bourdain's words + my travels to egypt

"Travel isn't always pretty, it isn't comfortable, sometimes it hurts. It even breaks your heart. But that's ok. The journey changes you, it SHOULD change you... It leaves marks on your memory, your consciousness, your heart and on your body. You take something with you. And, hopefully, you leave something good behind." 

– Anthony Bourdain, NO RESERVATIONS
(Collection 1: Episode 5, Malaysia)

I absolutely love this quote from an episode of Bourdain's show that I only recently watched. This really captures a unique but important point of view on travel. It struck a chord with me – particularly after my own recent (and incredible) trip to Cairo, Egypt. I have always felt that I'm undeniably transformed each time I travel anywhere, in a very good way. How could I not be? And to see it with fresh eyes but through someone very familair with a place is amazing. It also included moments where I feared for our safety, things that were painful to see and experiences that made me sad. But travel should teach you compassion and humility. It should redefine beauty for you many times over. It should shake you up. This trip certainly did all that and more. 


View more photos on my Instagram feed or check here.


just now on instagram

It was clear that the moment I started taking photos exclusively with my iPhone and decided to post them via Instagram, my interest in blogging decreased significantly. After more than three years of blogging and decades of photo-taking, I embraced this change. Although I resisted at first, it does make sharing my photography and point of view that much quicker and easier. In addition, I use the Camera+ app to edit photos on my phone – it's the best! This is the digital age. An increasingly seamless one. We ARE also more impatient (I know I am). Anyone else out there feel the same way? 

The bottom line: Instagram is blogging without all the work and pre-planning. Like it or not, they're doing something right. They are up to 25 million users to date! The only glitch is Instagram makes your entire stream available only via their app and to people following you via the app. So I've set up a page on my site that streams my latest photos no matter where I go, in real-time, all in one (clean) space. I will likely continue to blog occasionally, but for my most up-to-date posts, check here.

dog daze

There's not a day my dog isn't capable of improving (typically by inducing some laughter). Lexie's been photographed quite a bit but I don't have too many photos of me with my dog. She instinctively knew as soon as I got home that I was not feeling well today. She was being sweeter and more playful than usual. It needed to be documented. If you've ever lived with or cared for an animal, you will understand this type of sentimentality. 

And the one in the center of Lexie with her paw up, that's a rarely captured moment of her saying 'hi' (...yes, I taught her how to do that).


100 photographs of #61 jewel street

I recently discovered the work of artist John Monteith at the o'born contemporary gallery. I found this particular image so beautiful. From what I gather, the artist uses multiple images of the same scene, combines and layers them together to create vibrations and shifts. His work reminds me of the way we sometimes remember time, place and history. Memory can be blurry, seductive and even idealized.

If you're in Toronto, go see the show. It's up until January 29, 2011.

100 Photographs of #61 Jewel Street, Archival giclée print

back to dance

Last night I made my way back to my first dance class in two months. Despite a somewhat terrifying rusty start, it provided the joy and satisfaction of movement and expression I needed – not to mention an incredible stretch. I tried a new technique (Graham) with a friend at a new school (School of Toronto Dance Theater). At the risk of sounding overly sentimental, last night made me realize that no matter what is happening in my life or what direction I'm being pulled, I can turn to dance to bring me back to me

Having all my dance clothes back on inspired a photography search last night. It lead me to the work of multi-disciplinary artist (and dancer), Adriene Hughes. I absolutely love her photos. Her own love of dance comes through her work. They make me wish I had pursued dance more seriously. These images in particular really spoke to me. It captures the passion and desire that dancers aim to express with their bodies. I was also very moved by the artist's own story of cancer survival. It's unfathomable to me to even imagine having such an experience – especially for someone who's physicality is so vital for creativity and expression. 


on being photographed : george pitts, an artist at work (part 2)

Having the opportunity of being photographed by a master like George Pitts is something I will remember for the rest of my life. Finally getting a chance to have a look at a few of his final selections is, to put it mildly, very exciting. So here are some of the results of the photo shoot in July. In case you missed my original post, these photos will be considered for publication in George Pitts' upcoming fine art book for Taschen. The subjects for the book will consist of provocative photographs of women 35 and over. I am intrigued by this project and deeply honoured to be asked to be a part it. I was, needless to say, thrilled to be shot by such an accomplished artist. 

Prior to the shoot, George Pitts did ask me whether I would need help with hair and makeup. Having reasonable faith in my own ability to handle this, I chose to do it all myself. I also didn't feel as comfortable working with someone who's work in this arena I wasn't familiar with. So I also wore all my own clothing and jewelry. I wanted to look timeless, elegant and definitely did NOT want to look as though I was in costume. 

