Cross it off…

Today was a travel day. I was planning on crossing London off of my “I never” list today since today was the day I would arrive in town, but after all of today’s events I am actually able to cross off three things:

  1. I have never had anxiety attack.
  2. I have never been to London.
  3. I have never had fish and chips.

Please allow me to explain how these three things came about during the day.

We took cabs to the Gare du Nord train station this morning to catch our train to London. I paid the cab driver and went to meet the few people from our group that arrived before me. As I joined them, I noticed yellow caution tape blocking the closest entrance to the station. I heard the sound of a whistle blow and I tensed. There was an explosion and I gaped at my classmates. All I could think was Again? Seriously this is happening again? I wanted to cry. I wanted to get back in the cab and just sit in our hostel. Paris was fine with me, I didn’t need to leave, not today, not at this train station.

But of course, we did need to leave, today, at this train station. So we walked into the train station as a group. All of my nerves were on end. We made our way towards a couple of elevators we thought we were going to take to customs on the second floor. We were redirected towards the giant crowd surrounding one escalator and one set of stairs. Every train before ours had been delayed and in order to combat the crowd, only passengers from one train at a time could go up to customs at a time. So we had to stand in the growing crowd and wait for our turn. We waited for maybe an hour at the most, but during this time, trains released steam and standard whistles blew for other train arrivals and departures. Every loud sound sent a ripple of fear through me. I stood with a wall to my left, a wall to my back, a table to my right, and luggage to my front. I fanned myself with my passport and ticket and did my best to take as many slow, deep breaths as I could. I didn’t need to freak out, I didn’t need to cry. Everything had been handled, and we wouldn’t be allowed in the building if it wasn’t safe. I knew this, but I couldn’t get my brain to turn itself off. It kept thinking of what could go wrong, and how there was no good escape routes if something did go wrong.

I felt better when we got on the escalator, but then we had to wait again in line for French customs and then British customs. I hated waiting and I hated the crowd around me. I don’t know where this anxiety came from, because I never used to have any problems with either of those two things. But there I stood, fanning myself, willing my brain to shut up for just a few minutes.

When it was finally my turn to go through French customs, I was relieved because I knew I was closer to getting away from the crowd behind me. The worker behind the glass said something to me in French, I’m not sure what. Then he asked in French if I spoke French. I said no. He said in English this time, “You have beautiful eyes.” I wasn’t expecting him to say that. Even though it was comforting, it made me feel like I was going to cry. I said thank you and he handed me my passport back and said bon jour. I really needed to get my emotions in check.

Thankfully on the train I calmed down. I wasn’t entirely at ease, honestly, I’m still not, but I’m much better than I was this morning. So we arrived in London and then took cabs to Regent’s University for our orientation. There are a lot of MSU study abroad’s staying at Regent’s right now, and I knew one of my friends was here too. I wasn’t expecting was to get out of our cab and see him within 20 seconds of arriving, but that’s what happened. I said hello and made quick plans to catch up with him later, and then we went to orientation.

After orientation we took a bus over to our apartments. A few of us went to the ATM and then started to do some laundry. We heard from some other MSU students that the dryers here aren’t the greatest so we all decided to let our clothes air dry. We had to get creative with the limited space we had, but one room managed to string up a makeshift clothesline. We went for dinner after everything was hung to dry. I figured since we are in London, and since everyone else was getting it, that I should get fish and chips as my first meal. I’ve never had fish and chips before. I’ve never had seafood really at all before, and I am the world’s least adventurous eater. It turns out, though, that fish and chips is pretty good.

So that was my day. It didn’t start out the greatest, but I’d say it ended pretty well, and most importantly we are all safe and sound here in London!

Saturday in Paris

This morning a few of us woke up early to get to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa before the crowd got insane. We ended up walking right past the room she was hanging in so we had to back track, but we saw her. In case anyone was wondering, if you’ve seen a print of the Mona Lisa, then you’ve seen it because it looked exactly the same. Anyway, I thought the floors in most of the museum were very slippery. I was having a hard time refraining from “skating” through the exhibits.

We learned last night on our river cruise that if you spent five seconds looking at each painting in the Louvre, you’d spend two full months there. Four of us only stayed for two hours, but Brittany stayed for the most of the day. Dylan, Andrea, Sarah and I went saw paintings, sculptures, tapestries, things we thought were the crown jewels, armor, Napoleon’s apartment, and the actual crown jewels. We were tired out after just those two hours, so I can only imagine how tired Brittany was when she arrived back at 6:00 for dinner.

