5 weeks well spent

Looking back on this entire trip I can’t believe that we’ve spent 5 weeks in Europe. Prague almost seems like a lifetime ago, but at the same time I feel like the trip was the fastest 5 weeks of my life. I knew this trip was going to be the trip of a lifetime, but I never expected it to be as fantastic as this.

Dylan, Elizabeth and I on the London Eye (Photo by Sarah Hundt)

Dylan, Elizabeth and I on the London Eye (Photo by Sarah Hundt)

First of all, I’ve learned so much about photography. It’s always been something I was interested in, but now I feel like I have a real handle on things like composition, depth of field and lighting. I still have a lot of room for improvement, but I think this was the best possible way I could have chosen to study photography.

Second, the people are what have made this trip so much fun the entire time. I don’t think I could even accurately describe our group dynamic; there are so many inside jokes that I’m not sure anyone at home will want to hang out with us. It’s going to be weird without constantly living with this group, but I’m certain that we will see each other all the time back at MSU.

A group of us dressed up in very fashionably in Lacock

A group of us dressed up in very fashionably in Lacock

Since last October when I decided I was going on this trip, I’ve been telling my friends at home how I was going to have an amazing European adventure this summer. Now that it’s over, I can’t wait to tell everyone at home about everything I saw, learned, and the amazing people I met along the way.

The group in Prague (Photo by Brittany Holmes)

The group in Prague (Photo by Brittany Holmes)

Discovering Camden

The guidelines for our project in London turned out to be very broad—make the project a narrative and make it involve London. Sounds easy, right? At the beginning of our time here I was completely overwhelmed with the possibilities. London is such a big place with so much culture, I had no idea how to tackle any one subject. Eventually, though, I made my way to Camden.

The main street that runs through the Camden markets

The main street that runs through the Camden markets

Camden is a area on the north side of London. It’s famous for its markets, which encompass the entire town. There are stalls, shops, restaurants and a canal that runs through the entire thing. I was instantly taken by not only the diversity of the town, but the diversity of the culture within it. Camden attracts everyone from goths to punks to teenage girls to tourists. There’s so much to offer that everyone is bound to find something they like.

In the end I was so glad that I found Camden. I shot my entire project there because I was so fascinated by diversity. Everything I saw (except the repetitive London tourist trinkets) was unique to this area of London. There were even people selling fresh coconut milk, which is something that I’ve never seen before, and something that I would never expect in the middle of London.

Some sort of pavilion inside the Camden markets

Some sort of pavilion inside the Camden markets

I think my discovery of Camden made me realize the beauty of this trip. Not only have we gotten to experience these cities in the ways that every other tourist does, but we also got to go deep into the cultural areas and explore them through a lens. Something different shows itself when I look at something through my camera—I see the area or the person as what they are in their most basic element. We’ve gotten to see the true parts of these famous cities that most other tourists will never see. So even though sometimes we’ve felt like we can’t see everything there is to see because we have to work on our projects, I’m glad we got too see places like Camden, because those are the places that make each city so wonderful.

A Space Oddity in London

The poster for the "David Bowie is" exhibit

The poster for the “David Bowie is” exhibit

Before we arrived in London, Howard had warned us that at the V & A Museum had some interesting exhibits besides the photography we were scheduled to see. One of those was an exhibit on 80’s fashion, and another was an exhibit on David Bowie. Some people were excited about the fashion, but Dylan and I jumped at the chance to see an entire exhibit committed to David Bowie. It only took 3 trips to the museum, 1 hour of standing in line and 14 pounds to get in, but this morning we finally did it.

The exhibit was titled “David Bowie is” and the rest of the sentence was filled in with various phrases. On the outside of the exhibit it seemed silly, but on the inside it was a colorful way to describe David Bowie’s ascent to a cultural legend. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take photos in the exhibit, because some of the things we saw were amazing.

The entrance where we got our headset for the exhibit

The entrance where we got our headset for the exhibit

Through the show, I came to know more about David Bowie than I even knew was possible. We saw everything from Bowie’s costumes, original song lyrics, interviews with close friends and video of concerts. I also learn a lot about Bowie’s creative influences, such as Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and George Orwell’s 1984. I learned a lot more about Bowie as a person too—that he started out playing the saxophone and that later on he became friends with people like Andy Warhol, William Burroughs and Iggy Pop.  Plus, Bowie’s music was playing the entire time.

The "David Bowie is" caption on the snack bar

The “David Bowie is” caption on the snack bar

It might just be because I’m a Bowie fan, but this exhibit was one of the most interesting exhibits I’ve seen on this trip. Even though we waited a long time to get in, a chance to venture into David Bowie’s past was well worth the wait.

A Pleasant Monday in Paris

Last night was eventful for a lot of us—I went to the Eiffel Tower again, others went to the concerts—so this morning was a slow morning. Beginning at 9:30 we all had our individual critiques with Howard to check the progress of our projects. I know a lot of us got a lot of great feedback about the directions of our projects and the work we need to get done before our group critique on Wednesday. Sometimes it’s hard to go shoot for our projects when the Parisian sights are calling our names, but now it’s crunch time for a lot of us and shooting is a priority. We should do some studying on our study abroad.

Howard and Olivia having their individual critique in the courtyard of the hostel

Howard and Olivia having their individual critique in the courtyard of the hostel

In the afternoon we had a little free time to shop and eat before our session. A few of us found a little café where Dylan, Marisol and I were able to try a traditional French drink called Citron Presse. I’m pretty sure what they brought us was straight lemon juice, but then we could add water and sugar to make the drink taste how we wanted. It turned out really great and was perfect for how hot it was today.

