The Best of Times

As excited as I am to return to America’s high five, today has been slowly breaking my heart. During critique, Marketa talked about how when she first met us at the airport in Prague and how we all said that we were determined to have a good time on this trip. I remember being in that airport while we made our introductions, and I was absolutely terrified. Looking back on that moment is funny, because I have now become good friends with all of these people, and this trip has been nothing but a good time.

It is pretty surreal to consider how much we have seen and done in five short weeks. It seems like this trip began ages ago, and yet tonight it feels like it went by far too fast. We have grown so accustomed to adventuring with one another and having days upon days of exploring new places that the idea of going home and leading a normal, day-to-day life seems strange. We have learned so much on this trip. It was obvious in today’s final critique. This is such a talented group of creative people, and it was a treat to see how everyone has progressed in their photography skills each week. I truly hope that everyone continues to share their photos with the world, because I’m going to miss seeing new projects each week.

In addition to photography, this journey has taught me more about the world and myself than I ever could have fathomed. Sometimes my patience was tested, my body was exhausted, and my brain hurt. During those times when I just wanted to lie down and take a nap, either the city, others in the group, or a combination of both would motivate me to get back out there and venture some more, and it was worth it every time. Until this trip, never in my life have I said “This is the best day of my life” multiple days in a row. Being able to study abroad has been a true blessing.

Today after critiques, we were treated to a delicious pizza lunch, and said our goodbyes to Howard and Cathy. I just returned from fulfilling my dream of visiting Abbey Road. Brittany was kind enough to take pictures of Katie and I as we screwed around on the crosswalk made famous by the Beatles.

Katie and I nailing the famous Beatles walking pose.

Katie and I nailing the famous Beatles walking pose.

We plan on spending tonight together as a group one last time before we all head off in different directions around the globe. I am so sad to say goodbye to everyone. It has been a riot spending time with such fun, crazy, wonderful people, and I’m certain we will all continue to explore this huge world we live in, because like we have been singing since day one: “We can’t stop. We won’t stop.”

British Humor is Jolly Good

After a fun day of shopping (and by shopping I mean wandering around Harrods and touching clothes that were worth more than my life), our group was treated to a British comedy. The only British comedy I have ever really been exposed to is Mr. Bean, which I have always found hilarious, but didn’t really know if that was what most British humor was like. As it turns out, tonight’s play wasn’t too far off. We saw One Man, Two Guvnors, and it was an absolute riot. We were all laughing our heads off. At first I had a very hard time understanding what was going on because the accents were so thick and the actors spoke very fast. But after a few minutes, it became easier to understand them. There was a lot of physical humor, and it was a fun and quirky play. I am incredibly happy we had the opportunity to see such a show.

The sign for One Man, Two Guvnors outside of Theatre Royal Haymarket.

The sign for One Man, Two Guvnors outside of Theatre Royal Haymarket.

A Rainy Day in London

After a glorious morning in which most of us enjoyed sleeping in, we took the tube to explore the city. We jumped on one of the famous red double decker buses to make our way to Buckingham Palace. We didn’t get off at the right spot, but that was okay, because it gave us more time to explore. I was surprised at how many parks were in the area. It was very refreshing to find so much open space in such a big city. It was sprinkling rain for quite a while, but it was such a small amount that it was actually quite enjoyable. The weather here is so nice compared to the heat we were experiencing in Paris. We saw Big Ben and the Parliament building, then headed to Westminster Abbey. It was closed for the day, but it was still quite impressive from the outside. After that we found ourselves in a massive park, where we stopped for a few minutes to eat ice cream. Then we walked to Buckingham Palace. It was strange, because it didn’t seem quite as big as I had imagined. However, it was still wildly impressive to stand in front of such a historic building. We hung out there for a bit, then headed back through another massive park to get back to the tube. It started to rain just as we walked back to our apartments, and kept on raining throughout the night, so we decided to relax, eat some junk food, and enjoy a quiet night in. It was truly another lovely day in London.

Big Ben

Big Ben

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey

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Buckingham Palace

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Andrea and I on our way to steal the royal baby.

