There really is an art to posting on any social media platform, but I always think there is something special about WordPress. Maybe it’s because I started photo-blogging right as I began shooting around with my first DSLR. It was pretty easy for a then high school aged newbie to engage in a dialogue within the photo community. I wouldn’t say I learned everything from WordPress, but I’ve met some interesting people, I’ve been inspired by a lot of different artists’ works, and I’ve really taken away a lot of learned experience from the general blogging journey.
It’s nice to be back into the swing of things on WordPress, just because I find that some of these posts are longer than other posts on Instagram or Twitter (obviously). There’s really no limit to how I can express myself and rant on what I’m engaged in with my photography. The more time spent on both posting and reading other blogs is evidently rewarding!
So to everyone that has been engaging with me, especially those of you that have been for a long time, I really appreciate the WordPress love! And I look forward to reciprocating it in the future!
There are many instances where I think too much devotion and credit is given to social media. One of my biggest pet peeves is seeing “activist” groups on Facebook try to get “likes” to change the world. That’s nice, I guess, in terms of raising awareness. But there is a difference between the social capital found in the virtual world and IRL (in real life)…
What does it really mean for an amateur photoblogger to have x amount of followers? It’s easy to answer that in light of a professional photography: money plays. But none of my artwork is for sale; I’m not in it for the money. So what is to be gained from networking online? Facebook friends, Twitter and Instagram followers, and whoever reads this on WordPress -only a few of these individuals engage with me face to face. I don’t find these types of relationships to be as gratifying as real-world relationships. I hope that doesn’t offend anyone, but in terms of a healthy lifestyle, I think that physical contacts are superior. But in the instance where those superficial followers can become real-world acquaintances, I think social media can be incredibly valuable.
In the months leading up to my departure for Ireland, I was going through different online social mediums to find local photographers to follow. I stalked their photos and got some destinations in mind. There are plenty of photo opportunities throughout the Irish countryside and that became more apparent the more I got out and shot. But while researching, I noticed that most photographers were based somewhere and not in Galway. Then I found “Galway Pete,” whose work I fell in love with the moment I checked out his online portfolio. Maybe I’m still a newbie in terms of photography, but when I see someone’s work that I admire, I really do think, “Wow! I’d love to shoot around with this guy, see how they work, what equipment they use etc.” Again, despite how much I’ve learned online, I think there is something valuable about a hands-on approach to photography.
For anyone not familiar with Ireland, it’s not the easiest country to get around with a limited and expensive bus system. Apparently, in the past few years, the major motorways that were constructed amount to small roads back in America. These “improvements” don’t really do much in terms of increasing accessibility, but I guess they reduce the time between major urban areas, which are basically Dublin, Galway, and Cork. So finding a local “fixer” was a priority upon arriving here. After some re-tweeting, liking, and generic Twitter conversations, I had contacted Peter and set a date to go out and shoot Connemara. It might strike Americans as odd at how easy and familiar that process seems. But Ireland is such a small country that people really are who they say they are. That “have your guard up” mentality is quite unnecessary here; I guess it’s because communities are so tightly knit.
We headed out of Galway into some pretty relentless rain. There are many attitudes that photographers can have when they interact. In some circles, unfortunately, I detect a lot of condescension, probably due to competition. But Peter was really comfortable with how he shot and was completely open to sharing his opinions on equipment, techniques, and his general philosophy when it comes to photography. I think it’s the last part that comes through in a face-to-face relationship. Sure, online you can view someone’s portfolio, and I guess ultimately, this is what matters if you want pictures. But it’d be pretty miserable if a bride’s wedding photographer was a jerk and ruined her day.
I really got the best of both worlds: great photographer and Irishman. Having a local show you around is something I’ve recently learned to treasure after some extensive traveling. I’ve been reading up on art and photography and relationships are what the more keen artists denote as important in their process. Two pieces of advice that Peter shared with me, (and I hope he doesn’t mind me repeating!) really stuck out to me. The first was to never shoot what another photographer dictates as the right way. His wording didn’t really make this tip as much of an absolute that I am making it out to be. But if you’re motivated by someone else’s mindset, or anything other than your own internal drive, then are you really an artist? This is definitely different from motivation or a passive type of influence. But it brings me to his second point: amateurs have the potential to create better work than the pros. I thought this was an interesting tidbit, just because so many people incorrectly assume that the most expensive equipment, which presumably pros have better access to with their photo-related income, churn out the best shots. The relationships that many pros make are, well, professional. And that basically means the motivation is profession driven –ahem, money. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. But it’s definitely in this category of online, virtual, and financial.
