Two Speakers and A New Chancellor’s Photo Shoot

Today was a very busy day and slightly different from the others because we had not one, but two speakers on the calendar! We were anticipating great presentations, but what we got was so much more than just a presentation.  Our first speaker was Andy Golding, head of Photography and film at the University of Westminster, as well as a proclaimed master of light in photography. His lecture was called “Photographing London” and in his presentation we learned about the history of image making in London and how these images portrayed London throughout history and all the way up to modern day. Of course we were never bored for a moment in his lecture due to his playful personality and engaging qualities. He asked us questions and prompted us to do the same. He shared work done by others that had inspired him in the past and taught us about light placement and technique. In the photo below, Andy was explaining to us how the harshness of the projector light made the shadows in his face darker and deeper which accentuated his wrinkles and caused him to look older. He then compared that to the soft light coming from the screen and onto us and said the light made our faces soft and fabulous.

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Here, Andy was explaining how the light sources in the room were lighting his face. This was especially interesting for me to hear.

Halfway through Andy’s presentation, we noticed that the new Chancellor of Regents College was having a photo shoot just outside of our classroom! We watched how it was conducted to get a feel for what a photo shoot was like from the photographer’s perspective. It ended up being a good learning experience. At the end, we all took a picture together holding a Michigan State University flag!

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Our second speaker was a wonderful woman from South Africa whose photography focused mostly on innocence in adolescence and identity among all kinds of people in the form of portraiture. Michelle Sank was exceptionally passionate about her work and described her relationship with each of her subjects. People in her portraits would seem so relaxed and confident in states of extreme vulnerability of one’s self. She stressed the importance of a person’s interaction with their background and her conscious efforts to capture the person within their background as a means to further implement who they were in the portraits. She spoke of how clouds add emotion and movement to a portrait and how they have such a great impact on her photography.

“Large skies are like a celebration of life” – Michelle Sank

After her presentation, we truly understood what she meant when she said she was a “social anthropologist…in a way”. Her photos captured the essence of people more vividly than any other portraiture I have seen.

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What They Mean By “You Win Some, You Lose Some”

Today was a very interesting day to say the least. I experienced many great moments indeed and I am sure that many of us could recall happy feelings, but there were also some moments that were not as sweet. The day started with a guest speaker by the name of Nigel Dickinson. His work was mostly documentary photography and it truly embodied every sense of the work “documentary”. His photos captivated the essence of controversial topics and told detailed stories of people’s lives. His images illustrated a message and elicited truth so that we as the spectators could question ourselves and ask “what role do I play in this issue?” This kind of question replayed in my head with every image and for that, I could say that Nigel’s work had the most impact on me thus far, not only as a photographer but as a human being in this world. Walking out of that presentation, I felt renewed and recharged.

Then, at 3 p.m., it was time to meet up at the museum…

It did not just rain on us, it poured. With our beloved cameras, we ran through the Luxembourg gardens in search for shelter and without much luck, not for ourselves, but for our fragile cameras. The rain was unmerciful and it roared with enormous droplets and cracking thunder. After 30 minutes, we were drenched, shivering, and physically drained when the rain finally became calm and permitted us to search for the Jeu de Paume. Once we arrived, I regretted that I had ever wished for air conditioning, but after a good pep talk with the group, we moved on to experience one of the most unique and moving exhibitions I have ever encountered. Lorna Simpson’s exhibition was excellent and focused on hair and how it can communicate ideas of identity in ways of gender, ethnicity, and humanity. It was astonishing how she communicated such deep ideas of identity without showing any faces. For this, I applauded her and was in awe of her work. Although we all walked through the exhibition freezing and soaking wet, I would say that we managed to “win some” in spite of our loss.

Just before the madness of the weather, I was able to catch some calm rainy shots, naive as to what would be come in my near future.

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Just before the rain came pouring…

At the Luxembourg Gardens

At the Luxembourg Gardens

Sunday Evening As….One of My Most Memorable Nights Thus Far

Tonight was one of the most memorable nights I have had thus far on this study abroad trip. It all started with the Tour de France this evening. This year was no ordinary year. This year was the tour’s 100th year anniversary and it seemed like everyone in Paris was there with us to enjoy the exceptional occasion. My view was extraordinary and I was able to get some clear shots!