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Sarah, Dylan, Elizabeth, and Andrea on the statue outside of Buckingham Palace

 

 

 

Grin and Bear It

Like my grandma always said when things go wrong, “You win a few, you lose a few.” I found myself saying this more than once today. We went to the market near the Bastille, which was very interesting. There were tons of vendors with different foods, clothing, and jewelry. Even though it was 90 degrees outside, I went ahead and bought an extremely hot Nutella crepe. I’ve noticed that Nutella is incredibly popular in Europe, and I buy into the trend whenever I can.

After the market, Dylan, Andrea, Elizabeth and I decided we wanted to check out the catacombs. We attempted it yesterday and planned on renting some bikes and riding them there, but the machine for the bike rentals wouldn’t accept American credit cards and we realized we wouldn’t have enough time to look around before it closed. So today we decided we would get there via the metro. We had to walk for a while to find the right one to take- the system is very confusing. However, we were very proud when we figured it out and made it to the catacombs, but we were too late- the line was around the block, and a man working there told us we were too late to get in.

It was disappointing, but we reconvened and told each other to put our biggest smiles on. It was a different part of the city, so we decided to explore and see what we could find. Elizabeth had spotted a large monument a few blocks down, so we headed that way. We couldn’t help but roll our eyes and laugh when we realized that it was nothing more than a large concrete block.  Our spirits rose for a second when we spotted a park, but when we walked in, we laughed again and decided that in terms of Paris parks, we had probably found the lousiest one.

The disappointing monument.

The disappointing monument.

The park we found. I accidentally lied in a pile of dirt while we relaxed there.

The park we found. I accidentally lied in a pile of dirt while we relaxed there.

There wasn’t really anything else to explore, so we headed back to the metro. Andrea and I had scoped out a vending machine, which took the only 2 euro coin I had and failed to give me an Orangina in return. We took the metro to the Luxembourg Gardens- and that’s when we finally “earned our stripes.” We dipped our feet in a massive fountain and wandered through the tunnels of trees, enjoying the shade. The flowers and lawns were stunning. All of the problems from earlier seemed to melt away there.

The beautiful Luxembourg Gardens

The beautiful Luxembourg Gardens

Afterwards we headed to the Lourve to catch the Tour de France bikers race by, which was a very cool experience. A few of us decided that we needed food, water, shelter, and hopefully wifi, so we stopped for dinner. I devoured a pizza, and I don’t think I have ever been so happy to sit down before.

Bikers in the Tour de France

Bikers in the Tour de France

There were a lot of bumps in the road today, but I’m very fortunate to be able to say that it took three weeks before I had a day where things didn’t work out well. I also think days like this are important to have, because they make you appreciate the good days even more, and they build character. You can either complain and be miserable, or laugh it off when things go bad, and many laughs were had. And as for visiting those pesky catacombs-  I firmly believe that the third time’s a charm.

John Stezaker: Working From the Collection

Mandy Zlotek

John Stezaker: Working From the Collection

Location: Atelier Des Forges

Doux-Amer by Michel Vanden Eeckhoudt is chaotic and dreamlike. Almost every photograph is widely open for almost any form of interpretation. For many photos, it is difficult to describe what kind of emotions they evoke. They are awkward, strange, and unsettling. Some are funny and some are dark. Viewing Eeckhoudt’s work is like trying to describe a dream. The dreamer knows exactly how they feel, but words can never do the dream justice, because no one can interpret things in the exact same way.

Eeckhoudt tends to combine different photographs and overlap them with one another. Several walls contained photographs of different famous people combined with one another. They were humorous but uncomfortable to look at, because together, the faces created one head, but it was an unnatural and inhuman combination. He also had a series of black and white portraits with a smaller color photo of scenery layered over the face, forcing the viewer to compare and contrast humans with nature.

My favorite piece of work by Eeckhoudt was a room that showed a loop video of photos of horses. Each photo flashed by in the blink of an eye, but all of the horses were the same size, same pose, and same framing. The viewer looked at a horse, but could never recall any details of any specific horse because they flashed by so quickly. Like the rest of his work, it was a strange, uncomfortable, and very intriguing experience. Between the colors, shapes, and speed of all of his work, Eeckhoudt’s exhibit creates a dream like experience that is completely different from one individual to the next.

Rapid photos of horses create a strange dreamlike effect.

Rapid photos of horses create a strange dreamlike effect.