Despite the poor weather, I think Peter and I got a few good shots. I went a little crazy with the edits, just because Connemara itself is a really wild landscape. I want to give a huge (virtual) thank you to Peter for the nearly perfect day! Be sure to check out his website and to follow him on Twitter! If your work is great, you’re bound to get a re-tweet at the very least.
I wanted to post again, even though I don’t have a CF card reader, or the right plug for my camera to get my pictures up. Fear not, they will be great when I finally get to them! Day 3 here has flown by; I woke up fairly late after a good outing to the various pubs that are about thirty seconds from my apartment.
But before that, I was out walking through Galway City. I think going somewhere foreign (yes, Ireland is incredibly foreign, says me who has been to Japan) puts new challenges forward. Particularly as a photographer. There is not only a new, uniquely beautiful scenery I have to learn how to shoot, but the culture, movement, and personality of Galway is a great challenge.
Yesterday, I found myself wandering by the docks, which eventually led me to the bay, and then the ocean. Words cannot describe what the architecture, which enhances the natural beauty of Galway, looks like here. So it’s a pain that I write this and have no photos yet to depict the city. (Disclaimer: I want to say that the lighting was great yesterday, so there are some top notch photos to come)! In any case, I heard that Ireland has modernized and has lost some of its unique, archaic way of life. That may be more apparent to a native. But coming from Philadelphia, I cannot help but stare at the people here. Galway attracts many foreigners, though the Irish remain easy to spot. As the sun was setting, people took time to sit and watch the beautiful scene unfold. Not just two or three folks, but it seemed that the city put down what it was doing, paused, and witnessed a tremendous sunset. I don’t know if that’s intriguing to me because I have been living in Philadelphia, where the people are more self-oriented, heads-down, looking at their phones. In any case, that is certainly not the way of life here. Chatting with various Irish folk, I have gained that Galway City is considered a big city. High rises, expansive city limits, and a high population count constitute a large city. Galway is a large village. The Irish are more communal than any other culture or city I have been to. And that’s saying something for someone who has done a fair amount of travelling.
I also keep asking new acquaintances if I hadn’t opened my big mouth, could have I passed for an Irishman. I guess the brand names I am wearing (North Face, Patagonia), as well as denim jeans make me stand out. But with my grayer outfits on, I was told once or twice that I could pass. There’s really no benefit to “passing” in Galway. It’s a melting pot with different looking people. Yet somehow, the Irish culture is really preserved and celebrated with this level of diversity. (I hear Russian a lot; they’re the equivalent of Jersey folk in Philadelphia). I saw another photographer chasing the sunset and asked if he shot around these parts often. He nodded, and I asked something else, and he spoke some heavily French-accented English. I reassured him I wasn’t from Ireland in French. I also met a girl from the Midwest that had a thick accent. Apparently she passes for a Northern Irish speaker. I heard someone else from Marquette at a pub last night speaking. It is definitely not the same, but it made me laugh to think that two distinct places, known for their distinct accents, share some similarities.
After a day out and about, with only a muffin in my stomach, I was famished and ready to try some Irish cuisine. I had it in the back of my mind that it wouldn’t be that different than the wide-spread category of “American cuisine.” While American dishes mooch from a variety of cultural recipes, the Irish definitely have a distinct flavor. I arbitrarily picked Riordan’s, a small place on Shop Street with green lattice outside. I had bacon and cabbage with mash -that is ham, with a really flavorful, warm cabbage salad with buttered carrots, and lightly mashed potatoes. But besides the actual dishes themselves being unique, the dinning style here is quite different than America. Individuals seem to eat out probably because dining doesn’t appear to be the social activity. All the places up and down Shop Street are locally owned. So you end up eating a home-cooked meal for dinner while chatting the friendly waitress who has stories to tell. Also, asking for a box results in weird looks. I’m 155 lbs, so I don’t consider myself large. But my mindset is no different than the general mindset of obese ridden America. There aren’t any fat Irish people (maybe some older men with rounded bellies). But that epidemic is uniquely American.
