Striving to use photography to connect the humanity of people around the world and bring about a more just society.

100 People Project || Emilie

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I am finding that South Africa is a whirlwind. Oftentimes you will be waiting for someone to arrive for nearly thirty minutes. Then, once they have arrived, it will be rush rush to complete what you had planned to do. For me, my days tend to reflect this on an even larger scale. One day I will be waiting for plans to get in order and they never will. Instead of leaving the house I will spend the whole day doing work online (still being productive!). If I’m lucky I will still go out that night for dinner or a drink or two. Just wait until the next day comes around though… I will do more things than I thought possible and end up taking 10 pages in my journal just to record all of the memories.

Last Friday was a day like this. In the morning I traveled to Khayelitsha to work with a Children’s Home that is building a website. We had laid down the basic foundations for the site and Friday was spent taking photos for the site. We did portraits of each of the kids there (19) and then some group shots, candid shots and photos of the staff and facilities. After the photos were done, I was able to rush back to my home just in time to visit this vineyard for some wine tasting. It was so beautiful to get out of the city and into the vast open air. The mountains were still visible, as they are nearly everywhere around Cape Town. There were rows of grapes and two horses in a great green pasture.

After a few sips of wine I decided to hijack Emilie to act as my model. Emilie has been one of my wonderful housemates for the past two weeks. She has already been in Cape Town for two months volunteering with an organization that does after-school tutoring in the townships. Emilie is from France and says everything in the most darling French accent. My favorites are “smoothie” and “hummus”. If you ever make friends with a French person, please ask them to pronounce these words. Luckily for us, Emilie is passionate about smoothies so we get to hear that word often. Emilie isn’t just passionate about smoothies though, she’s passionate about many of the simple things of life. It has been a pleasure being reminded by her about being thankful for the sun and the wind, the open spaces of the vineyard, good wine, friendly people and quality art.

I’m so pleased about the way these photos turned out and I hope that I can continue to find time to photograph the beautiful people that I have been meeting along my way.

Virtual Postcard II – Cape Town

There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.

Nelson Mandela

Street Art in Montevideo, Uruguay

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I had a few unique experiences in South America that really stand out as ones that I want to remember forever. Stumbling upon this street art event is probably somewhere in the top 3 (I can’t really decide where because commitment is scary). My last weekend in South America I traveled to Uruguay with a girl from Spain and a girl from Germany that I had both met through my hostel. Our trip to Uruguay was only three days long but it felt like five because of how much we did. As our last hours were closing in (it was 6pm and our bus left at 1:15am) we dragged ourselves out the door one more time. Our intentions were to go to a Couchsurfing dinner gathering. We had our tourist map and a route drawn but you can just say that we got a little bit distracted before we made it to our destination. As we rounded a bend in the road an empty lot opened up ahead of us. The lot wasn’t empty though, it was filled with somewhere between 25 and 50 young people doing street art or watching as street art was being done. Graffiti, or street art, is extremely common in Uruguay, as well as in Argentina, but I never actually saw it being created. Without saying a word, I took a few pictures from afar and then walked up closer to snap a few portraits. The German girl immediately made friends by using the little Spanish that she knew to try to locate a recently legalized herb. While her search for the herb was not very fruitful, she gained us some new friends.

After I took a few pictures I opened up and said “Hola” a few times. While some people hate being recognized as a foreigner, I don’t always mind it. When a person realizes that I’m not a native Spanish-speaker it saves me the confused looks and mumbled “No-hablo-mucho-Castellano” that I have to give after they ramble off a paragraph’s worth of questions in Castellano (what they call Spanish language). Still, after three weeks in the region, I am proud when I am able to recognize and respond to “Where are you from” and “How do you like Uruguay?”. In fact, it was here that I was even able to give my facebook to a guy that asked me where he could see my photos. I then told him to feel free to “Look my pictures to all of the people here!” which I can only hope that he understood as “Feel free to share my photos with the others”.

