PRAGUE – Alphonse Mucha – part one – Life and Work

St Vitus Cathedral stain glass by MuchaAlphonse Mucha (1860-1939) was a Czech painter, illustrator, and decorative artist. Often referred to as just Mucha, he studied at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts and then in Paris. After freelancing and producing some advertisement and magazine illustrations, Mucha’s break came about due to the adored Paris actress Sarah Bernhardt, who was starring in Gismonda, and which needed a new poster advertisement. Mucha’s poster was so appealing that people stole the illustrated posters to keep. Due to the sensational success of the advertisement, Mucha was hired for a six-year contract with Sarah Bernhardt.

Mucha became known for featuring women in flowing garments and surrounded by flowers, and an Art Nouveau style. Aside from posters and illustrations, Mucha also designed jewelry, wallpaper, and theatre sets.

On returning to Prague, Mucha was involved in local projects such as decorating the Theater of Fine Arts. Mucha designed and painted a stained glass window in St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague, an absolutely stunning window, which stands out from all the others. Mucha’s stained glass window looks like it was made just yesterday, the brilliance of the colors is astounding, and as always with Mucha everything is perfect – every detail, every face, every hand. That window is a must see!

** To see Mucha stained glass window stock photography click here.
— And to buy a poster of Mucha’s stained glass window visit The Monica Store site.


PRAGUE – Stories Behind the Photos

**New posters of Prague are now on my store website, AND each photo has a story. Some of those stories are:

Jan Hus Memorial in Prague

Photo of the Jan Hus Memorial in the Old Town Square in Prague.

The Jan Hus Memorial is impressive and I provide a few poster options because, being in the old Town Square, the sculptures can have various backgrounds.

Jan Hus was a philosopher and reformer in Prague whose martyrdom in 1415 became a symbol of strength against oppressive regimes. The monument illustrates victorious Protestants and Hussite warriors forced into exile; the monument also represents national rebirth. It is a powerful monument with dramatically elegant figures that are frozen in patina stained gestures of dissidence, strength, and triumph.

**  To see more Prague posters and to read more visit my store site – The Monica Store.

Travel tips for Prague – the main sights to see

I was sixteen years old when I first went to Prague , Czech Republic. I had traveled to Europe before but it was my first time in Eastern Europe and it certainly lived up what I expected – a fairytale location of castles, bridges, towers, and more.

My first visit to Prague was a quick tour, visiting the main sites, and a bit of free time to explore and all of this was with Trafalgar Tours. Trafalgar is a great way to travel since they show you the highlights along with a personal touch of a knowledgeable tour guide.

On that tour, years ago, we stayed in a hotel on the outskirts of the old town and thus had the opportunity to take the metro and since I was on this tour with my grandparents who are veteran travelers and eager to “go local” the metro was a must. I think we might have been the only ones of the tour group to take the metro. But that first night involved seeing the old town square at night and walking across Charles Bridge . I don’t think I stopped smiling the whole time.


Main Sights in Prague:

– Charles Bridge is a must see. The bridge was constructed in 1357 and completed in the start of the 15th century. The bridge crosses the Vltava river and served as the only connection between the Old Town and Prague Castle until the mid 19th century. There are 30 statues along the bridge of patron saints and saints (the originals can be seen in the National Museum ).

– The following day we toured the Old Town Square and watched the famous show of the Astronomical Clock on the hour every hour, as the figures of the apostles turn and move through the windows. The clock was built in 1410 and draws huge crowds every hour, so make sure to get there at least ten or fifteen minutes before the hour to get a good spot and hold your ground!

– We also visited shops full of bohemian crystal and purchased necklaces and bracelets.

– And then of course we visited Prague Castle . The castle occupies a large area and takes a whole day to see. One of the best ways to approach the castle is by crossing the Charles Bridge and making your way up to the castle, it give you the perspective of the grandness and fortification of the castle. The main attractions include St Vitus Cathedral (to be covered more later, in another post). The Church and monastery of St George has an interesting Basilica and the National Gallery is located in the monastery and has a wonderful collection of Bohemian art.

Visiting different sections of the castle provides a view of dungeons, large halls, and countless views of the city below. And of course there is the Golden Lane , a charming street with brightly colored houses that now hold shops but used to be were many goldsmith’s resided; the Golden Lane is like a scene from a Hans Christian Andersen story. And on the far side of the castle there is the St. Wenceslas Vineyard which you can walk through and it is also a great spot for panoramic photos of the city.

