Operation Count Down

Besides the fact that our projects are due tomorrow, our time left in London is coming to an end. We all rushed about today doing various things as we try coming to terms with the fact that our trip is almost over. Today was a little different than other days that we have had here in London because we did not have class until 3:00 p.m. So, as one could imagine, we all had different things to do. For the most part the group went to work on their individual projects, meaning that we all split to go across London in different directions. Considering everyone did different things throughout the day, it is hard to say what each and every one of us did. The only two of the group that I know of that diverged from shooting for a project were Carra and myself. She went to a photo-shoot and I went to the Winston Churchill War Rooms Museum. Later, I met up with Sarah to go to St. Paul’s Cathedral.

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A view of London from St. Paul’s Cathedral.

At 3:00 p.m. we all gathered back at Regent’s University in the Cinema for a talk from Grace Robertson, an 83 year old woman that made her career as a photographer. As she stated, “photography is fascinating,” but perhaps the most fascinating thing about today was our speaker. She was lively with wonderful stories of her life and lessons for all of us, not only about photography, but about life too. Quite possibly her best piece of advice about photography can be applied to life as well, “always be curious and always be interested.” Her enthusiasm for her work was so refreshing even after all of her years in the field.

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Howard and Grace chatting after the lecture.

After class ended, most of us grabbed dinner at Regent’s University cafeteria in attempt to use the money they have given us. We then all, again, parted ways to do different things. Most of us went to go and photograph for our projects. I ventured to three bridges of London: The Millennium Bridge, London Bridge, and Tower Bridge.

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A view from the Tower Bridge of the London Bridge.

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Because it’s London

Today marks the best day our our lives. Okay, so maybe I’m speaking more from my point of view, but nevertheless we are all in London. We woke up this morning in Paris and left with all our bags in tow to head for the train station to take the Eurostar. Upon our arrival we were exiting the taxi when we hear a sound all so familiar to us now: the sound of luggage being detonated. France apparently enjoys greeting us to every train station with a bang. We later saw when in line that there were some complications with an unknown package. We made it onto the Eurostar, and safely made it to London. (Side note: we need a fast train system in the United States of America)

We then were able to get to Regents University. It recently changed its name to Regents University, which is a really big deal because it is one of the few private universities to earn the title of “University” here. We had a wonderful orientation and received our cards that also has money on it for us to spend at Regents. After we ate and had a very informative orientation we were shown to our flats. These flats are absolutely amazing and lovely.

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Some of the interesting buildings a few of us enjoyed today.

We all began settling in and traveling and treading lightly in our surrounding neighborhood. The London locals are so friendly. First of all, today while adventuring we witnessed the cutest thing. A little girl was giving a homeless man a Coca-Cola and some chocolate. He thanked her and asked her name. “Lily,” she said. He replied, “Thank you Lily, I really appreciate this. My name is Toby.” She smiled and said hello and they wished each other to have a pleasant day.

If that wasn’t enough, there are so many less cigarette smokers here, which is marvelous. While the group was getting Fish and Chips, which were delicious, I was sitting on a bench outside of the establishment. Soon after a gentleman comes and sits next to me and begins to roll a cigarette, so I waited a bit to stand up to leave when he then says, “no, you don’t have to leave.” I reply with, “It’s okay, I’m going to stand with my friends,” to which he quickly responds, “I’m not going to smoke it while you are eating.” I hadn’t quite heard right and asked, “what?” He said, “I’m not going to smoke this while you are eating, that would be rude.” I was so taken aback and pleasantly responded with, “well thank you anyway but enjoy!” He smiled and said, “thanks! Enjoy your trip.” It was the most pleasant exchange I have had with anyone on this trip and so considerate.

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Food from the Fish and Chips restaurant we went to today.

Overall we are all pretty happy here. The weather was cool enough for pants, something that hasn’t happened yet on this trip, and we have air conditioning to boot. Here is to the most amazing last leg of the trip. Also, we are all literate again!

Fact: When in Paris, you shop and explore.

The morning started off like almost every other morning of our trip, with breakfast at our hostel. As we all scurried to be done with breakfast, we met to travel to our designated meeting place, under a statue down a few blocks from our hostel, to meet with our instructors and travel to the residence of Philippe Vermés. When arriving, we walked through a beautiful outdoor hallway that was lined with old bicycles, greens, and flowers. Shortly after our arrival, we were ushered into the home of Philippe and gathered in a circle of chairs and indulged ourselves with a sweet snack that was so graciously provided to us.

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A photo of the walkway of Philippe Vermés residence.

Philippe started off talking to us a little bit about himself and then dove right in to photographers that had inspired him. He started off as a painter and enjoyed making sculptures as well, that is until started working with photography, more specifically: portraits.  He then explained some other photographers that really inspired him, such as Nadar, Irving Penn, and Don McCullin. Not only was it clear that Philippe enjoyed these photographers, but he really admired them, something that was apparent from his stories and showing us their work.

