Five years ago this spring, I was tiptoeing onto what turned out to be the trailhead of a path I’m still on as a traveler and photographer. At the risk of waxing nostalgic: it was clear to me immediately following the 10-week “roadtrip” that the program would have a profound impact on the direction of my studies and interests. With five years of hindsight, I’ve realized that I simply would not be where I am today without this formative study-abroad experience.
In reflecting on this milestone, I looked back on some of the 10,000 photos I captured during time I spent lost and found in New York City, Rome, around Austria, Prague and the Czech Republic. Firstly, I will note that 10,000 is more than twice the number of images I took during a similar time frame for Walking Walls. Secondly, although most of these photos are terrible, the improvements between 0 and 10,000 were impressively gigantic, which came as a nice surprise. I also “rediscovered” a number of previously unedited images that I really liked. It was fun to unearth these from the depths of my hard drive, but the real excitement came from reflecting on the moment of capture, appreciating the forces that brought me to that point, and what small wisdom has followed me since.
I’m hoping my fellow roadtrippers might share some of their hindsights and hard drive discoveries over the next two months as well. Here’s a small sampling of mine:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.