Those are the highlights.

Coming later will be other must see sites, at least on my list!

To see my photos of Prague visit my stock photography site.

Photographs of Prague

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague Castle

I first visited Prague when I was sixteen. Looking back I remember the Opera House, the Palace, of course Charles Bridge, and rain. I also remember, more then anything, a secret garden.

This month is going to be about Prague.

I will be posting new photos for sale as posters on my store site. I will also be posting a series of stories this month about my most recent trip to Prague including travel tips and photos.

And to start off the New Year follow this link to the first series of my Prague stock photography.

-Keep an eye on the site to find out about the secret garden.

Photograph of Chiesa di San Abbondio in Switzerland

Chiesa di San Abbondio in Switzerland

Chiesa di San Abbondio is a small church in Gentilino, a town just above Lugano, Switzerland. This church is probably not on the tourist map or in every guide book of the area but I think it is a must see. You can drive to the church from Lugano but I advise walking (my prefered way of getting around because you see more) because the initial impact of this church is best when you are walking. The church itself is not spetacular but the layout is – there are two paths that lead up to the church, each lined with Cypress trees. It’s a breathtakingly quaint spot.

I spent three and a half years in Lugano and I took more photos of this church than anything else. This photo shows the church after a day of snow and the cypress trees are casting long shadows on the white ground.

**  For more photos and posters of Chiesa di San Abbondio click here for The Monica Store.

Story Behind This Photo – Man in the Fur Hat

Man in a Fur Hat - SwitzerlandThe story behind this photograph…

Just up from Lugano, Switzerland there is a small lake, Lake Muzzano, between the little towns of Sorengo and Muzzano. Around most of the lake there is a walkway and a field where horses graze and then the path reaches a set of stairs that are flanked by a small vineyard. These stairs are very steep and once you make it to the top you can sit on a bright red bench, on a narrow ledge, and with your feet up on the railing and you can admire the view and observe as others climb the stairs.

One cold winter day I was sitting on one of those benches trying to warm up in the sun and I saw this man in a long winter coat and a fur hat, descend down the stairs. I lost sight of him at times (that is how steep these stairs are) but then he appeared and I took this photo.

One of my professors at my college said this image reminded him of a photo like Henri Cartier-Bresson would take – a high compliment that I do not feel worthy of but I do strive for a similar style as that great photographer!

That is the story behind this photograph.

Details: Black and white photo taken with an Olympus camera (one that they do not make anymore, sadly enough).

*This photo is available for sale on my store site. Click here and buy a poster of the “Man in A Fur Hat” today!

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows 2009

The holidays are fast approaching (pardon the cliché) and that means there are even more tourists in New York City ; it’s the place to be for the holidays because this city has some of the best decorations! Now some might say that the must see things are the Macy’s windows, the windows at Saks Fifth Avenue, or the tree at Rockefeller Center. These are all very festive, but for me the holiday decorations that I have to see every year are the windows at Bergdorf Goodman on Fifth Avenue.

Bergdorf Goodman always has elaborate windows that literally take your breath away with the amount of detail, hard work, and imagination that go into them. And the holiday windows seem to be the most outstanding of the whole year (but honestly if you go any time they are spectacular!).

This year the windows on the south side of the building are a black and white tribute to winter weather. An impossibly long piano is being played by a wolf in a tux; penguins and polar bears grace the walls, and the mannequins are gracefully dressed.

On the east side of the building the magical land of “ Alice and Wonderland” comes to life. There is one window where everything is made of paper – from the dodo bird to the tree to the larger then life book with a dining table jutting out of it. Another window is a tribute to not only Alice ’s upside down journey but also to M.C. Escher – little rooms cover the wall and staircases twist and turn in every direction. Another window creates a world of crystal and glass.

Ostriches with elaborate bird cages on their backs; horses made of moss, pebbles, and dried plants and long tails of sweeping grass flank a mannequin with an amazing dress. The north side of the building features animals with intricate perfection and again, incredible imagination with the use of materials.

And across the street there is more! The Bergdorf Goodman men’s store windows have some of the original scenes and figures from the movie “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” The amount of detail is amazing – just look at the street scene – you can see into the stores, the windows have curtains… These windows have affirmed the fact that this is a movie to see.

And honestly… the Bergdorf Goodman are the best windows to see in New York City! Don’t miss it! These windows should be mentioned in guidebooks for New York City, that is how amazing they are!