After our lunch, we all met Howard and took the metro to our next speaker. His name was Gilles Perrin and he is a portrait and documentary photographer. He and his wife Nicole have traveled around the world and taken portraits of the people they meet along the way. He talked to us about some of the theory of photography, but we also had a great discussion about asking people for photographs. Some of us have had trouble in Paris because the French are less likely to allow us to take their picture. They gave us really great advice about having the confidence in ourselves to approach other people in a calm and inviting way.

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The end of this session was a little sad because we had to say goodbye to Darcy. Today was her and Jim’s last day on the trip, so when they got off the metro we waved goodbye until the beginning of the school year. Although we’re excited for our time with Howard, we’re sad to see her go. Thanks for everything Darcy!

Finally, tonight most people just relaxed. A few people stayed back to edit pictures, a group went to the Seine to read and talk and Dylan and I took the metro up to see Moulin Rouge. That area of town is…interesting to say the least, but I’m glad we took our chance to see all the flashing neon signs and, of course, the windmill. In all, besides the heat, today was a great day in Paris that balanced project work, a lecture and a little bit of fun.

The windmill at Moulin Rouge

The windmill at Moulin Rouge

Working from the Collection by John Stezaker

Andrea Raby
John Stezaker: Working from the Collection
At Atelier des Forges, parc des Ateliers

John Stezaker’s exhibit Working from the Collection challenged my perception of the photograph the most. Stezaker’s exhibit is a collection of collages—he takes two or three images and layers them, creating an entirely new statement with the overall piece. Some of this collages are just one image on top of another, but some are cut outs, some are oddly shaped, some match texture and some seem like they don’t go together at all. The relationship between these two images makes the viewer question the message of both and understand them in an entirely new way.

One of Stezaker's collages with a triangular cut out

One of Stezaker’s collages with a triangular cut out

For some of Stezaker’s images I had to stare to figure them out. Some of the images he has obviously go together, but some of them I had to decipher to figure out what message Stezaker was trying to send. He does a lot of interesting work with deletion of the main subject of one photo and inserting something else that changes the statement completely. He also worked a lot with contrast between black and white and color within his collages. This even translated to the presentation of his work, with each image in black frame with white matting against a teal wall.

Katie looking at some of Stezaker's collages

Katie looking at some of Stezaker’s collages

Overall Stezaker’s exhibit was one of the most visually captivating exhibits that I saw. The juxtaposition he brings out creates new characters, relationships and stories in each image. Although Stezaker collected the images that he put together and did not take them himself, this exhibit made me rethink collage photography as a fascinating art form.

The Afronauts by Cristina De Middel

Andrea Raby
Cristina De Middel: The Afronauts
At Cloître Saint-Trophime

Walking into the ornate Roman architecture of the Cloître Saint-Trophime, I expected to see some serious, thought provoking exhibit in black and white. I never expected to stumble upon an exhibit as whimsical and eccentric as The Aftonauts.

A newspaper article describing the Zambian space race

A newspaper article describing the Zambian space race

In 1964, during the heat of the space race, Zambia started a space program that planned to put an African on the moon before an American or Russian. However, the United Nations never granted them funding and a 16-year-old astronaut in training got pregnant, so the program fell apart. Cristina De Middel took this idea of a Zambian Space program and translated it into a series of photos that showed what could have happened if the program became a reality.

A collection of images from the exhibit, including a diagram of a Zambian space suit

A collection of images from the exhibit, including a diagram of a Zambian space suit

This exhibit was just fun to explore. De Middel let her imagination go wild with the possibilities of a space program in the heart of Africa, placing men in astronaut helmets next to elephants and tribal villages. She constructed space suits, news stories and even what the astronauts would look like on the moon.

I really enjoyed this exhibit because of the creativity. De Middel combined photos with drawings and cut outs to give the exhibit a dream-like feel. Overall the exhibit both pokes fun at the idea of a space program in the middle of Africa, but it also grabs the idea and runs with it, giving it a chance to finally live out it’s wild dreams of going to the moon. The Zambian program may have fail, but De Middel’s work pushes the boundaries of what we may believe is possible. Though this, she turns regular astronauts into The Afronauts.

A photo within a drawn image of an explosion. My favorite image of the exhibit.

A photo within a drawn image of an explosion. My favorite image of the exhibit.

Retrospective by Sergio Larrain

Andrea Raby
Sergio Larrain: Retrospective
At Église Sainte-Anne

Photojournalism and documentary photography are the main reasons I chose to go on this trip. As a journalism major, I wanted to be able to tell a story in a photo that words alone could not convey. As we entered Sergio Larrain’s exhibit yesterday, I knew the type of work that he had done was the work that I hoped to embark on as well.

Retrospective followed Larrain’s career, from his early documentary images into his later years when he combined drawings with his photography. Larrain photographed Chile, mostly the countryside. Although different parts of the exhibition dealt with different subjects, each image deals with the details of life that make the world unique. His photos focus on social commentary or poetic perspectives of everyday life.

My favorite part of the exhibit was photos of the Chilean children. The children are beggars that sleep in the streets. They are fed by the state until the age of fourteen and then are left to fend for themselves. Larrain captured both the loneliness of these runaway children, but also the moments of happiness within the bleak lives of these kids.

Larrain

An image from a video showing children that Larrain documented

From his photos I learned a lot about framing. Larrain used window and doorframes to accent the everyday quality of these photos. But Larrain also used unusual frames and lines to draw the eye through his photos in ways that I had not seen before. His exhibit was both inspiring and extremely helpful to view.

Possibly my favorite part of the exhibit was a quote by Larrain at the very end. It describes, I think, the essence of what Larrain saw in photography: within the images that he observes, he somehow finds himself. Larrain died in 2012, but I think his unique look on life will live on in his photography.

Larrain 2

Quote at the end of Larrain’s exhibit