The whole experience was incredibly liberating. I was beside myself that whole day. I learned new things about who I am through the experience. I definitely pushed my own boundaries and forced me to confront my own insecurities. Although I consider myself to be quite confident (generally speaking) there is NOTHING quite like being photographed without your clothes on. It was as empowering as it is humbling. As someone who is already hyper-aware of popular imagery, it is a challenge to view my own photos without the filter/bias of commercial photography in advertising. I had to also come to terms with the idea of being photographed in a more provocative manner. This is something that became all the more real after actually seeing the final photographs. Another interesting discovery I made is that although I typically am pretty attached to eyewear (which I have worn and identified with for years and years), my favourite photographs turned out to be the ones where I am NOT wearing them. I actually like the way my face looks without the glasses. A bit of a surprise for me. 

These photos have memorialized a time, age and place in my life here in New York that I can fondly look back on when I'm, say, 60. In many ways, this year has presented more challenges and changes than I have ever gone through. In many ways, it seems quite appropriate that this transitional period be recorded – on film, no less. Thank you to George Pitts for the amazing photographs, the incredible experience and dialogue. 

To see the rest (and more revealing...) photographs, you'll have to wait and see if they make it into the yet-to-be-named book. ;)



polaroids from a different time : louis mendes

I was in the city yesterday just to run a few errands. Along 6th Avenue and 18th Street, I spotted this man that looked like he literally
came from a different time. It was this camera he held in his hands – very old and very cool. I stopped to ask if I could take a photo of him
and he graciously agreed. Turns out, this gentleman – Louis Mendes – takes (real) Polaroids of people on the streets of NYC for a living.
This monstrous, beautiful camera is a Graphic Speed camera with a Polaroid back is from the 1940s. Mr. Mendes also looked the part
with his blocked hat and suit.

Then he insisted on taking a photo of me. I had to agree since he kindly agreed to be photographed himself. So here's my sweaty New York
errand day look! I couldn't have been more unprepared for a portrait. Eeek. But the entire experience was such a great New York moment.  
And wow, did I covet that camera. Find Louis Mendes outside of B&H, on the streets of the city and on Facebook.

on being photographed : george pitts, an artist at work

Last week I had the privilege of being the subject of one of the masters of American photography. George Pitts is not only a highly regarded figure in fine art and editorial photography, but also in the world of academia. Few artists have been able to achieve this level of success in all these realms. He started out as a painter and is also a writer. He has been Director of Photography for such publications such as: LIFE magazine and VIBE/SPIN. He is a fine art photographer for the New York Times, Taschen Books, etc. For the past three years, he has been Director of Photographic Practices at Parsons The New School here in New York. Currently, he is also consulting Director of Photography for Latina magazine. He is working on an art book for Taschen featuring provocative photographs of women 35 and older. He was interested in photographing me with the possibility of the photos being published in the book. Needless to say, I was thrilled at the chance to work with him.

I knew after our first meeting that I wanted to be photographed by George Pitts. We had such an interesting discussion about photography and sensuality. I felt that I was dealing with a very thoughtful, humble, intelligent creative and a true artist. I was comfortable around him which was really key for me. He also challenged me and was genuinely interested in my ideas, my biases and my general point of view as a female art director/designer who is conscious and critical of media's image of women. When I asked about the inspiration behind photographing women over 35, he told me that it started out as a personal project, born out of a genuine love for women. He found older women were not only more interesting, but also largely invisible in the media landscape. Unlike the French, there is clearly a glorification of youth in American culture (as with many others). Taschen was so interested in this work that they proposed the idea of a book. Partly because no one else has taken on the subject matter. The fact that he has photographed women from all walks of life (doctors, artists, mothers, writers, etc) for this book project made it even more interesting to me. I saw it as an homage to women and a once in a lifetime opportunity. 

I consider myself a feminist, one that believes in celebrating female sexuality. I think women are entitled to it and should feel confident in owning its power. I knew going into it that it would involve being photographed in the nude. It was something I was, perhaps, intellectually ready for, though it look me a while to fully feel emotionally ready. I took time to really consider my own limitations. But I felt confident that I would be in the hands of someone who had a critical eye and took this art very seriously. 