 

Soon after telling us about other photographers, we were lucky enough to see Philippe’s work. This included many portraits he had done. We all were able to look at a book of his (Maison Européenne de la Photographie), along with two put-together, book proposals, and many other pieces he had printed. Along with seeing his work, he explained to us his thought process behind capturing a portrait and some of the decisions he makes while in the dark room developing his photos. Lastly, he showed us the older cameras he has used and how they worked, something that was really quite the sight to see. 

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Philippe Vermés shows the class how his older camera works.

Afterwards, we were able to see the studio that he does his work in, and see it being used by some other photographers. He also gathered us in his garden, so that he could take a photo of the group of us. 

Following this fascinating morning of class, the group of thirteen girls and one guy did what you might expect from a large group of younger people in a big city: shop. The group split up and was able to explore different parts of the town while shopping at many of the different interesting stores that Paris has to offer. 

Later, we all met back at the hostel for dinner. Following dinner, we split into groups again. Some of us went to the Eiffel Tower, while another group went to an outdoor concert, Notre Dame, Shakespeare and Company (a bookstore), ate gelato by the river, and then split again with some returning to the concert and some visiting the Latin Quarter. 

In the end, it was a busy day that was exciting for all of us. Each person was able to do different things throughout the day while exploring the city. 

“An American Story” by Gordon Parks

• Brittany Holmes
Exhibition: “An American Story” by Gordon Parks
Location: Atelier De Magasin Électrique
• What was the exhibition about? Discuss the central idea or ideas of this exhibition?
This exhibition was used to highlight and honor Gordon Parks, who had an led and incredible career and life in photography and film, as well as standing up against racism, “… a flamboyant personality, radically committed to the struggle against racism and discrimination, who used (as he himself said) his film and photography cameras as an arm against the prejudice and injustice that dishonoured and disfigured his country” (as found in the artist description of the Parks exhibit). Through Parks’ life, he was able to photograph some of the most important individuals in American history. However, Parks went beyond just photographing the famous people and made a huge part of his career when he joined Life magazine as a reporter. His photo essay, “The Cycle of Despair,” in the March 8, 1968 issue of Life, Parks states:

“What I want, what I am, what you force me to be is what you are. For I am you, staring back from a mirror of poverty and despair, of revolt and freedom. Look at me and know that to destroy me is to destroy yourself. There is something about both of us that goes deeper than blood or black and white. It is our common search for a better life, a better world.
Look at me. Listen to me. Try to understand my struggle against your racism. There is yet a chance for us to live in peace beneath these restless skies.”

With his life work, he was able to take a political stand that would forever leave an impact on the country and the world. These photographs not only document a time period that was in need of being shared in order to achieve progress, but also as a reminder of how far we have come and far we still have to go.
• From this exhibit it is easy to see how one person can really impact the world. When entering the exhibit, Gordon Parks’ name sounded familiar, but I could not necessarily put my finger on his work. However, when I walked into the gallery, I was instantly aware of how I knew his name and the impact he has had on my understanding of history. His life exemplifies the meaning of a politically active photographer. Through his expansive amounts of photos he was able to raise social and ethical issues within America that others were not comfortable to talk about, or did not know how to bring the topic of racism to a discussion. Parks delivered the topic of discrimination and racism, quite literally, to America’s doorstep. It is inspiring to see how one man had such an impact on one country’s political discussion.
•To pick one image from Gordon Parks’ collection that is memorable is simply not a feasible task. Each of Parks’ collections are reminiscent of a time period or subject that holds great importance to America’s history and struggles. These images are those that have taught us, even as young children, who the great leaders were and are. It is these images that we learn of the injustices of the past, and relate injustices of the present to. I cannot pick but one image from Gordon Parks, because I feel as to pick one image means to pick one statement that should be focused on, something that goes against the concept of his life work as a whole.

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“1936, Dina, Pierre, Sacha…” by Pierre Jamet

• Brittany Holmes
• Exhibition: 1936, Dina, Pierre, Sacha… by Pierre Jamet
   Location: Atelier De Formation

•This exhibition was about the youth hostels that were a newer concept in France at the time. These new hostels were becoming a popular and affordable place for youths to stay when wanting to travel before World War II. This series followed a group of youths at the hostels to show the spirit and freedom of these young adolescents enjoying life.

Image•The most valuable thing I learned from this exhibit was that life is too short and you may never know what will happen. It also reinforced the idea of living in the moment. In all of these photos the candid shots and even the posed photos exemplify the attitude of these young, optimistic people. With these images an everlasting utopia of that time has been created and recorded. As stated by Corinne Jamet, “[t]his collection of images, imbued with deep humanism, exudes an irresistible joie de vivre and perfectly sums up the spirit of the period. The shadow of the historic disaster which as to follow renders the euphoria so evident in these photos all the more fragile.” These images not only capsulate the carefree nature of the time, but remain a constant reminder of the brevity of that outlook as well.