Jacques Henri Lartigue: Bibi

Mandy Zlotek

Jacques Henri Lartigue: Bibi

Location: Eglis Des Trinitaires

Bibi is an exhibition by Jacques Henri Lartigue that focuses on his relationship with his wife, Madeleine Messager, also known as Bibi. Over the course of 12 years, Lartigue photographed his adventures with his wife and documented their relationship through their courtship, marriage, children, and eventual downfall of their marriage.

The majority of the exhibit is arranged in chronological order, beginning with when Lartigue first met Bibi. The photos show their flirtation and joy of being with one another. They are presented as a lively, adventurous couple, partaking in athletic and social activities with friends.  As the exhibit progresses, Lartigue focuses more on Bibi, taking extremely intimate photos of her in their home and with friends. Bibi almost always looks poised, with an expression of total love and happiness in her face. As the years pass by, Bibi’s joyful expression fades, and the portraits of her show her isolated and alone, which is most likely due to the falling apart of their marriage. There are also photos of more women, whom Lartigue was most likely having affairs with. The exhibit comes to a close with the death of Bibi’s father, which ultimately led to her leaving Lartigue. Overall, the exhibit presents the story of the birth, life, and death of love.

One of the most notable things about Lartigue’s photos is his attention to action and the human body. He brilliantly captures people jumping, flipping, and playing sports, which gives the exhibit a more energetic quality than if it had only included portraits. On that note, his portraits are incredibly intimate, and one feels that they are stepping into a scene that perhaps they should not be looking at, such as a photo of Bibi on the toilet. In pictures like these, one might question Lartigue’s morals. These are very personal photos of a woman he claims to have dearly loved, but cheated on multiple times, and presents them for the whole world to see, which further begs the question of how much he really loved her. The images capture the moods of those within them, and it shows the contrast between young love and the heartache, loneliness, and bitterness of the end of the marriage.

One particular image that struck me was a photo of Bibi sitting on the beach. It broke the system that Lartigue was following of black and white images. He presented it in strong red tones on light blue matting. The top of the photo features Bibi’s head, and beneath it and to the side is another photo of the rest of her body in a swimsuit, lying in the sand. It is a distorted image that seems to separate her into one part body, one part mind. Her expression is vacant and hidden behind sunglasses, but her body is posed quite elegantly. On the lower left is an awkward, vacant space. I find that it is a good summation of Lartigue’s perspective of his wife: Full of love, but broken, and desiring something unknown.

An abstract arrangement of Bibi on the beach.

An abstract arrangement of Bibi on the beach.

Album Beauty by Erik Kessels

Mandy Zlotek

Erik Kessels: Album Beauty

Location: Espace Van Gogh

Album Beauty by Erik Kessels focuses on the beauty in flaws. Kessels spent years collecting old photo albums of families. Photo albums are an edited version of how the family chooses to present itself, and are also a dying work of art due to technology and new ways of storing photos. Kessels searches for the flaws in photographs and uses these distortions to tell stories and make the people in the images become even more human.

The exhibit was beautifully arranged in a messy fashion. In walking through the halls, it felt as though you were walking through pages of a messy photo album, crammed with as many photos as possible, some spilling out of the pages, and with no apparent organization. There are massive portraits of people stacked in an unorganized fashion along the walls, and while most of them are serious portraits of strangers, one can smile and feel as though they personally know who it is they are looking at. These pictures aren’t just random people, they are our friends and family, doing things that we have always known such as celebrating birthdays and lying on the beach.  Some portraits are awkward, some are seemingly boring, some are funny, but all evoke a sense of familiarity.

Some of the best images are the ones that are flawed. My favorite from this exhibit was a portrait of a young girl on the day of her first communion. She looks absolutely flawless in her white veil and lovely, calm expression. However, the photograph is completely wrinkled right on the center of her face. Somehow, this destruction of the photo brings and even more human light. The girl is celebrating a holy religious ceremony and dressed fully in white- she is the epitome of purity, but the cracks and wrinkles surrounding her face bring her back down to earth to humanity. In photos like these, Kessels shows us that mistakes can make a regular photo a perfect treasure.

Portrait of a young girl on the day of her first communion.

Portrait of a young girl on the day of her first communion.