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Fresh Photo Friday: Communist Rally in Rome


April 2009, Rome

This was probably the first time I tried to cover an event as a photographer and create a comprehensive photo essay. The occasion was a Communist rally on a warm spring day in Rome, where I had arrived days before for the second leg of a study abroad program. I can’t remember how my friends and I heard about the rally, but it was a Saturday morning, and we took the worlds’ worst metro system to the Pyramid stop, where we emerged, wide-eyed, to a sea of red flags and hammers and sickles. It was overwhelming for my midwestern senses, which were still adjusting to a world outside of Minnesota, much less the USA. But then the adrenaline kicked in and we started to follow the parade towards the Colosseum.

I stayed on the outside of the parade, working my way toward the front. I took a lot of pictures of people’s backs and sides, much to my irritation nowadays. Nearly an hour into the march, I found the beginning of the pack and the leaders of the action. They were riding in the back of this white pickup truck which was advancing at a crawl down the middle of the street. One shouted into a megaphone in Italian. An old man wearing a red scarf walked on the passenger side of the truck. But most of all, I was transfixed by this young woman who seemed to rally the crowd with ease, starting chants and directing the fists of Italian youth. I read her as a symbol of the movement. She was young, maybe as young as I was, and her behavior was a fascinating split between powerful and frail, anonymous and strangely familiar.

As the parade approached the Colosseum, the men in the very front produced giant sparklers which gave off a tremendous amount of smoke when lit. It was the climax of the entire morning and emotions ran high. I began a flat out dash to the very front, planning to throw myself in front of the marchers to get the shot: the men with the angry red sparklers against the backdrop of the Colosseum. Suddenly, other photographers were there, all with giant lenses. I jockeyed with professionals for space, also for the first time, watching to see where they would try and shoot from. And then, my camera ran out of battery. Just like that. Dead. No more photos. I never got the shot. Although the friends I came with were behind me, at least a few of them snapped photos that could have ran on AP with ease. Most of the work is showing up and finding the right place at the right time, but it doesn’t count when your equipment doesn’t show up with you.
I learned a hard lesson that day, but since then, I’ve never ran out of battery at an event. However, I still hate photographing flags, fundamentally fickle in the wind.


Fresh Photo Friday Goes For a Spin


Salzburg Lion, 2009

Salzburg, Austria

Before I had ever gone on a bike tour, or even knew how to change a flat, I did a series of bike photos. They were details, cropped into squares, trying almost unwittingly to maintain a primary color scheme. This one has always been my favorite. The afternoon light, color scheme, and composition works well in this image. I’d love to come back to this project with 5,000 miles under my belt. I wonder how I’d approach the details of a bike now that I know which parts are likely to break and how to fix them?

Fresh Photo Friday: Lost

Lost, 2009

It’s Fresh Photo Friday, where I dig into several years of photography files and dredge something up that I’m still excited about. I took this picture in Rome during a study abroad program focusing on digital photography and new media. I found this scene on the banks of the Tiber, not too far from Vatican City. There is a long stone canal, with walkways and many bridges that cradles the river on its winding route through the city. Walking there felt a little scary to me, as these were some of my first solo footsteps on the European continent. Add this to the fact that my goal was to get lost, and make desolate photos that reflected the foreignness I felt.

My favorite qualities in this image include the pops of bright color, the abandoned feel to the refrigerator and blue plastic, and the grit and grime that’s been washed up from the river. The strong lines move your eyes around the picture, if in a disorienting way. Did I get lost? It’s hard to separate my memories from what I hope this picture conveys, but 3 years later, I still like this photo. Here’s hoping you do too.

Fresh Photo Friday: The Classroom of the Universe

The Classroom of the Universe, 2008

Oh man. This is a throwback. This was part of a photo essay I did in my first CAMS class ever. Almost exactly 4 years ago. The photo essay was about how awesome Astronomy is and this project was low-quality, confusing, way harder than I anticipated, and ultimately the beginning of my realization that I really, really like still photography.

Some info on the photo: Shot with my old Sony point-and-shoot. My metadata actually says the file was created on January 1, 1970. This was taken in the biggest lecture hall on campus, before they replaced these funky orange chairs with boring new ones. I’m still in love with the way the light is painting these beautiful, old, squeaky seats. I wish I had a wider lens to shoot the sides of the room, but this was way before I boasted even a vague awareness of composing the edges of my photos. Unfortunately the quality isn’t great and the file is really small (only 650 by 409!). There are parts of this image that are blown out beyond my skill/camera’s capabilities/what I knew how to fix in 2008. I could list things that are ‘wrong’ or different from what I’d do today for ages.