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• One of the most memorable images in this exhibit was that of a group of over seven youths playing leap frog. This image really struck me when I saw it. When I was looking at this photo with a classmate, I remember saying, “wow, people just don’t know how to have fun like this nowadays.” This image to me stood for the epitome of fun and joyous youth, and to think that some of these young people would soon be killed was so haunting. It really made me think about how I as a youth spend my time, and if something were to ever happen would other people be able to look at my generation and think that we really lived.

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“Optic Nerve” by Arno Rafael Minkkinen

• Brittany Holmes
Exhibition: Optic Nerve by Arno Rafael Minkkinen
  Location: Atelier De Mécanique

• This exhibition was about making the image that the camera captured into an idea that now takes place in the mind. The idea that things that can be imagined can be captured with a camera was the original thinking of Minkkinen when he started photography. However, when continuing his work photography various parts of his body, he began to see that the opposite can be true. Through this dual belief of the important relationship between camera and brain, Minkkinen has been able to begin to see things before imagining them. As he stated, “[t]here is no manipulation of the image of any kind even though my imagination can pre-visualise a thousand possibilities. For any idea to succeed it has to be anchored in the reality of the moment of its making” (as found in the artist description at the beginning of Minkkinen’s exhibit).With the combination of these ideas, and many years of experience, Minkkinen is now able to allow his camera to see things his mind has not yet imagined, Minkkinen states, “[t]hat’s the inventive side of the task; the responsibility I share with my camera to wrestle from reality new sparks of spontaneity and unique visual impossibilities.” He does this while still maintaining the power to create what his mind sees. Through this experimentation and balance, he is able to deliver these unique images. As he states, “[a]rt is risk made visible.” Through his work it is easy to see that these risks pay off to allow for impactful images.
• The impression of this exhibit is one that is everlasting. Besides the fact that these beautiful black and white images were well composed, sometimes used perfect reflections, focused, and many other things that lead to the final result of an excellent image, they were most importantly unique. The singlehanded most important lesson to be learned from this exhibit was to take the time to really compose an image to make it your own. What was most fascinating about Minkkinen’s work was that he was able to bring a fresh perspective to the human body, something that we have all seen in many different angles and lights before. In order to make something so familiar seem very abstract and memorable is something that was awe-inspiring. Also, the ability to allow the camera to see some of the things that your brain may have overlooked is something that is thought-provoking and useful to keep in mind when photographing. This exhibit highlighted the importance of one’s view on the world and making a mark by being able to communicate that feeling with others.

•One memorable image from this exhibit is the one Minkkinen’s feet in the sand and his arms laid flesh against the backs of his legs. It is entitled, “Self Portrait,” like most photos in this exhibit. This image stood out to be because it is not often that we see hands and feet connected, even more so with the arms behind the legs. Another important aspect that drew me to this image was the diagonals that the arms and legs created within the photograph.

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The Knowledge Comes To Us

This morning wasn’t like every other morning. Part of that reason is because that we are all in Prague, it still is very unreal at times. However, the wonderful treat this morning is that Darcy was able to have class with us in our hostel. This may not sound like a big deal, but any extra time that we are able to sleep in we greatly appreciate it.

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Today we were about to learn more about the different settings on our cameras and how to use what we have been talking about to make more purposeful choices when composing a photograph. The four best friends to know about in photography are aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and the intensity of the light. We were able to do a workshop with these settings in our hostel to see the difference they make.

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After class was over, we signed up for fifteen minute time slots for tomorrow to meet with Darcy to discuss our photography so far. We also found out, that on Monday, we will be having our work critiqued by Markéta Luskacová and Libuse JarcovjákováThis is something we all found really intimidating, but are excited for at the same time.

Following class, a group of five of us accompanied Darcy to the Communist Museum. While we were there we learned a lot about the history of the Czech Republic and the trials and tribulations this country went through just in the last one hundred years. It was very interesting to see the vast number of changes that this country has gone through not so long ago. It really helped wrap up what the speakers, all of whom were Czech, had talked about and give more context and background to their stories. In the museum they had artifacts, pictures, and a short film. The pictures and artifacts had captions in six different languages. To find English, we simply looked for the British flag.

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The other group members left, and Darcy and myself were able to find our way to some really interesting statues made by David Cerny and Wenceslas Square. It was so interesting to see the different architectural styles from the different time periods.

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On the way back to the loft, I saw some familiar faces out of a window that were yelling my name.

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In observance of the fourth of July, the group had decided to eat at this American themed restaurant. We saw this place since the first day and were intrigued from the beginning.

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With the food finished, some of us headed back to the hostel to quickly retrieve some things, and some joined the rest of the group that went to the Salvador Dalí museum. We took some photos and then moved on to separate things.

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Later, four of us went to eat at a place and all got pizza. It was delicious. It was the perfect end to a perfect day.