Surreal Travel Photography

Whenever I travel, I take pictures. Lots and lots of pictures.

I mean, I’m still editing the photographs from my trip to Egypt almost two months ago! It can take forever and it is extremely tedious after a while, especially if you’re like me and your editing is formulaic.

Usually I just put on a podcast or some good jams and power through. But I don’t want my editing to feel like a chore. I like to play and be challenged. That’s why I’ve been working on something completely different than what my work is usually like.

My favorite thing to do is travel, for many reasons. I love experiencing new things, of getting out of my comfort zone and being rewarded for it with awe-inspiring sights or great food or amazing people. Travel is extremely weird, though; you go to a new place, sometimes where no one speaks your language and you can’t read the signs and it’s a little anxiety inducing. When you travel alone, traveling is introspective and even a little lonely. There are so many weird, surreal feelings you encounter when you go to a new place.

That’s why I’ve started taking a mixture of my travel photography, stock images, and design principles to create a new body of work currently titled “Surreal Explorations”. I wanted to try and capture the excitement and surreal qualities travel affords.

These do take a while to create, but I’m always excited with the results. They are a bit tricky, though, as my impulse is to use maximalism but in some cases, not incorporating a lot of elements does the place better justice. I also need to be conscious of my image choices, as I don’t want to disrespect the place I visited by accidentally making a negative commentary via juxtaposition. Big OOF.

I’m working on more, including explorations of Paris, the Philippines, more of Egypt, and a couple more of Tokyo. Keep an eye out!

Happy Shooting!

 

 

 

Egypt Experience Part Two: Saqqara

If you know too much about Egypt, you know there are a lot more things to see than just the Great Pyramids.

Our second day in Egypt was devoted to even more ancient sites, all outside of Giza and Cairo. We woke up bright and early, climbed on the bus, and headed out to the small city of Memphis, which used to be the capitol in ancient times.

The interesting thing about the drive to Memphis was the security checkpoints and the military police standing along the road from our route from Cairo to Memphis. We asked our guide, Yasser, about why there was so much security, and he explained how as a tour group, we only have access to certain roads. Egypt is extremely protective of its tourism industry, therefore there is a lot of security on the roads tourists travel on. We had extra officers because they knew that an American tour group would be traveling that day (a.k.a., us.)

Disclosure: I never, for a single moment, felt unsafe in Egypt. But man, as an American who has had very little experience with the military or police for that matter, it was quite jarring.

We arrived in the city of Memphis nice and early, and drove through the town where everyone was waking up and starting their day. We saw fresh meat hanging at the butchers, families getting their produce, and students on their way to school. I really wished that I could get off of the bus and wander around with the locals, as there were many fantastic photo opportunities. Alas, we had places to be and giant statues to see, so I just snapped some photos from our bus.

Our first stop for the day was at the Colossus of King Rameses II, one of the most prolific rulers of Egypt. He is responsible for the construction of many of the monuments and tombs that we are familiar with today, like Abu Simbel. Dude built a lot of stuff, especially statues of himself. Yasser explained that back in the day, before photography and print and traditional art as we know it, buildings and statues were regular PR for royalty. So, if you lived in 2000BC and you wanted everyone to know how much of a boss-ass-bitch you were, you had to build a lot of statues.

And since Rameses II is considered one of the greatest Egyptian kings, he built a lot. Including his big statue of himself that was chillin’ in the river for a long, long time. It was found in 1820 by an Italian traveller named Giovanni Caviglia, and today it now resides at an archaeological site with a museum built around it to protect it from the elements. Thing was HUGE. It’s always astounding to me just how BIG the Egyptians managed to build everything.

Go big or go home, I guess.

Just outside of the museum was a small market, where vendors were selling the usual tourist wares. This time, however, there was a dapper young man running around in his adorable suit, and he kindly posed for me. His little smile was the highlight of my morning. We also noticed that there were rugs being sold, which we hadn’t seen at all the day before at the tourist souks in Cairo by the pyramids. As it turns out, there are carpet-making schools in the area… but more on that later.

After our adventure in Memphis, we headed out towards Saqqara. Along the way we saw many goats and palm tree forests that seemed to stretch forever in either direction. And then, suddenly, no more trees, no more shade, just sand.