Maybe its nostalgia, but I really like this picture. Both because of what it represents to me personally, but also because it’s still beautiful. Photographs aren’t wrong and right, and the broken rules here are much more than just broken rules.

Fresh Photo Friday: Benches

Through, 2009

I took this photo in April 2009 in Central Park, New York City. It’s part of a series on benches I did that spring, a project I really enjoyed. This photo also represents one of the first times I realized how awesome depth-of-field is and how to manipulate it. Believe it or not, this was shot at 135mm, f6.3. Probably not the settings I would have chosen today, but I point this out because its truly amazing how much a lens can inform your style and sculpt your images. Especially if you’re sort of under the spell of its telephoto capabilities.

Fresh Photo Friday: Andy Goldsworthy + Beer

You know, typical school project.

Staropramen, 2009

This might sound a little crazy, but I swear it’s true.

It was a hot day in Prague, the last stop on the Carleton CAMS 10-week New Media roadtrip.  Professore Schott emailed us before class and told us to bring water and a sunhat, in anticipation of some unknown outdoor activity. I spent the afternoon collecting broken glass from underpasses, parks, and the riverside.

Let me explain.

In class that morning, we watched a documentary on Andy Goldsworthy, an amazing artist who produces site-specific sculptures. Our assignment for the afternoon was to “reconfigure Prague” a la Goldsworthy, and photograph the finished product. It was a competition.

Our class splintered off, each determined to capture the essence of Prague in the next two hours. I immediately took off to all the sketchy places I could think of, searching for broken beer bottles. I don’t remember much about that search, except finding some dead fish by the river. I hate dead fish.

I chose a busy bridge in Old Town to assemble and photograph my sculpture. I wanted to confront the public with the garbage I’d dragged out of corners of their city. As you can see from this photo, I got the confused looks and sidelong glances I’d been hoping for.

The next day in class, John flipped through our photos on the projector, but they were kept anonymous because of the competition. My classmates had made elaborate sculptures of cigarettes, flowers, even a video of a shadow eating lunch, but I liked my chances.

Our judge was a dashing art professor named Otto who led a weekend trip to Moravia for our class.

Yes, really.

The judging finally took place on Sunday afternoon. We were on our way back to Prague and had stopped for a lazy picnic by a scenic lake. A few of us were wading in the shallow water, half-liter bottles of beer in our hands when Otto casually called for us to hear the results of our competition. He leaned easily against a tree, polarized sunglasses and a black-collared shirt completed his bad-ass mystique. Otto announced the runners-up. I tried to keep it cool but I was nervous. Then he was saying, “and ze vinner, ze one vith ze glass and bottle. It vas very nice.” I stepped out of the lake to claim my prize.

So there you have it. The winner of the 2009 Carleton CAMS Roadtrip Andy Goldsworthy Prague Reconfiguration Photography Competition. I’m still not sure how to fit that into my resume.

Fresh Photo Friday: Sandbar

Sandbar, 2011

I took this photo on a recent trip to Warsaw, Poland. One of the advantages of incredibly short days is that the ‘golden hour’ is extended because the sun never gets that high. This photo was taken around 2:30 in the afternoon, when the sun shone on the river at a very agreeable angle. Putting the photo in black and white was a no-brainer for me; it draws attention to the patterns on the water by heightening contrast, and lends a smooth, classic finish to the image.

Fresh Photo Friday: Hill of Three Oaks

Hill of Three Oaks, 2011

Night photography around campus was one of those things that I kept putting off, always busy sleeping or (more likely) studying. So last May, in my waning days of college, I dedicated an entire night to shooting some of my favorite places at Carleton. This photo was taken just after sunset at the Hill of Three Oaks, in the southern reaches of the massive Arboretum. Using a tripod, I set my camera for a 30 second exposure at f3.5. I achieved the lighting of the tree by running up the hill and ‘painting’ the scene with a flashlight. I was constantly moving, so I am not in the image, although it took a few tries to learn how to hold the flashlight to avoid accidental trails of light. Even in this image, you can see an artifact of my method in the lower right. My work was actually interrupted by campus security, who saw flashing lights from a distance and came over to investigate! A few weeks after I made the photo, I sold a few prints in the Senior Art Show.


Fresh Photo Friday

Inchworms, 2010

This photograph was the finished product for an assignment in a class on Site-Specific Media at Carleton College. The prompt was to make a photograph of “Bodies in Space.” I chose this playful, architecturally engaging space as my canvas, and with the help of a few friends, created a human inchworm that responded to the shape of the playground equipment. I used a black and white, grainy finish in post-processing to allude to the aesthetic tradition of photography in 1970s performance art. It was my hope that the physical experience of making the inchworm and the resulting photograph suggest a different way of engaging with space, and a meditative harmony with one’s surroundings.