Last Friday was our scheduled shoot date. I came to a studio in Dumbo, Brooklyn – nervous and excited. I was looking forward to the experience and to continue the conversation with him. I had done a lot of thinking since our meeting and was as prepared as I could be. George Pitts used a Mamiya C330 medium format (2 1/4") film camera and used a combination of natural and circular strobe light called a "beauty dish" (I had never seen one before). He also had an old school Polaroid film camera to show me and test the lighting. He meticulously measured light before every shot. The conversation about the photos was a constant throughout the day. He took into consideration my ideas and my thoughts on style which I shared with him at an earlier date via email. He was a consummate professional. He was generous about sharing knowledge about fine art, teaching and publishing. He took notice of my awareness and attention to detail. He talked me through everything he was about to do — always conscious of my comfort level and personal preferences. Admittedly, my only hesitations were limited to personal insecurities about body image – which I knew were normal. During the shoot, we listened to everything from the soundtrack to my favourite film, In The Mood For Love by Wong Kar Wai to Grace Jones and Serge Gainsbourg. As a side note, he told me that the film In The Mood.. is also one of his favourite films and is required viewing for the class he teaches to both graduate and undergraduate fine art students, Picturing Sexuality. We discussed everything from film to art, culture, music, Michael Jackson, dance, ideas about eroticism (and the semantics around it), fashion, you name it. There was a healthy dose of laughter thrown in as well. Conversation was constant. Only interrupted during moments when he was actually taking photographs. I knew I wanted to look elegant. My design background, of course, informed my point of view and taste. He told me that he actually prefers photographing real women as opposed to professional models. 

There were things that I only realized about myself through the process of being photographed. There are things I'm only now able to articulate. My mind was—and still is—spinning from the experience. On some level, it was an out of body experience. Quite surreal. I will write more about it later when I share some of the photos from the shoot. There were many things that were unexpected that came out of working together that were interesting. The experience overall was an empowering one, personally. I am grateful for the opportunity. When we discussed the difference between the term "erotic photography" versus "pornography" he shared this: a model once told him that "erotic photography allows you to dream, whereas pornography erases the need to do so." It was a statement that stuck with him. In a recent interview I read, he mentions that he doesn't "believe the eroticized body only lies in the domain of porn... A central concern of mine is how to render contemporary sexuality creatively, with beauty, wit, depth, intensity and compassion; introducing newer paradigms in the process." This really struck me as well. It is a great learning experience to me to work with someone that is able to have critical dialogue about his work. 

Below is a selection of George Pitt's fine art and editorial photography.


visual acoustics : the modernism of julius shulman

I finally got to see the documentary film Visual Acoustics, The Modernism of Julius Shulman. Julius Shulman passed away last year
(July) after a lifetime of photographic work. He did become the most important architectural photographer in history. He had a huge role
in making modern architecture what it is today. This film was as inspiring and interesting as it was entertaining. If you haven't seen it, DO.  

His most iconic photograph: Pierre Koenig's Case Study House No. 22 

the city as inspiration

It must be that I'm inherently tropical that I enjoy summers in New York as much as I do. I am fairly comfortable in the heat. Although, I do have my limits (106° heat in Napa Valley three years ago was unbearable). The summer just brings everyone and their dog outside. I've been appreciating the city that much more through my iPhone camera as well as my Canon. I have an overwhelming urge to capture my point of view of the city, especially in warmer weather. During these lean times when travel isn't an option, why not appreciate what's immediately around you? I'm inspired to be creative when the city comes alive and there is so much to take in. Lots of ideas brewing in my head. These photos are the beginning of something. I wanted to share a little bit of it here. What do you think?  

All photos by Catherine Mangosing


swimming bunnies

When I first spotted these massive pieces, I assumed they were paintings. A conversation with the gallerist
revealed that they are actually photographs. Chinese artist Zhou Hongbin built swimming tanks for her rabbits
after she discovered that they love to swim. I was assured that the bunnies were not harmed in the process.
Of course Photoshop was then used to place multiple images of the swimming bunnies into the composition.
I just found these images mesmerizing. There's a fairy tale quality to them that I love. And who knew bunnies
liked to swim? 



portrait at the barbershop

my dad at the barbershop, toronto

I took a blog break last week to spend time with my dad. He was visiting New York, New Jersey and Toronto from Manila. I asked my sister Caroline to take some portraits of him. It had been a while since either one of us took proper portraits of him. I was excited about what she would come up with given all the recent family photo restorations that I've been working on as well as conversations about family history.
During his visit to Toronto, my sisters took my dad to Mankind – a spa and barbershop just for men. I must mention that my dad is no stranger to spa treatments. He's what we might refer to nowadays as "metrosexual." Only I remember him getting facials back in the late 70s and 80s – long before the term was coined and before I really understood what facials were all about. All I knew is it was a form of grooming for the face.
I really love this portrait Caroline took. It was shot exclusively with natural light (which is totally amazing to me). My dad looks like he's part of the mob here (yet again!). The photo looks very cinematic. He looks quite intimidating and sombre here. Ironically, he's usually more of a jokester but you'd never know it looking at this photo.


porcelain promises : drew tal

The first time I came across these photographs, I was walking somewhere in Manhattan a couple of weeks or so ago. I remembered having to literally stop and stare. They are stunning (and large) images by artist Drew Tal. Last week at the AAF, I came across them again in the Emmanuel Fremin Gallery booth. I have little information about the artist and the intent behind these photos. But to me they speak of history in terms of it's fragile and precious nature and a desire to hold on to it. I see them, of course, as someone of two cultures and viewing both in high regard – and an earnest desire to not lose one for the sake of another.