Luckily, Uruguay’s education system is doing extremely well and many of the people that I met here had really great English! The guy in the picture above explained to me that this gathering was not a normal thing, but a special event they were holding in response to some political goings-on. Unlike North Americans who only know graffiti as a sign of gang presence, most other parts of the world know graffiti as an art form. Still, there are a few people that object to it. One of the candidate’s for this fall’s Presidential election has been vocal about his desire to whitewash all of the graffiti in the downtown area of Montevideo and enact stricter fines. In obvious protest to this, these kids organized this gathering to make a point of their graffiti being an art. Most of the pieces here have some sort of political message about freedom of expression when you spend a moment looking at them. Looking back on this day, one of my regrets is that I didn’t ask if I could join in by coloring in a few lines myself.

“Freedom of Expression”

After the sunset, we continued to hang out with our new friends until late in the night. We bought junk food at the corner store, passed around a liter of beer on the city bus and sat on a hill watching little kids roller skate at the skate park. There are so many things that I want to bring back to the US with me from South America. The street art is definitely one of them, but so is the willingness to make friends with strangers on the street and then show them a bit of your life and passions.

Don’t Cry for Me Argentina

Somehow I’m not quite satisfied with this post. I’ve been spending all month thinking about the best way to blog my photos. Should I do a new post for each shoot? I think its a bit too late for that. Every day was different for me so I don’t feel like this blog is cohesive at all. There are too many tourist shots and not enough intimate shots of daily life. Hopefully that will become more natural for me in the upcoming months. If theres a photo in particular that catches your eye here, don’t hesitate to ask about it. Almost all of them have stories behind them.

Virtual Postcard I – Buenos Aires

A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.

― Laozi

I’m now on day 8 of my travels and I realized that I haven’t posted anything here that shows that I’ve left the States. Buenos Aires has been both beautiful and very kind to me. I’m saving up most of my photos for bigger, more magical posts, but you can have a peek at this one as a sort of virtual postcard. If you’re not already, follow my twitter, instagram and facebook page for more frequent posts. Also, don’t forget to let me know if you want a real postcard too! I’ll be sending out my first ones pretty soon.

Farewell to Holland, Michigan // Hope Alumni Blogger

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Friends and followers! I’m excited to tell you that I am now a student alumni blogger for Hope College! This means that as I travel the world I’ll be meeting up with other Hope alumni that are living abroad and writing about their experiences and how Hope helped them get there. For this project I will be blogging at http://blogs.hope.edu/roundtheworld/ My favorite posts will be shared both there and on this blog, but if you really want to follow every move I make then you’ll want to follow both of them.

Below is my first Hope RTW post that just went live earlier today. Click here to view the original.

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Even though I just graduated in December, there was no way that I could leave the US without one last visit to Holland. For that matter, there was no way I could leave without one last visit to Lake Michigan. If you’ve never dragged yourself out into the winter cold to see the glaciers that form at the State Park Beach it is my opinion that you are really missing out on an essential “Pure Michigan” experience. Even better, try to go at night-time, you won’t need a flashlight with all of the light bouncing off the ice.

My living situation during my last semester at Hope was perhaps the best of all of my semesters. I lived in an intentional community house called the Hope Neighbors Community. It was this community that once again welcomed me back this weekend. Here are just some of the Hope Neighbors, as well as a few friends from outside our house. (I’m the one on the far right in the purple pants.)

This trip did remind me of one thing I am thankful to be saying goodbye to. As beautiful as the snow and ice was, I’m excited that all of my destinations will be experiencing summer while I’m there. It gets difficult to press the shutter on my camera when my fingers are frozen!

I’m now back home in the Chicago suburbs and there are only 3 days left until I fly to Argentina. My bags really aren’t packed yet and my to-do list is still nearly a page long. The last time I prepared for a trip as long as this was when I went to Germany the Fall of 2011. Even then, I don’t think I was nearly this nervous because I knew I would be meeting people in my program and staying in one place for the three months I would be there. Luckily, the internet has been a great resource for me and I have been able to follow multiple travel blogs of other solo female travelers that I will soon join the ranks of. They all tell me that nerves are normal and if I’m aware of my surroundings and open to making new friends I’ll have the time of my life.

45 Things that Happened in 2013 (or “My Photographic Year in Review”)

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001. Paw Loe Wa explored frozen Lake Michigan

002. Amanda and I escaped to Kalamazoo for a day trip of brunch and geocaching around the city.

003. Lake Michigan’s shoreline continued to look like it was filled with jam shortbread cookies.

004. Christina and Eric were married at Danada Equestrian Center, a horse farm I worked at in high school.

005. My close friends, Sarah and Patrick, were married at Hope College, where we all met.

006. Norma had the longest wedding veil I’ve ever photographed for her marriage to Oscar.

008. Lisa and Jason had dramatic, but beautiful, weather for their wedding photos.
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009. Maureen and Harry had one heckuva dapper ring bearer.