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After the museum the four of us went for lunch. Dylan wanted to try a street vendor he saw a couple days ago, but Andrea, Sarah and I wanted to sit down. We found a café on a corner and had a seat. It turns out we sat in a “drinks only” section of the sidewalk and had to move in order to be able to get food. Andrea had a salad, Sarah had an omelet, and I had fries and then chocolate mousse for dessert. The mousse was delish!

After lunch we came back to the hostel and waited for the people cleaning it to finish. I took a nap because I was tired and I wasn’t feeling the greatest. A group tried rent bikes to go see the catacombs but their credit cards didn’t work so they went to see a Lichtenstein exhibit at the pomp a due museum. I’m not entirely sure what everyone else was up to today, but I think everyone enjoyed the day.

We had dinner and then a few of us went to the river and the nearby music festival to work on our projects. I need to talk to people for part of my project, and that is something I struggled with today. I get nervous talking to strangers, especially strangers that I feel like I’m interrupting and strangers that speak another language. I talked to a bartender about the music festival, which went well because I didn’t feel like I was interrupting him too much. He was also a good-looking guy, so that didn’t hurt either. There was also a guy who walked through one of my pictures, and then proceeded to pose in front of my camera, so I took his picture a few times. Then he asked for me to send them to him so I’ll have to do that later.

Those of us who were out working on our projects met back up with everyone at the hostel to go explore the Latin quarter. I had gone to the Latin quarter last night, and was desperately in need of a shower so I stayed back. I needed a night to unwind and just relax anyways because Paris feels pretty nonstop all the time! I started to read a book Kristen just finished about a girl traveling in Paris. It’s exciting because the author mentions places here that we’ve been to, and I can actually picture it or I can write down new places here that we haven’t been yet.
Tomorrow there’s a huge market that opens at 7:30 and the Tour de France is supposed to be coming through tomorrow too, so I’m sure some of us will be representing MSU at both events. Hope everything is going well at home. We miss all of you!

My wifi is not cooperating right now, so if I can, I’ll update this post with a few more pictures from the day a little later!

Am I really doing this?

The amount of times I’ve thought, Am I really doing this? in the past two weeks has been astronomical compared to the rest of my past 20 years. In particular, I’ve thought it twice in the last 24 hours.
Yesterday we went to Lomography, a film-camera store. I think I talked about it in a previous post on my personal blog. Yesterday, I was looking at a Diana camera. They had two models. One that shoots 120mm film that develops as square photos and one that shoot 35 mm film that develops as two inch by three inch photos. By design it’s a toy camera that gives photos a softer, more artsy effect. I think film would be fun to explore and Dylan said something about how excited he was to have his own print of a picture he took of the Eiffel Tower on his film camera the other. So naturally, that idea stuck with me and has been enticing me to want something similar.
Anyway, today I decided to go for it and I bought the Diana F+ Mr. Pink camera that shoots 120mm film. I’m going to be honest, I splurged, but I’m passionate about photography and I don’t know if I’ll ever get back here to take my own film photo of the Eiffel Tower. Plus, I know I’ll use the camera at home too.
Diana F+ Mr. Pink - picture from Lomography.com

Diana F+ Mr. Pink
– picture from Lomography.com

I bought a three pack of color film for the camera and am going to start setting it up after I’m done blogging. I’ve heard that your first roll of film is generally poor quality because you’re not entirely sure what you’re doing and you’re a little nervous, but hopefully that will add to the effect.
The second time I asked myself, “Am I really doing this?” was later tonight during a street performance. Andrea, Brittany and I were sitting by the river when a group of people wearing little clothes and lots of body paint set down speakers and started dancing. They were dancing awkwardly for about fifteen minutes, but they were having a good time and we were certainly enjoying it. After those fifteen minutes of dancing, the six performers started walking down an invisible catwalk and clapping. One of the performers turned to me and told me to start clapping, so I did. Then another performer came up to me and said, “Your turn.”
Am I really doing this? I really did walk the invisible runway in front of a crowd of people. I was fully clothed with no paint on my body, but the performers were excited about it anyway! They cheered when I blew them a kiss, and after I finished Andrea walked the catwalk too. The performer who got me to participate kissed my hand and thanked me. He told me and Andrea that the other five performers were all professional dancers (he was not, he was 50 he said), and they do this whenever they feel like it because they enjoy life and want to make people happy. Brittany videotaped the whole thing, and it was an amazing experience.