Saqqara is one of the largest cemeteries in the world and contains the tombs of several kings and other nobles. The oldest pyramid, the Step Pyramid, finds it home there as well. The Step Pyramid of Djoser is housed in a complex, where visitors enter a gate and walk through a roofed colonnade to reach the other side, which opens up to a huge court yard. The pyramid towers over the courtyard, practically blinding in the sunlight.

The pyramid itself was amazing. It is considered to be the oldest stone structure in the world and was a precursor to the Great Pyramids in Giza. Baller.

 

 

After Saqqara, we went to a nearby carpet school, where people of all ages were weaving Egyptian carpets. There were little little kids and older men, weaving away. Some of us had an opportunity to try it, so I gave it a shot. I thought I could do it easily since I’m an artist or whatever, but man. I blew it. Next thing I knew, a little girl was sitting next to me, weaving away and showing me how the pros do it.

They took us into the show room, which was bursting with color. Some of the carpets were so detailed it really blew my mind, with subjects like fairies, souks, Jesus, and intricate patterns. As always, sales people were following us around trying to keep us interested, but beautiful Egyptian carpets were wayyyyy out of my budget! The best part about this escapade was the sales people throwing carpets on the floor to show what they looked like, well… on the floor. They left a huge mess!

 

The rest of our day was pretty relaxing, with lunch at an adorable restaurant, where I met the love of my life, this piece of bread.

Get yourself a partner who looks at you the way I look at this bread.

We also met some goats on the street. Best day ever.

Next time: Karnak Temple, probably my favorite place we visited in Egypt.

Safe Travels and Happy Shooting!

Egypt Experiences Part One: The Great Pyramids of Giza

I knew one day I would make it to Egypt, but I didn’t realize it would be so soon.

Many of us had an Egyptology phase growing up. For me, it started in elementary school with a fascination of the Great Pyramids, and then in middle school it became a full-blown obsession following me through high school and college. I wrote a short novel that took place in ancient Alexandria, and I spent time between classes reading books about the Ptolemaic dynasty. I knew the differences between the lower and upper kingdoms of ancient Egypt, I could draw the crowns from memory, and I had the hieroglyphic alphabet memorized.

Imagine my excitement and awe when I booked a trip through Bucket List Travel to visit the country I had so extensively researched, obsessed over, and loved for a majority of my life. Now, take that emotion and quantify it by 4600 (the approximate amount of years since the pyramids were built,) and that almost encapsulates the feelings I had when I looked up at the Great Pyramids of Giza for the very first time.

Our Grand Tour of Egypt began in Cairo, the home of over 20 million people. We woke up bright and early, where I stepped out onto the patio of our hotel room and saw the pyramids for the first time. They were far away, but so big. I couldn’t wait to see them up close.

I didn’t have to wait long, as we went to see the pyramids first thing that morning. After breakfast and meeting everyone in the group, we drove the 15 minutes to the pyramids. I knew that they were close to the city and not in the middle of the desert, and I had seen pictures detailing just how close they were to one of the biggest cities in the world, but man, experiencing it is something else entirely.

I chose not to go inside the Great Pyramid of Cheops because I am a big baby when it comes to small, enclosed spaces, but I didn’t miss out– I still climbed on top of the pyramid, took pictures on the ground, took selfies with middle schoolers, and repeatedly told vendors “la shukraan” while trying to take their portraits instead of buying their wares. Some vendors really knew how to butter me up with pleasantries such as “beautiful smile!” and “beautiful eyes– would look great with this scarf!” I would almost feel special if they hadn’t said that to all the ladies!

We spent all day exploring the pyramids, learning about the kings that built them, and being followed by school groups that really wanted pictures with the Americans. We had to be careful though, because acquiescing even just once meant suddenly being trapped by a hoard of excited kids wanting selfies. Talk about endearing.

One of the funniest moments for me was riding a camel. Now, I’m up for just about everything (minus small enclosed spaces,) so I was like “hell yeah time to ride a camel.” So when I was walked over to a HUGE camel to mount, I was beginning to become doubtful of my own bravado, but I easily swung my skirt-clad ass over the side and up I went.

And up, and up.