010. Parkside was saved.

011. Lisa and Mike had a dreamy beach wedding at Camp Blodgett.

012. Amanda looked darling as we explored this apple orchard on one of the hottest days of the summer.

013. Lauren couldn’t stop smiling about marrying Mike.

014. The Amtrak station in Chicago was a great place for people-watching and clandestine photography.

015. My grandparent’s cat Boots enjoyed the great outdoors… on a leash.

016. My cousins started a biker gang.

017. Refugee girls from all around the world continued to build friendships at Parkside.

018. Zippy was born.

019. Alex and Gerrin had an emotional wedding in the most well-lit venue I’ve ever shot in- Pazzo’s at 311.

020. My old youth group friends Katie and Chris got married at the church I grew up at.

021. Amber was a blast to work with and goof around with.
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022. Lizzy and Matt’s wedding at Fulton’s on the River was a party for both the young and old.
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023. Matt and Adriana had their wedding photos taken at The Morton Arboretum, my favorite outdoor portrait location in the suburbs. Matt also gave all of his groomsmen spiffy pocket watches.

024. The Community Health Navigators at World Relief were rewarded with a large grant for their work.

025. Meghan and Eric got married at The Cheney Mansion, a wonderful treasure of a venue in Oak Park, Illinois.

026. My film camera experienced light leaks on a camping trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes but it only made the photos better.

027. Jessica was up for a late-night photo shoot even though we had just became housemates a couple weeks earlier.


028. Walking to the neighborhood pizza place with my housemates was a beautiful bonding experience.

029. Mikki and Travis got married at the picture perfect Bertha Brock Park in Ionia, Michigan.

030. I spent every Sunday making and eating dinner in community with the Hope Neighbors Project.
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031. Julia let me practice studio lighting with  her.
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032. I met Melody.

033. Alexa and I collaborated for a series of photos showcasing the costumes that she has designed and sewn herself.

034. The Lopez-Koolhaas family was one of the most photogenic families I’ve ever met.

035. I learned about being a neighbor with the Lopez-Koolhaas family, Miguel and many others from Fourth Reformed Church and the Westcore Neighborhood.

036. Sarah danced.

037. Eighth Day Farm grew delicious vegetables that made me a healthier person.

038. Habiba and her family let me photograph them even though we could only communicate through smiles and hand motions.

039. Camille and Clara taught me the importance of joy and laughter in friendships.

040. Babu taught me how to say please in Nepali sign language.
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041. Good Time Donuts continued to be a place of wonderful late-night conversations.

042. This Burmese refugee boy and his family showed me that hardship doesn’t have to stop you from pursuing a good life.
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043. Sifa joyfully modeled some of her Congolese fashions for me.
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044. Industrial complexes continued to look cool at night despite being bad for the environment.

045. Giant City had icicles, but not snow, on Christmas Day.

Pick a Postcard

I'm actually not going to either of these places...
[spoiler warning: I'm actually not going to either of those places ^]

Hello friends!

A Little Update
While I started planning this trip last May, things were just crawling until more recently. Now that I’m done with school I’ve had all the time in the world to send emails. I’ve been connecting with different organizations, researching places to stay, talking to photographers about potential meet-ups… oh and making a budget. That has involved tons of research itself. Luckily, the internet has everything these days and I can easily find out what other traveler’s have spent on their journeys around the world. Even with the shoestring budget I’ve got right now my bank account is coming up a little short… oops. This is where the postcard project comes up to hopefully fill in a few gaps.

The Idea
A few months ago my friend Ashley told me about this guy’s project for his trip from Oregon to Patagonia. A bell started ringing in my head immediately. That idea is perfect for my trip!! How it works, is that for every $10 sponsorship, I will send you a postcard from a destination of your choice. See, as I’ve been planning my trip I’ve looked forward to the idea of sending postcards from around the world. At the same time, I’ve also been dreading the amount of postage it is going to cost me. I dearly want to keep in touch with all of you and I am so excited for how everyone can contribute to my trip in such a fun way.