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Synchronized plans flew above us during the race and made these beautiful colors in the sky

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After the Tour de France, three of us headed over to the FNAC live music festival in front of city hall! The combination of wonderful music and French culture made the show wonderful and enchanting. Olivia described it as feeling as though the culture was truly embracing us and that we were finally a part of Paris. An artist that we really connected with was Sophie Hunger whose talent and performance overwhelmed us. Many of her songs are on YouTube and I posted one of my favorites below.

Toward the end of the show, we noticed a group of young people dancing in the fountain. We passed this fountain almost every day but had never seen it so lively and so energetic as we did then. Within an instant, we decided to climb in and join the locals! While we danced together and splashed around to the buoyant music of Jacques Higelin we let ourselves be free and I must say, I have never felt so comfortable and at home in France than in that moment.

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Olivia and Katie dancing the fountain

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FNAC Live Music Festival in front of city hall!

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Moving On and Half Way There

Today we moved on to a city most of us have only heard of in stories and seen in photographs. Today we took on Paris! After the long haul of luggage from our hostel to the train station, we took a 4 hour ride to Paris anticipating another chapter to the greatest adventure of our lives.  The train ride was long but, as usual, we all kept each other in good company whether we were laughing with each other or sleeping with headphones in our ears.

Dylan was so tired his glasses were crooked. He wasn't alone

Dylan was so tired his glasses were crooked. He wasn’t alone

Once we arrived we were absolutely ecstatic and ready to take on the city before us! Paris is beautiful and impressive. There is so much culture to take in and so much to see that we were overwhelmed with joy.

“I have only been in Paris for a few hours and I can honestly say that this is the happiest I have ever been.”

–        Amber Taylor

Arriving at our hostel was the cherry atop our excitement! Not only was the hostel gorgeous and our rooms extraordinary; it was in a great location that placed us right in the middle of the city’s action and culture. This hostel was by far the nicest and most notable hostel we have stayed in on our trip so far and we were so excited to make it home. We were also told that we would receive breakfast and dinner which would be prepared for us in advance each day! This was most appealing seeing that Paris is very expensive although I don’t know how well it will keep us from famous French pastries.

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After we all were settled in, Professor Bossen came to the hostel and joined the trip! We followed him to the apartment that he and his wife shared and in the kitchen we encountered an immaculate table spread with fine cheeses, meats, breads and garnishes for dinner. The meal was delicious and it was a great pair to his orientation of what we were to expect on our journey in Paris.

Leaving Professor Bossen’s apartment bellies full, we decided to explore the area and find out what was happening in the city! We followed the Seine River to see monuments we had only heard stories about such as the Notre Dame and the lock bridge. After seeing these things, we realized that all of the stories were not said in vain. From every angle the Notre Dame was more magnificent and with every lock, our hearts grew fuller.

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For the first day in Paris, I think we all could say that we were captivated and have fallen in love. Although this day marks the half-way point of our trip, we are now even more anxious and thrilled to experience what else Paris has to offer us.

Revolution

Hiroshi Sugimoto

Exhibition: Revolution

Location: Espace Van Gogh

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Hiroshi Sugimoto’s exhibition felt like I was traveling through another dimension, as he intended. The photographer described experiences in his childhood of often having out of body experiences. He would watch himself doing things, he would float above the earth and glide and he felt as though in his gaze he would float out into the air above everything. He went on to say how he once experienced the same thing in his adulthood and that it inspired him to do this exhibition. This story I believe was very effective in terms of how the spectator should interpret his work. Although there were only about 8 photographs in his exhibition, each made you feel as though you were floating abouve the earth and experiencing your very own out of body experience.

Each image was an exposure of a horizon at night with about one half sky and one half land/horizon. Instead of displaying these images horizontally as many would assume a horizon image should be, he placed each photo but 2 of them on either side of the room vertically so that the viewer is a bit disoriented at first glance. When I first took on one of his vertical horizons, I didn’t realize what I was looking at. The sky and land were so similar in color and were hard to differentiate. Once I realized I was looking at horizons, the rays of light in the sky became clearer and I noticed the moons, shooting starts and other astronomical figures. It was truly enchanting and made me feel as though I was gliding in the sky among the stars.

