Unseen 2017

I capped off 2017 in a way that would have felt very familiar to a younger version of me: playing Banagrams in Florida with some of my favorite people, drinking red wine, eating berry pie, and going to bed at 10PM like the party animal I am. Personally, it couldn't have been a better finish to one of the most eventful and chaotic years of my life. 2017 has been a lot for me, in a (mostly) positive sense, but I'm not going to bore you with the personal stuff. I'm also going to stay away from the political aspect of this year because... well, yikes. That would go off the rails fast and nobody wants to read that. Instead, as usual, I have some photos to share. In years past I've done recaps of a year's worth of work, but in 2017, the big projects I've devoted myself to aren't quite ready to be made public yet.

There are always those random photos floating around on my hard drives never end up making it to the blog. In light of that, I'm ending the year with a selection of some of these aforementioned odds and ends. I'm sure this will make for a blog post that's just about as all-over-the-place as 2017 was.

Here's Jacopo and Romeo, my program directors at SACI. These guys are wonderful for several reasons: they're both incredible photographers and teachers, genuinely good people, and have somehow put up with me for the past year and a half. These images were taken on an abandoned floor of a palazzo we ended up in while running from exhibition to exhibition in Lucca for the PhotoLux festival in November.


The above and below are from Paris and London, respectively. They are two of my favorite cities and two places outside of Italy I've traveled to for exhibitions during my third semester of grad school.


 

During May, I spent a bit of time photographing New Hope, Alabama, the town my mother went to high school. I also reconnected with saome extended family in the process.


 

In addition to the beach photo thing, I worked at a kids’ store from the ages of 16 to 21, and I still take photos for them when I’m home. Gigi’s will forever have a huge chunk of my heart.


 

I’m working on a couple big projects right now, but even then, I’m trying to get myself out of my studio to take photos for the hell of it when I can. Here are a few shots from around my neighborhood in Florence.


 

Here's a handful of my analog prints I actually have photos of. One of these days I'll scan these for real...


 

And lastly, I know I said I wouldn’t get personal, but I couldn't resist. Here are a few images with me and some of the people who mean the most to me in this crazy stage of my life. Sadly I don't even have photos with some of the people who made this year what it was... you are not pictured, but thank you to also Allie, Meaghan, Dagny, Katie, MC, Tina, Andy, and Alessandra for keeping me sane and being all-around fabulous humans. Cheers to 2017… sure, it was a hot mess sometimes, but I have some fabulous people in my life and this year was never ever boring.

The Abruzzo story

One of my professors hails from Abruzzo, a quiet region where you can find some of the incredible nature in all of Italy, and I've been hearing about how enchanting it is nonstop for the past year. Finally, after the chaos of midterms and thesis preparation, we loaded up a car and drove the 5 hours to Abruzzo for a weekend in the middle of nowhere. It turned out to be just the sort of escape that I needed; in fact, I'm still daydreaming about spending another week there. There's something intoxicating about those mountains.

We slept in tiny cliffside Pacentro, and our B&B is one of those uniquely Italian places in which the family history was displayed on the walls. The best way to begin this story is to show you the photos I took there…

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When I asked people for their photos, I never heard a no. In fact, the baker even threw in a loaf of bread after I took his portrait. My professor Romeo also kindly agreed to being photographed in one of the restaurants we visited…

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It was two days driving down winding mountain roads, wandering through forests and along lakes, exploring both inhabited and abandoned villages, and- of course- making lots of photos. I tried regional foods like arrosticini and a special type of coffee that's made with cream of hazelnut. Each of us brought home a local specialty; for me and the other student it was wine and chocolate covered almonds, but Romeo may have bought half of the town (2 kilos of bread, 5 kilos of potatoes, chocolate, jam, and more).

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At this point the MFA photo group is a bit like family, so getting to see Romeo in his element was another highlight of the weekend. I'm convinced that Abruzzo is part of his genetic makeup, and by seeing it in person, the rest of us have deeper understanding of who he is. Now I understand why I've heard so much about this place, and I'm already ready to go back...

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London portrait challenge

I was in London this weekend for two specific reasons: to see the Alec Soth show (yes, it was amazing) and to meet up with a friend/fellow photographer I met during the photojournalism workshop I did back in August (y'know, the one with all the speed dating). Oh, and if I'm being honest, reason #3 was to go and eat at my favorite Ethiopian place again. Florence is sadly lacking in Ethiopan food, but I digress. It was a lovely weekend of bookstores and photography shows and great conversation; in fact, it was so lovely that I didn't even mind my flight back to Florence getting canceled. Well, maybe I minded a little... but the airline did give put me up in the Hilton overnight and I ordered room service. Maybe that was also a blessing in disguise.

Before going to the photo show, I spent the morning wandering London and ended up stopping a few strangers in the street to ask for a portrait. I told my friend about it later and mentioned how, for whatever reason, asking people for their photo is so much harder than shooting candid street photos (ironic considering I did commercial portrait photography for years prior to grad school). Oddly enough, my friend has the opposite problem and can talk to strangers without problems. So, what do two photo nerds decide to do when they find themselves in a city like London armed with cameras and 30 minutes to kill? The answer: a half-hour photo challenge. We gave ourselves a set period of time to take street portraits, alternating between posed and candid, and shot what we could.

Because "posed" portraits are a little outside the realm of my usual street photography MO, those are the ones I'm going to show you today. So, here are the results of a day in London spent talking to strangers... it's a side to this kind of photography that I'm (slowly but surely) getting more comfortable with.