Here are your options!
Argentina
South Africa
East Africa
Israel/Palestine
Cambodia
Southeast Asia (Thailand, Laos, Vietnam…)
New Zealand and/or Australia?? TBA

You can be as specific as you want. Say you want a picture of a waterfall in Argentina? You got it! Say you want a postcard written on a train in Thailand? My handwriting might be a little wobbly, but no problem! Say you want a postcard written by a penguin in South Africa? I’ll do my best, but it might just be a postcard of a penguin.

Send me an email at katy@monocularspectacular.com if you’re ready to sign up! In the meantime, I’ll be looking for some local jobs to make a few more $$. Thanks for all your support!

Announcing my Around the World Trip

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Maybe you’ve seen my vague mentions in other blogs, maybe you’re friends with me on Facebook so you’ve seen my itinerary… But here it is being announced on my blog for the first time!

Just last week I took my last final of my undergraduate college career. Yep, I’m a college graduate now. What’s next? I have long dreamed of traveling the world and providing humanitarian documentary and editorial photography to organizations doing great things. This coming February of 2014 I plan to leave the US with an Around the World ticket that will allow me to travel in one direction around the globe with one-month stops in six different regions.

At this point, my schedule is as follows:

February 16 – March 21– Buenos Aires, Argentina
March 21 – April 2 – Cape Town, South Africa
April 22 – May 16 – Kigali, Rwanda
May 17- June 15 – Palestinian refugee camp near Bethlehem
June 16 – TBD – Phnom Penh, Cambodia and Greater Southeast Asia
???? – New Zealand and/or Australia?? …if I still have energy and money!

As I have looked back on my broad experiences it has dawned on me that nearly everything I have done over the past five years has prepared me for this trip. Being the assistant to the photography professor at Hope College has given me teaching experience in the basics of photography. Working at the YMCA after-school program and summer camp for elementary school kids has given me experience directing and entertaining large groups of children. I was able to use those skills in combination with my knowledge of art this past winter to co-teach an afterschool arts program for underprivileged children in Holland at Heights of Hope. My summer interning with World Relief gave me priceless training in commu- nication across language barriers. Living in the Hope Neighbors Community has taught me about living in community both inside a home and within a neighborhood. Photographing weddings has perhaps been the most valuable in terms of photography. Weddings have taught me how to interact with clients in preparation for events and high-stress situations. The 25+ weddings that I have photographed have also given me ample experience to learn the capabilities of my camera and how to use it in order to never miss a moment.

What I Will Be Doing
Some of the ideas I have for my trip include designing and executing photo-shoots that represent the group’s work and vision, running a short-term photography workshop for community members, providing photography of everyday events for social media, or telling a story of a particularly meaningful success of the group. I am covering my own flights and transportation to the cities that I will be working in. I am asking that the groups help provide me with a host home for a month. I plan to contribute $100-200/month to my hosts to cover living expenses and perhaps one meal each day. I am open to working with multiple organizations as long as I am able to live in one place and get to know the city itself.

Connections Wanted
I have already been blessed with many connections around the world and already have vague plans for many of the countries I am going to. The country that I am still most in need of connections for is Argentina. Unfortunately, my Spanish skills are very basic so this might be a tough one for me to be helpful in. I am also very interested in visiting and possibly staying in a refugee camp in Thailand. I have not found very many leads in that area so I am open to any connections you might have.

Sponsors and Postcards Coming Soon!
As far as funding goes, I am seeking corporate sponsors that I might be able to blog about/provide photography to/etc in exchange for some funds. I will also be launching a postcard project very soon so that I can keep in touch with everyone at home. Please stay tuned for further details on these!

One Last Thing
I’m trying to come up with a catchy name for my trip. Any and all ideas are appreciated! If you suggest one that I end up using I’ll make sure to send you a couple postcards during my trip.

Published || News from Hope College

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What a fun way to end my time at Hope College – being published in their magazine that is distributed to over 50,000 alumni, staff and friends of Hope College! And it’s the cover story too! I could tell you more about this article but it really says everything itself if you take the time read it. Click on either of the pictures below for the online edition. My article is on page 8.

Click above to go to the online viewer of the magazine

Click above to go to the online viewer of the magazine