À Fonds Perdus (Faded Out) – Raynal Pellicer

Elizabeth Izzo

À Fonds Perdus (Faded Out) – Raynal Pellicer (curator)

Location: Atelier des Forges, Parc des Ateliers

This exhibit was about editing photos for press before the digital era and Photoshop arrived. It included photos with crop marks drawn on them, clothes colored over, limbs removed, and backgrounds whited-out. It also had some “before and after” photos. Frames were attached perpendicularly to the wall. One side of the frame held the original photo with its notes and edits on it, and the other side of the frame held the newspaper clipping it was published in and how it looked after it was edited.

I learned a great deal about editing at this exhibit. I guess I was pretty naïve to think that photos weren’t edited much for newspapers. It makes sense though, as stated in the artist statement, that dark and distracting backgrounds were taken out to keep the layout of the paper light. I found it interesting that many edits were the result of just drawing over the photo.

 

After and before.

After and before.

One of my favorite photos was of a man and woman hugging that got edited to just the man’s face. What I loved best was the way that the ink that covered the woman’s face in the photo. It appears almost like hair covering her eyes with the way that the brush strokes stops under her eyes. It kills whatever sentimental moment was occurring and focuses only on the man’s face. I wonder if it had anything to do with the more male dominated society in the past. No matter what, I enjoyed the exhibit. I feel like I have a better understanding of where Photoshop came from now.

 

Les glorieux – Marion Gronier

Elizabeth Izzo

Les glorieux – Marion Gronier

Location: Salle Henri Comte

The description of this exhibit on the Arles in Black website is quite confusing. I was confused about its description while I was viewing it as well. The artist seems to talk about the relationship between the human body and the face. She discusses the idea of a mask of the human body breaking and the face lacking all emotion. She also mentions the transformation of conscious objects into lost ones.

Honestly, it was all a little over my head. I don’t know if it was just the language barrier (perhaps there was something lost in translation) or if I just didn’t understand what the artist meant. Regardless, I found the exhibit interesting.

Circus performers.

Circus performers.

The exhibit displayed portraits of circus performers. All of the subjects were in costume, but they were expressionless. All of the photos were in square frames: some were matted and others were not. I wondered what the significance was between the two different displays.

There was a video that played in the exhibit as well. It had behind the scenes footage from the photo shoots and the first gallery opening. It was interesting to see the makeshift studio that was used and the artist’s reaction to the installation.

I thought the exhibit was interesting especially since the artist focused on faces being expressionless. The contrast between the extravagant costumes and blank faces was incredible to me. I did a self portrait project at the end of the semester that dealt with similar subject matter, so this exhibit spoke to me in a way that it might not have to other people.

Top photo: Boy with the sad, beautiful eyes

Top photo: Boy with the sad, beautiful eyes

I found it intriguing the way that each person lacked emotion in a different way. Some looked sad, others angry. There was a boy about my age that looked beautiful in his show make up. Normally guys in make up make don’t make me think beautiful, but his eyes conveyed sadness in such a beautiful way.

 

Cameraless

Today most of us took a day trip to Cassis, France to go to a beach on the Mediterranean Sea. I decided that with the sand and potential lack of security, I didn’t want to bring either of my cameras (DSLR and point-and-shoot) with me. I packed a towel, a change of clothes, some snacks, water, money and my iPod. My iPod doesn’t have a camera on it, so I was sans camera for the entire day. This is a relatively new feeling for me, especially since it seems like I’ve had my camera with me everyday since the fourth grade when I got my first Kodak digital camera.

Anyway, my point is that I was feeling a little naked and perhaps a little exposed too. Usually I can use my camera as something to hide behind if I need to, and obviously that wasn’t going to be possible on this trip. Aside from not getting it full of sand and not getting it stolen, one of the reasons I didn’t bring a camera was because I’ve started to get the feeling that I live my life through my viewfinder. With my eye always behind a camera lens, I generally only experience what the camera can show me. I find it easy to overpass experiencing what’s happening around me because I am so busy trying to capture it as a memory.

I’ve started to try and change this about myself. I figured maybe if I experience life while it’s happening, my own memories might serve me better than the tons of pictures I take that I rarely look at again. This was my goal for today at the beach.

