for them to pull through.

The company that brought photography to the masses is currently shedding a whopping $70 million a month. In an attempt to keep themselves (and their employees) afloat, Kodak are selling off their patents and working with lenders. If this wasn't bad enough, shares in the company have been closing at $1 for over 30 days. Ouch.

Looking at a graph of Kodak's share price over the past decade is depressingly gloomy, but predictable for a company that hasn't really managed to adapt to the changing times. Kodak had never really been able to recover from the digital revolution, which blew interest in traditional methods well away from mainstream consumers. The worst thing about this is that it was a Kodak engineer, Steven Sasson, who invented the digital camera in 1975 (even the Apple QuickTake cameras, one of the first consumer digital cameras were produced by Kodak) - so what went wrong?



Many are blaming phone cameras for the company's fate, but it isn't that simple, and if that were the case, plenty of other brands would be in the same situation. No, despite a pathetic attempt to reach the digital age by focusing on producing home printers, they just didn't manage to stay ahead of the game.

And this isn't their first mistake. In the 1970s Kodak sat on top of the market with 90% of film sales and 85% of camera sales in America, making them confident that Japanese newcomers Fujifilm would be no competition despite their cheaper prices. Kodak's pride and belief that the American public would never desert the brand resulted in them turning down sponsorship of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, which Fuji quickly snapped (forgive the pun) up, giving them a foothold in the market. 

Although Kodak planned their move to digital in the 1990s, they never really felt any pressure of competition and, shockingly, the executives could not imagine a world without traditional film. Although film sales dropped dramatically in 2001, there was no lightbulb moment; instead the decrease was blamed on the September 11 attacks. Things snowballed from then on.

It is so sad to think that this classic photography brand is coming to a close, a brand so ingrained in our culture that the phrase "Kodak moment" has become synonymous with a rare, once-in-a-lifetime moment that has or should have been captured forever. 

It upsets me to think that a few generations from now, people my age won't know how it feels to load a 35mm film into a camera, or the excitement of looking through your grainy, already-faded holiday photos taken on a single-use camera. 


Rudolph Valentino



 Rudolph Valentino; one of the most charming and diverse faces of early cinema, since [mostly] forgotten thanks to the distractions of Britain's Got The X Factor Come Dancing and the music of Lady Auto-tune.

His career spanned from 1914, when he played uncredited bit-parts, to his final film, The Son of the Sheik, in 1926. Tragically, he died later that year, after having emergency surgery to treat appendicitis and gastric ulcers. Although the operation was successful, peritonitis had already spread throughout his body due to his condition remaining untreated for so long. Sadly, his doctors neglected to explain the seriousness of his illness, leaving Valentino convinced the malady would pass. Right up until his death, it was reported that Rudolph Valentino talked of his future.  



Rudolph Valentino was one of the most popular stars of his time, amassing a legion of fans, who were sent into mass hysteria over his tragic demise. An estimate of 100,000 people crowded the streets of New York in order to pay their respects, and reports soon came in of suicides and riots. Actress Pola Negri (another favourite of mine), who claimed to be his fiance (an issue which remains hazy to this day. Personally, the romantic in me prefers to think of this as fact!), collapsed in very public hysterics and ordered flowers spelling out her name to be placed on top of Valentino's coffin.


Valentino and Pola Negri

 Despite his popularity at the end, it wasn't easy for Valentino to carve a career for himself. It was only in 1921, with the release of The Four Horsemen of The Apocalypse that he was, technically, a star, although the studio refused to acknowledge this. Despite The Four Horsemen being the first film to make a million at the box office, Metro Pictures would not give Valentino a raise and for his next film forced him, once again, into a bit part. Yearning for respect, he quit Metro and entered into a contract with Famous Players-Lasky, a studio that focussed on commercial film. It was in this company that his stardom was embraced and his reputation as the "Latin Lover" set in stone. The Sheik became Rudolph Valentino's defining film, both in his career and his image. It is no secret of the questionable attitudes concerning other races at this time, and such a film could have easily slipped into racism (by today's standards); however Valentino attempted to distance his character from the stereotypical Arab man. When asked to comment on the subject, he said, "People are not savages because they have dark skins. The Arabian civilization is one of the oldest in the world...the Arabs are dignified and keen brained."


Valentino and Agnes Ayres in The Sheik

 Despite Valentino's legion of female fans, American men were far less impressed, and his masculinity was often questioned throughout the media. Men idolised the personality of stars such as Douglas Fairbanks (who I wouldn't kick out of bed either), however many began to take inspiration from Valentino's looks; a man who greased his hair back was known as a "Vaselino." Despising the gossip concerning his sexuality, Valentino often carried snippets of newspaper articles with him in order to criticise the contents.

Surprisingly, his sexuality continues to be questioned to this day, mostly due to the two, short-lived marriages he engaged in. In 1919 actress Jean Acker married Valentino, in part to remove herself from a lesbian love triangle she was embroiled in. Understandably, this marriage did not last long, however they remained married for 2 years, during which Valentino met Natacha Rambova. This second marriage ended bitterly, with many of Valentino's associates describing Rambova as "controlling". These marriages have since been questioned to have been "lavender marriages" in order to hide the lesbian affairs each woman was reportedly involved in. 

Another rather amusing rumour was that Rudolph Valentino was involved with Ramón Novarro, despite Novarro claiming they barely knew eachother. According to books such as Hollywood Babylon, Valentino had given Novarro an art deco dildo, which was found stuffed down Novarro's throat at his death. 


"GAY, MOI?" Valentino in Monsieur Beaucaire


Gay, bi-sexual or just an old romantic, Rudolph Valentino remains one of my favourite Dandies of the past. Seeming quite a chameleon, he portrayed a beautifully clad Arab, a Russian outlaw (squee!), a dapper playboy Earl (SQUEE!) and a much-loved toreador (SQUUUUEEE!!!). If only he had played Napoleon, then I would have assumed we were made for eachother. Oh well, I'll make do with gazing longingly...