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Sugimoto also consciously illuminated the mount behind the photos giving them this mystical, floating look about them. This enhanced the out of body idea that he was trying to convey. I thought that including this was a great decision and that it gave the photos an entirely new look. If the images would have simply been on the wall, they could have been lost in it. With the light, the horizon had dimension as well as a beginning and end. My favorite image was one of the two horizontal images in the front and back because it took me to that place that Sugimoto was referring to. With this photograph, I was truly able to connect with him as a spectator and as a photographer.

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“Untouched”

Guy Bourdin

Exhibition: Untouched

Location: Espace Van Gogh

This is a rare self-portrait of Guy Bourdin

This is a rare self-portrait of Guy Bourdin

Bourdin’s exhibition showcased his “untouched” or unedited photography that one would not have seen in a vintage issue of vogue that one could typically find his work. The photos were straight from his dark room, black and white and of various kinds of photography. Although his fashion photography in color was presented in a projection at the end of the exhibition, most of his photos were abstract portraits of women and some men. Through these photos, one could really see who Guy Bourdin was as a photographer. Bourdin used light and subjects to make his photography come to life. Photos of a woman in beautiful clothing would comment on more than just the fashion or the model; it proposed modern ideals, concepts and feelings. In Boudin’s exhibition, I felt feelings of innovation, originality and a sort of uncomfortable familiarity of conceptualizing a human being as an idea within a certain scene or atmosphere.

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This photo is one of my favorites because it is clearly fashion photographer, but it is a perfect of example of Bourdin trying to communicate an alternative concept. The three cows witht heir tounge out are reflecting the shape of the models hat and it really makes you question whether or not Bourdin chose these 3 animals simply for the relation to the shape of the hat.

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Many of Boudin’s darkroom photos were displayed unaltered as they were discovered. These small photos were purposely and individually showcased in glass frames to show the raw character of the series of photos. Usually, with fashion or staged photography the viewer is expecting a beautified version of the image before them. These photos are a stark contrast to that expectation in which the viewer is surprised at the beautiful simplicity of his raw black and white images. It seems as though spectators would be somewhat unsettled when trying to make sense of the message portrayed in the image before them as I was. This is what I think makes this series particularly interesting and intriguing.

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Boudin’s skill with light and composition also made his “untouched” exhibition one of a kind. At the end of the exhibition, his projection of fashion photography showcased various types of colors and compositions while also communicating a message or concept. Fashion photography is generally interpreted as a materialistic and singular form of art. At most, it is seen as a reflection of modern pop culture. Boudin’s photography does more in that it makes the viewer ponder on the images’ meaning all while interpreting the elements of fashion and culture within the image.

An image fro the projection at the end of the exhibition. It was extremely inspiring and complex

An image fro the projection at the end of the exhibition. It was extremely inspiring and complex

Retrospective

Sergio Larrain

Exhibition: Retrospective

Location: Église Sainte-Anne

When entering Serigo Larrain’s “Retrospective”, I was immediately captivated by his photography. Upon first glance, his work seemed to illustrate the hardship of one’s life and more specifically, the distress of children in Chile. I found myself feeling sorry for them and pitying them, but then I realized that this was not the only message Larrain was trying to convey. These children were too young to endure the harsh realities of life they managed. Larrain successfully communicated the fact that these children were being robbed of their innocence and that, more appallingly, no one cares. Larrain was strategic in his efforts to only capture the children and their experiences. His photography throws this in the faces of the spectators so that we cannot overlook or ignore the struggle of these children. His photography gives them a voice.IMG_4871

As I moved along the exhibition, Larrain’s photos of people in London mirrored his concept and took it a step further. His photos evoked feelings of monotony and emptiness one experiences in adulthood that comes after one is stripped of their innocence in their childhood. In the earlier photos of the Chilean children, they are seen hanging off of edges, and straining for their next move. We see the same idea in the pictures of businessmen in London. Most of us can assimilate to this kind of life, but most us never connected it with the concept of “the loss of innocence”. This created a sort of unsettling feeling as I was drawn deeper into Larrain’s exhibition.

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This is one of my favorite photos because it conveys the idea of monotony in the black and white scheme with a trench coat identical to most businessmen in the streets of London. His head seems to be cut off as though this is either where he is headed or where he already is. It is a disturbing idea, but this is exactly what I think Larrain wanted us as spectators to feel.

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Larrain isolated himself from society in order to truly captivate this concept. It is a concept that is hard to see when competing against the natural domino effect of living life in one’s culture.  So in confinement, he found truth and through his photography, we can experience a glimpse of his experiences and realizations ourselves.