Therefore, in this post you will not find any photos. Of course, my classmates will blog later and post photos, so if my stories don’t convey the experience well enough, you’ll be able to see for yourself! Since I’m falling asleep as I write, and I know that Mandy is going to blog about our day too, here is the condensed version of the day.

We took two trains from Arles to get to Cassis. When we arrived in Cassis, we walked for 25 or 30 minutes downhill to get to the beach. It wasn’t a bad walk. We were in the shade most of the time, and although I almost twisted my ankle on flat ground, we arrived at the beach all in one piece. The sand was mostly flat, smooth rocks. The temperature was perfect. It was warm, but not hot. There was no humidity, which was a welcome change from Arles, and there was a nice breeze coming off the sea. It was interesting because it looked tropical, like Florida, but it definitely didn’t feel like it. We lathered up with sunscreen, set out our towels, and went to the water. The water was cold. My dad wouldn’t have even come close to putting a toe in it. But the longer we were in the water, the more adjusted we became to the temperature, and it began to feel good. I crossed “swim in the ocean” off of my bucket list today. Although I’ve seen the ocean and have put my feet in it before, today was the first day I completely submerged myself in it. Even though we technically swam in a sea, not the ocean, it was a body of salt water, so I count it as the same. If we really want to get technical, we were in a bay, but you get my point: it’s off the list.

No one prepared me for the mouthful of saltwater I was going to get even though my mouth was closed when I first dunked my head. I could have eaten an entire bucket of popcorn and still had salt leftover in my mouth after that. We took turns between sitting on the beach to watch our stuff and swimming in the water. A couple of us even went into town and had pastries for lunch. We returned to the beach with more than full stomachs (we each had three pastries we tried) and continued to enjoy the day. We lucked out with a free bus ride back up to the train station and arrived home a couple hours later.

Today was an amazing day, and although I can’t show you the beautiful sights that I saw, I accomplished my goal of experiencing life while it’s happening. Thanks for bearing with me through this post, I promise that pictures are on the way!

Festival d’Avignon by Stéphane Couturier & Frédéric Nauczyciel

Elizabeth Izzo

Festival d’Avignon by Stéphane Couturier & Frédéric Nauczyciel

Located at Cloître Saint-Trophime

The Festival d’Avignon is an annual festival of arts that is held in July in Avignon, France. The festival was founded in 1947.

The artist statement that accompanies it can best describe the exhibition of photos from the Festival d’Avignon:

“…we have invited, over four consecutive years from 2007 to 2010, an artist working in photography to cast his or her gaze over an edition of the Festival d’Avignon, transforming it into a subject to be revealed in a different way and each time with a different theme: the public, the actor, memory and, then, scenography.”

Two of these “gazes” are displayed in the exhibit I saw yesterday: Frédéric Nauczyciel displayed his view on the public during various performances, and Stéphane Couturier displayed his view on architecture and scenography of the festival.

Frédéric Nauczyciel took long exposure shots of audiences during performances at the festival. I found them interesting because they generally lasted the entire duration of the show. It makes me wonder what kind of camera was used, and what settings were used in order to have the shutter open for so long without getting a completely white photo. I enjoyed the concept of focusing on the audience as well. I often focus on the actors when I think of performances, so this exhibit opened my mind to a new focus.

King Lear (Pause duration 4hrs 30mins with intermission) -Frédéric Nauczyciel

King Lear (Pause duration 4hrs 30mins with intermission)
-Frédéric Nauczyciel

I singled out this image of the audience at a performance of King Lear because while I enjoyed the concept as a whole, King Lear was the only play I recognized. I found myself excited by my ability to recognize the subject of a foreign photographer in a foreign country, so this one became my favorite.

When I first saw Stéphane Couturier’s photos, I was rather far away from them. I thought they captured the space well, but they didn’t captivate me. When I moved in closer, I was surprised and instantly enthralled. His framed photos are made up of smaller, individual photos of details in the space. My photo doesn’t do it justice, but the Arles in Black website does.

Stéphane Couturier

Stéphane Couturier

I’ve seen and worked with composite photographs before in my CAS 111 Digital Image class last year. In class, the composite photos we saw were constructed either in a grid with borders around each individual photo, or the photos overlapped in a way that made it obvious it was not all one photo. Of course, the artists I saw in class were not necessarily going for the same effect as Couturier, but I found his technique the most interesting. I liked the idea of challenging my brain to deconstruct the images making up the whole.