Yesterday I went to the National Gallery of Victoria to see their current special exhibition, Escher X nendo | Between Two Worlds, before it closes next week. First off, if you live in Melbourne and you have the time between now and 7 April, please do try to give it a visit. The fantastic show creates a dialogue between the work of Dutch artist M.C. Escher, most known for his fantastical optical illusion creations, and Japanese design house nendo, who drew inspiration from Escher’s art to create a series of interactive displays and installations that guide you through the exhibition and into a dreamy, yet high-contrast world of black and white geometry.
I brought my camera intending to take a few photos of works in the exhibition, but instead I found myself captivated by other people’s photos. Everywhere I looked, folks had their phones out, cameras on, capturing their own photos of the lithographs, prints, and installations. I was fascinated to get this glimpse into everyone else’s experiences of the show. It’s so rare that we get to see through someone else’s eyes in real time, our windows into their perspective coloured after the fact by the pictures they choose to share, the filters they use.
As I walked through the exhibit, I spent as much time looking at the other visitors as I did looking at the works of art. I loved seeing which pieces they connected with, which ones they wanted to remember. I liked seeing the way they chose to document the art they saw: did they faithfully capture the full work or try to put their own artistic spin on their photo by cropping a detail or including a companion? Did they photograph the information card as well, or were they content to divorce the image from its title and history?
With apologies to the people through whose viewfinders I creepily photographed, seeing the exhibit through multiple points of view added a new layer to my understanding and enjoyment of the art. Escher’s work is all about reflections and twisted perspectives, and looking at the photos that others took brought that fascinatingly distorted outlook to my own experience of the exhibit. I definitely recommend seeing Escher x nendo | Between Two Worlds at the NGV if you can, but whether you go to this exhibit or any art show in the future, look around at the other visitors and see what they see for a moment or two.
Every year, a neat nine-square grid takes over Instagram as folks post their #bestnine of the year, the nine photos they posted that received the most likes. Mine is nice: a mix of places I went, things I did, and people I spent time with.
That said, I’ve also noticed a new trend this year, which is photographers posting their own “best nine” of photos that aren’t necessarily the ones that received the most likes, but the ones that the photographers themselves are most proud of. Photography is something I really worked hard on this year, and something on which I feel I really made improvements and progress. With the help of my trusty Olympus mirrorless camera, I captured moments throughout my time in New Zealand, and so I wanted to share my own “best nine.” Some of these photos I posted on my Instagram, and some I didn’t. Some received a lot of likes, and some very few. They’re not necessarily my favourites of the year when it comes to memory—every photo with my partner or my friends or my family is a thousand times more my favourite than even the most beautiful mountain or lake—but in my opinion they’re my best work from 2018, and I’m proud to share them.
Think of the main tourist attraction in your city or town. When was the last time you visited it? Maybe you actively avoid it (cough, Times Square), maybe you checked it out when you first moved but you have’t been back, maybe it’s “on your list” but you haven’t quite gotten around to it.
Sometimes its nice to play tourist in your own town and hit all of those sites that “locals never bother with,” but one of the great things about Wellington is that the main tourist attraction also happens to be a lovely nature walk with the best views of the city. Hiking up Mount Vic was one of the first things we did when we first moved here, and I’ve been up four or five times since then.
It’s been almost a year since Steve and I set out from Vancouver across the United States, and more than seven since our rusty, faithful-but-not-very reliable junker of a van landed, flat tire and all, in my parents’ driveway in Philadelphia, and our road trip is still something I think about every single day. As I’ve said before—and as everyone I’ve told about it has said—it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and one of the most amazing opportunities of my life.
I’ve shared tons of photos on here, facebook, and instagram, and I’ve talked about plenty of the incredible things we saw, but I want to get specific about a few of my favourite locations for visual inspiration. However, let’s take a look at the ones that are a bit further off the beaten path—you don’t need me to tell you to go take photos at the Grand Canyon or the Golden Gate Bridge. Here are five locations where I had a ton of fun taking photos and that I would recommend for anyone looking to explore.
Cumberland Falls State Park
I love waterfalls. Big small, wide, narrow–whether it’s the rushing cascades of Niagara or little more than a ripple in the stream, they’re one of my favourite features in nature. Cumberland Falls is not the largest or most awe-inspiring waterfall you’ll ever see, even if it does call itself the Niagara of the South, but there’s something charming about it. Tucked away in a state park in a rural area of the state—the most notable town nearby is Corbin, known for being the birthplace of KFC—it’s a peaceful, relaxing place to hike and enjoy nature.
Cumberland Falls is also the home of an amazing natural phenomenon: the moonbow. Similar to when sunlight passes through water and create a rainbow, a moonbow occurs when moonlight passes through water and creates an arc of light. While a moonbow can happen anywhere, there are only two waterfalls in the world where the angle and location are just right for the moonbow’s occurrences to be tracked. One is Victoria Falls in location, and the other is Cumberland Falls. We were lucky enough to be there for a full moon, when the moonbow was most likely to be visible. Although the early summer’s long daylight hours meant that the moonbow was incredibly low and faint, it was still an amazing thing to experience.
The number one place I wanted Steve and I to visit on our road trip—the number one place on my bucket list, in fact—was the Grand Canyon. After we left Las Vegas we headed into the southwest where even in early spring we were faced with the dry heat of Arizona and Utah. We spent almost two weeks traveling from Sedona to Moab before making our way into Colorado, visiting five national parks in the process. Including, yes, the Grand Canyon, which was even more amazing than I could have imagined. In fact, the entire reason was incredible; the national parks we visited were some of the highlights of the trip, there were ample free campsites for us to stay in (ranging from extremely nice to extremely weird, but all conveniently located at the least), and the rock formations both in the parks and along the road were awe-inspiring to witness.
One thing that interested me, though, was that as much as I loved visiting the Southwest, I could tell right away I would definitely not want to live there. Usually when I visit a place I love, I start daydreaming about what my life would be like if I moved there. And I did that a lot on this trip, not entirely hypothetically—Steve and I will eventually have to settle somewhere (probably), and there’s a 50/50 change it’ll be in the USA, so we talked about whether we could see ourselves living in Chicago, Colorado, and other favourite locations. But, and I mean no offense to people who live there and love it, I just couldn’t see myself living somewhere with so much red sand and desert. By the time we left, I was more than ready for rain and grass and more rain.
Still, visiting the southwest was one of the most exciting and exhilarating parts of our trip, and it’s a region I’d love to visit (key word) again. In the future, I want to get a permit to hike the fiery furnace at Arches NP, camp in the Grand Canyon, and explore the more remote sections of Canyonlands. In the meantime, please enjoy these photos of Arizona and Utah:
Despite living in Ireland for nine months now, I haven’t seen as much of the country as I would like. Unlike the semesters of undergrad when I studied in London, England and Sevilla, Spain, the MA has, understandably, taken up quite a bit of my time (and my finances) and so I haven’t spent my weekends travelling and exploring. When my family came to visit this past week, however, they wanted to see more than just Dublin and Galway, the two cities I’m most familiar with, so it was a good time to get the full tourist experience.