how am i already home

Back to where I started, sitting in my room in Utah, enjoying the slow pace of summer days. I had been looking forward to the trip to Spain for so long, to have it already pass by in a flash seems a little unreal. Being back in Park City where little changes, it feels like the whole trip was just one big dream. But as I think back to my initial predictions of what it would be like, and the first day sitting on the balcony of our homestay in Barcelona with Adam and Dylan, jet lagged, not knowing each other, scared our homestay mom hated us and speculating what Carlene had in store for us, I know so much has changed.

I remember when I first got to Barcelona and I was talking about photo essay ideas with Carlene. I said that I wasn’t really interested in doing portraits. I might of said that because of my lack of experience in the area or trying to resist interacting with people as much as I could, but little did I know then that portraits would be the majority of the photos I would shoot for stories. It wasn’t really a conscious decision to start focusing on portraits but rather it came more naturally, just as a clear necessity to best show stories. Through a series of events my first photo essay shifted to profile one street artist instead of just photographing walls throughout the city, and as my market photo essay developed I decided to not use any photograph that didn’t have a person in it. This shift was one of the best photographic skills I could have acquired and I’m glad to only expand from here. I was able to learn so much about photography through all of the situations I was thrown into. It has totally changed the way I look at photography and has given me a new appreciation for it.

But more generally, I came into to this trip with high expectations, expecting the unexpected, and that’s what I got. This dialogue was a lot of work for everyone but for me, it never felt like work, it was always exactly what I would have wanted to be doing. Working as journalists was the best way to explore and learn about the cities we were in. Through working on my own projects and assisting others with their articles, I was able to see so many places and meet so many people I would  have never gotten to if we weren’t journalists. Constantly running throughout the city to photograph subjects ranging from churches, small businesses, food markets, street art, professors, ghost tours, child therapists, feminist activists and tapas tours, there was rarely a dull moment. And almost every step was a group effort. Everyone assisted each other in countless ways and I’m grateful for every person I was able to collaborate with.

And after all of the long days, I was lucky enough to be able to return to the best houses in Barcelona and Madrid. So many great nights laughing with Dylan, Adam and GUS on el balcon (our balcony) about the crazy days all of us had. The good times only continued to Madrid when the seven guys were blessed with receiving cuatro cuatro, the apartment number that will always remain in our hearts. Even though it had mice, ants, smelled bad, (all our faults so far) walls that were ripped apart, floors that were peeling, leaky showers and no AC, it was perfect. I’ll definitely miss all of our stupid inside jokes, watching the Shia LeBuff motivational speech on repeat and Mad Mad quotes. (even though I never watched it) Like all good things it had to come to an end, but hopefully, despite Carlene’s pessimism, we will carry on all of the friendships made to sometime relive the days we did our best to be international journalists in Spain.

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I still don’t know what it was

For one of our last mornings in Spain, Adam, Carlene and I decided to grab breakfast and walk around the city today. After grabbing a chocolate croissant at La Mallorquina, a bakery that has been around for more than 100 years, we headed into a quiet neighborhood to explore. We walked down through the narrow, quaint streets of the neighborhood and were about to turn back when we spotted what looked like to be a small concert going on, but it turned out to be something quite different.  While there was one woman who was playing the drums, there were four other men in black clothes standing in front large horse head costumes. Not long after arriving, the four men mounted the horses on their backs and started dancing to the intense drumming. It was fine for a bit, but then they started charging into the crowd and spinning around, hitting people in the head with the horse tails. We had literally no idea what was going on but somehow we found ourselves being attacked by men in horse costumes being conducted by a woman who looks like pebbles Flintstone. It’s what I imagine going to Burning Man would be like, except instead of tripping out in the middle of the desert I was just trying to take a nice walk through a quiet neighborhood. Thankfully we somehow made it out alive to report another day.

(Almost) Midnight in Paris

Less than a week left. I finally feel like I have sunk into a nice little routine here and I don’t want to leave it so soon. There is still so much left I want to do here and there is also so much I need to do, but the times I’ve most appreciated Madrid have been on nights like tonight when I haven’t really been doing anything in particular. On my solo ramblings is when I’ve really been able to realize the charm of the city, and tonight as I walked in front of the Spanish Royal Palace, the city was just oozing charm out of every orifice.

I had just finished having a delicious meal at the Mercado San Miguel and started making my way back home as it started to drizzle. After weeks of intense heat, a cool rain was exactly what I wanted. It filled the air with a delicious fresh smell and made the streets twinkle from the ornate street lamps. The sky was dark purple and the rain had drove many people inside making the streets quiet. Most of the shops were closing or already closed, but as I rounded the corner to see the grandly lit buildings surrounding the perfect gardens of Plaza de Oriente, I heard music. I made my way closer and saw a pianist playing outside underneath an awning at one of the beautiful restaurants. There was only one couple left at the place, but the pianist still played music that filled the square.

It felt like I had just walked into Midnight in Paris, but instead of Paris it was Madrid, and instead of being a movie it was real. Even though it was raining, I sat down on a bench for ten minutes with my jaw on the sidewalk to take it all in. I couldn’t even bring myself to take a photo because it wouldn’t have came close.