Photo by artist Drew Tal

Photo by artist Drew Tal

inspired landscapes : mikael lafontan

I was so taken by the work of French photographer, Mikael Lafontan at the Affordable Art Fair last week. His photos, primarily landscapes were large scale and possessed very high detail (using a large format camera). The mural like scale allows the viewer to appreciate all the tiny, sharp little details in the photographs. Breathtaking.

Check out his website to see more. Click on the photos to see enlarged versions.

a woman and the boss


my sis and my dad walking in toronto
My sister Caroline sent me this photograph last night of my sister Christine walking in Toronto with my dad. it had to be posted. My dad is currently visiting both our cities and family visits typically involve lot of photography. This one is just timeless. I love how womanly my youngest sister looks (she's nine years younger than me). My dad looks mafioso-like here. Where are they going? Is my sister packing a gun in that clutch? Is she being held against her will with a gun pointed at her back? This photo could have been taken in the 60s — if it weren't for the parka my dad is wearing (as well as the parked car).


inspired (calamansi) cocktail : temptation island

My aunt sent me home from New Jersey this weekend with calamansi fruits. I was thrilled just to get a whiff of it. I was so excited to bring some home with me. Calamansi is a small citrus fruit native to the Philppines and other south east Asian countries. It's the Philippine lemon, a citrus fruit. I'm more acquainted with the variety with the green skin but these smell and taste just like the green ones. If I were to describe the flavour and smell, it's as though honey was already mixed into the fruit. It is less acidic, milder than lemon. I love this stuff. I hope I can find more in Chinatown somewhere.

I was inspired to create a summery cocktail drink using calamansi – my first ever cocktail recipe. It's called Temptation Island. The name was suggested by my sister Caroline. She sent me a YouTube link for a 1980 cult Filipino film with the same name. Think LOST meets a telanovella – complete with catty girl fights on the beach, pretty boys and flamboyant gay men in tight pants . All spoken in taglish (tagalog and english hybrid) and shot on location on a "deserted" island. Hilarious. It was perfect. I kept the recipe simple to really allow the calamansi flavour to be the star. It's seriously delicious and refreshing. The perfect summer cocktail.

Temptation Island

1 oz. (or more) cold sake: try Otokoyama
fresh squeezed calamansi, about 3 fruits per cocktail glass, plus one more to garnish
1 teaspoon organic coconut sugar* (cane sugar as an alternative)
seltzer water
ice cubes

Shaken or stirred

*organic coconut sugar (photo below) is made from coconut toddy. My mom sent it to me. I'm finding out if it's available in the U.S/Canada



coconut sugar

a fresh perspective


During my juice and smoothie cleanse, I've been trying to focus on fruits and vegetables. It's been about getting back to fresh, simple and pure. While shopping at Whole Foods to supply my fridge this week, I was inspired to take these photos. Perhaps I took the photos to be inspired. Either way, I particularly love the lettuce looks. I got close enough to abstract the forms and allow it to take on a whole new kind of beauty.
I realize that by doing the cleanse, that it's really something I need to do regularly. It truly does make a difference and it's a great reminder that I don't need as much as I think I do. It's also not so extreme when you allow yourself to still have a healthy dinner.


an inspired afternoon at strand bookstore


One of the best things to do on a rainy Sunday afternoon is to lose track of time browsing through Strand Bookstore. It's a New York institution, it's where books live. There's something about how unpolished, worn-in and creaky that's so romantic about this place. It even smells old. New books are on the same shelf as old ones. There is beauty in the chaos of it's mismatched shelving units and narrow, meandering aisles. I personally always purchased the oldest copies of books available.
Although it was a gorgeous Sunday, I stopped into the Strand looking for Witold Rybcyzynski's Waiting for the Weekend. It's an extended essay on the two-day weekend, it's history and ideas behind leisure throughout history. It was recommended by a friend who knows I'm a big fan of Alain de Botton's books. This seems to be right up the same alley.
I hope you enjoy my little iPhone photo essay :)