And holy hell I was up high and my camel was not happy. He was very vocal about my being on his back. He also didn’t like being lined up with all the other camels, and thought it would be funny to ram his neck into the nearby camel’s. So when they asked if we wanted to go for a longer ride I was like “NOPE I’M GOOD.”

Camels, man. I was very happy to see the ground again. Others in our group did go for the longer ride and enjoyed it, so I definitely recommend doing it. Just make sure you have a happy camel, I guess?

No trip to the pyramids is complete without visiting the Sphinx and getting a cheesy photo with it, so naturally…

As if our day wasn’t crazy enough, we also went to the Papyrus Institute, where we learned a brief history about the art of making papyrus paper and watched a demonstration about how it is done in modern times. It was super cool to watch, and wandering around the shop and admiring the artwork wasn’t so bad, either. My friend, Jessica, had one very eager shop employee trying to sell her anything with a cat on it, despite the fact she doesn’t like cats. My favorite was when he tried the maybe-if-I-compliment-her-she-will-buy-something-route and told Jessica, “You are very beautiful,” to which she replied, “Yeah, I get that a lot.”

Crushed ’em.

Our evening ended with being stuck in traffic for a good hour and eating dinner at an authentic Egyptian restaurant. While we were eating, I asked our tour guide what weddings were like in Egypt (and I found out they are very similar to what they are like in United States.) Briefly after his explanation, we heard loud music and celebrating right outside– a wedding procession was coming through the area. We all ran outside and watched as the bride, groom, and all of their friends family danced, laughed, and sang happily for the couple.

Our first day in Cairo was definitely memorable and set the bar high for the rest of the trip. My friend and I joked that everything else following would pale in comparison. We should have known better.

Next time: Saqqara, one of the largest cemeteries in the world.

Happy Shooting and Safe Travels!

 

The Jade Plant Project Vol. 3

Volume 3 is now available online and in print! It’s wild to think that we are one issue away from our one year anniversary…

Checkout the PDF of Volume 3 Here.

As always, thank you to our contributors for trusting us with your stories. Thank you to our donors for helping us cover printing costs. And, of course, thank you to our readers. We hope that our little zine is teaching you about the impact of sexual violence.

If you’re in Chicago, you can pick up a copy of Volume 3 at the Chicago Zine Fest this May. We will have a table at the Plumbers Union Hall on Saturday, May 18th, from 11AM-5PM.

As always, if you want a hard copy delivered to you, please email thejadeplantproject@gmail.com. We won’t charge you for the zine, since it’s free, but if you want to give a donation, we’d appreciate it!

You can donate to our PayPal account: thejadeplantproject@gmail.com

Thank you, and see you for Volume 4!

 

The Jade Plant Project Vol. 2

When I envisioned The Jade Plant Project a few months ago, I imagined a publication where survivors felt heard and seen. I figured it would be difficult to get it out into the world and to find people who wanted to participate. I knew that it would take some time to gain traction.

But damn, I wasn’t expecting the unanimous positive response.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to our contributors for trusting us with your stories. Thank you to our donors for helping us cover printing costs. And, of course, thank you to our readers. We hope that our little zine is teaching you about the impact of sexual violence.

Volume 2 is now available online and in print. You can view the PDF HERE. 

If you’re in Chicago, you can pick up a copy of Volume 2 at the Chicago Art Book Fair. Saturday & Sunday, November 17-18th. Copies are available at the Columbia College Chicago table.

As always, if you want a hard copy delivered to you, please email thejadeplantproject@gmail.com. We won’t charge you for the zine, since it’s free, but if you want to give a donation, we’d appreciate it!

You can donate to our PayPal account: thejadeplantproject@gmail.com

Thank you, and see you for Volume 3 in the spring!

Jade Plant Project Hits Grand Rapids Zine Fest 2018!

This past weekend was the Grand Rapids Zine Fest, and the Jade Plant Project Volume 1 made an appearance! We were so excited to share our publication with everyone who dropped by, and we were able to give away most of the first run of Volume 1 (don’t worry those of you who asked for a copy– we kept those separate!)

As promised, the zines were free, and we sold buttons with the art from Vol. 1 to try and offset the cost of printing (because we want to keep the project free!) The pins are super duper cute, so if you want one send me a message and we’ll talk!