But here are some photos from before my delicious paella dinner and surreal experience.

“You know, I sometimes think, how is anyone ever gonna come up with a book, or a painting, or a symphony, or a sculpture that can compete with a great city. You can’t. Because you look around and every street, every boulevard, is its own special art form…” 

Feeling like a real reporter

Two days ago was a whirlwind of running throughout the city and reporting. It was exhausting, but definitely the most fulfilling day so far. I started photographing at 7:30 am and didn’t get back until 1:30 am.  To start the day off, I somehow convinced myself to get out of bed at the crack of dawn thinking it would be the best light to only figure out Madrid looks better in the 8:30 am light. (Maybe 6:00 am would look best but I probably will never know.)

After, I ran back to the apartment to regroup with the guys and prepare for class. 15 minutes after arriving I headed right back in the direction I came to photograph three business owners who focus on selling custom made furniture and decorations for Monica’s story. We had to spend 30 minutes waiting to talk to one of them, but thankfully there was a park nearby where we enjoyed some cold water and got to watch and old man run around and yell as he tried to train his excited little puppy.

After that, I headed back to class for a quick lunch where I experienced the most disappointing part of the day. I bought what appeared to be a delicious strawberry smoothie only to taste it and feel violated when I realized it was tomato gazpacho. I quickly pieced together my betrayed emotions before heading out again. Monica, Adam, Dylan and I set out to try and find a progressive new church that is embracing progressive views and utilizing wifi and flat screen TVs and even using iPads for confessions. We took the metro into the middle of the city but couldn’t find it for the life of us. In the 90 degree Madrid heat, we ran to three locations with no luck. I navigated us to the last possible spot it might have been but the building turned out to be abandoned and was being renovated. As I pulled out my phone in defeat and started checking for the nearest metro stop to head back, Adam walked down the street and finally found it. We were welcomed by ice cold air conditioning seeping out from the church doors onto the sidewalk. We didn’t know who we were going to be able to talk to, but we were immediately invited up past the altar and into a back room to speak with the director of the church. As the four of us sat with him in the back room, only other sound accompanying his quite voice was gospel music coming from the plasma TVs outside the door. After he walked us through the history of the church and their very progressive views, he said the father of the church might be visiting soon for a few minutes and we would be able to talk to him. He gave us a quick tour of the church as we waited, and soon enough the father slowly walked through the church doors and greeted us. We were able to talk to him for 10 minutes before he left for a bullfight, but what stuck in my mind the most was one response he had. When asked if he needed to be approved by higher ups before creating a church located in the gay neighborhood, accepts animals and is openly embracing technology, he grinned and responded that it is better to ask for forgiveness than permission. It was exciting to see someone so high up in the church that has such progressive views.

After leaving the church we made sure to thank Jesus for the great interviews, and headed to the closest cafe for a celebratory beer. Unfortunately, I was only able to sit down for 15 minutes before heading to the next story. I ran over to meet Maria and Alex to interview two feminist artists. I’m not entirely sure what the place was where we conducted the interview, but I think it was some sort of secret feminist cafe. We got buzzed into the cafe and there were only two other women in the quietly drinking tea. I didn’t realize was odd at first but what I presumed to be the owner quickly let me know I had to leave in at least 30 minutes because guys weren’t allowed that night. But it turned out all right, I got the shots I needed and headed to meet the food tour guide for my final story of the day.

This was the one story I definitely did not want to screw up and knew I would hate myself if I didn’t think I did the best job I could. But as I walked over I realized I didn’t have a reporters notebook, and time was running out. After running around the block, I found a convenient store and grabbed the first notebook I saw. It was only until later I realized it was an accounting notebook with no blank pages, but it would have to do. I ran down the block and started old deleting photos off my camera to more make room for all of the beautiful food shots to come. I arrived to the plaza fifteen minutes early and finally was able to relax.

The food tour was a great experience and I feel lucky I was able to go on it. The group went to five different restaurants where we had the specialty drink at each place paired with several tapas. The drinks ranged from vermouth, to cava to wine. The food was great and had some traditional plates such as patatas bravas, calamari and jamon, but I was also able to try adrenal glands and kidneys.

The past few days have been packed with work but it has been a lot of fun. There was a lot more that has happened so hopefully I’ll be able to write more about it in a future post. Make sure to read all of the stories when they’re published to see the best photos!

B&W

Even though I like how these square black and white photos turned out, they’re actually a cop out. After returning from photographing tonight I looked through my photos and there weren’t  any that I particularly liked. So to make up for my initial poor compositions I chopped a third of the frame off. None of the colors were working either so I just threw it in black and white. I rarely edit my photos in black and white but I needed a bit of a refreshment. I don’t think I’ve taken this many photos in this amount of time before and I felt a little burned out when walking around today. Even though Madrid is a beautiful city bustling with life, I was struggling to find a fresh viewpoint. I was only seeing cliches and photos I’ve already taken before. Maybe today was just an off day, but I hope the European charm wasn’t worn off on my already.