We shared a table with Spooky Art Girl (who happens to be my best friend since high school,) and we had such a great time meeting people, talking with artists who were also exhibiting, and taking instant photos. We were totally living our individual aesthetics: Christine rocked her witchy look and I was my usual rainbow self. She brought an excellent table cloth with skulls and other haunted things, which was a very interesting backdrop for the JPP!

We’re hoping to frequent more zine festivals in the future, mostly in the mid west! So, if you know of any nearby, let us know and we hope to see you there!

Happy Shooting!

Viva la France! Road-trip Foolishness Pt. 6: Chamonix

The crowning jewel of our trip to France was Chamonix.

Chamonix, located near where the borders of France, Switzerland, and Italy meet, is a resort-town. We drove in mid-afternoon and spent the evening wandering around finding dinner before heading to bed for an early night.

In the morning I woke up, made some coffee, and bundled up to go sit on the balcony and enjoy the view of Mont-Blanc, the highest summit in France. Once everyone was up, a few of us walked over to the cable-car that would take us up the mountain. The cable car was cheaper than was listed on the website, and ended up costing us only 15 euros round trip.

If you’re making the hike up to Lac Blanc, I highly suggest taking the cable car to cut time off of your trip up the mountain. The hike up (sans cable car,) is barren, boring, difficult, and quite frankly, a waste of time. You would have to wake up hella hella early to even make it to the Lac Blanc refuge at the end of the hike, and even then you may get there after dark. So, be smart, and take the cable car.

Our early-morning hike was pretty interesting, as it was extremely cloudy. I didn’t mind, and neither did my companions, as the higher we went, the thinner the clouds became and leT ME TELL YOU, there are fewer things as sublime as hiking the side of a mountain and looking over your shoulder to see a break in the clouds and THERE THEY ARE, THE MIGHTY AND MAJESTIC ALPS. It was like peek-a-boo, only epic instead of weird.

The hike up to Lac Blanc Refuge wasn’t too difficult, the hardest part being the incline at the beginning. Now, I’m not the most active person, as I’m just mostly on my feet all day and I run some mornings (I’m not a marathon runner–hell, I’m not even a mile runner,) so when I say it is do-able, I really mean it. There is a part of the hike where you have to rock scramble up, but as long as you have the proper shoes the worst that will happen is you get a nice leg workout.

When we reached the refuge, the cloud cover pretty much cleared up, and we were able to take in panoramic views with our own eyes and cameras.

We hung out at the refuge for a while, ate some granola bars and apples, and took lots and lots of selfies. Eventually we knew we had to hike back down to the cable car, as it stops running at a certain time and we did not want to be stranded in the French Alps. The hike down took a while, as we had to be careful coming back down the rocks, and that incline from the start of our hike became the craziest decline– I definitely slipped on my ass a few times, and I wasn’t alone.

We ended up having to wait in line for about 45 minutes to catch the cable car down, mais c’est la vie. My group and I kept taking turns to hold our place in line to take pictures, and when you’re in the company of friends, 45 minutes waiting for a cable car in one of the most beautiful places in the world isn’t bad at all.

When we got back down to the bottom of the mountain, we walked back to town to meet up with the rest of our group. As we debated our dinner choices, we stopped and saw an aerial performance mother-daughter duo, who were using bungees to do stunts in the spaces between buildings. It was a little thing that made an already special day that much more excellent.

We all stayed up talking before we went to bed that evening, and the next morning we woke up to explore the town some more and do some last minute souvenir shopping. We came across an older gentleman who was selling dog key chains, except they were made out of pipe-cleaners and the man made them himself. I practiced my French a little because I wanted to get his photograph, and I opened the conversation with “Hello, how are you today?” and he just responded with “No, don’t ask me that!” I laughed and he let me take his picture when I asked. Not the best quality image, but still one of my favorites from the trip.

After our shopping trip we had to leave this gorgeous place and make the drive to Lyon. We were genuinely sad to leave and most of us shared that we would definitely make an effort to return and spend more time in the area.  So, if you’re ever in the east of France, check out Chamonix. There are hikes for everyone, skiing, and a charming town with an old guy making awesome key chains.

Safe Travels, and Happy Shooting!