Obviously, drinking is the social activity; pubs are the saloons of Ireland. I didn’t frequent bars much in Philadelphia. But what is noticeably different is the age range of those attending pubs. That would definitely irk many college-aged students back in America. It’s not the equivalent of the cool professor showing up to the bar for a game of trivia. It would be more like your parents, teachers, aunts and uncles show up to your house party. Though any aged Irish person seems to consume a lot of alcohol, it still doesn’t equate to the same, rowdy binge drinking you find at American (college) bars. That element exists to some extent, maybe because there are more foreigners here in Galway City. But live music is always to be expected. Or, carrying on conversations is more of the primary objective while drinking goes along with it. Drinking goes along with anything. Pubs are spaces for “anything” to occur. Bars are places to get drunk and then toss the dice and maybe meet new people. Sports bars might be that one exception where you can go and watch a game while drinking. Wine bars might be another exception. But the word “pub” is definitely a larger umbrella term that incorporates all the dynamics of the Irish social scene.
Well, this has been a lot of words with no pictures. So I think I will stop here for today. I look forward to posting (hopefully) on a daily basis!
Words cannot express how excited I am, writing this post in Galway, Ireland! I don’t think I have been in the country for more than six hours and I know that I belong here. I don’t mean that my generic outward appearance matches all the other white people and I somehow gain acceptance from that. No. I mean personality wise…
I haven’t posted in a long time because I was prepping for this departure. So any and everyone that is reading this, I hope you follow me throughout the next five months as I study abroad!
Getting out of the East Coast was a nightmare this past week. My original flight was cancelled and then booked three days later. Once I finally returned to Dulles Airport, my father, girlfriend, and I were attacked by the luggage Nazi; (yes, just like the Seinfeld soup Nazi). We had to do the luggage shuffle for no apparent reason. Maybe it was to appease this woman’s weird obsession with luggage weight and size. But in the heat of my passive-aggressiveness, I hastily pushed various items to random areas of my three bags. The result was me stuck in Dulles (2 hrs), a transatlantic flight (6 hrs) and then Heathrow (4 hrs) with no phone, a laptop with a dead battery and no charger, and a pen and a fresh, empty journal.
To summarize the more personal journal’s theme that I was left to write, I’d say that I have my work cut out for me these next five months. I need to do some serious soul searching; be my own version of Alexander Supertramp. It’s by no coincidence that the country I am staying at is the motherland of my maternal ancestry.
While waiting in Heathrow, my stomach growled as it digested British Airway’s delicious dinner from hours ago consisting of chicken curry, white wine, and apple-cinnamon cake. I guess I can sit for four hours in a hungered daze, staring at the same people, waiting for a flight. The shoe shiner was really interesting to watch; do Brits generally not have a shoe shiner in public transport hubs? People were walking by the elevated chairs, gawking as if it was some obscene novelty. Three other side notes I picked up on while waiting. First, British guys are better looking than girls. Second, this is because British guys do way too much to look like David Beckham. Call me gay, call me crazy, call me whatever–but it was simply a matter of fact as I witnessed the 6-11 am shift at Heathrow. Third, Americans, you suck. You are easily the loudest, poorly dressed, and consequently, easiest to spot in a large crowd of travelers. That is all.
Anyways, I didn’t eat anything at all because I was too hungry to ask someone if the euro is accepted in a British airport. Obviously it is. But I didn’t feel like spending big bucks for some crummy food.
So maybe it was my stomach, or my light-headedness, but my heart was pounding as we flew over the Irish countryside. I have said that there is something ancient about the Blue Ridge Mountains; they’re full of lore. But me oh my was there something about flying over the patchwork-quilted plains of Ireland! Words like majestic and awe-inspiring now come to mind, but while sitting in a window seat, I experienced something existential.
Miniature chapels, which were most-likely cathedrals or large churches, littered the various shades of green. With clean, white clouds scattered below me, there was an incredible amount of saturated colors throughout the scenery. I cannot help but think about the past few weeks in Charlottesville where I was thinking how tainted and drained the colors are in this sub-freezing winter. My eyes watered at the burst of solid, full range of colors. Dark blues and greens contrasted against the limestone buildings and stone fences; I couldn’t help but think of all the opportunities I would have to shoot some great photographs.
By the time I touched down at Shannon, I felt a never-before-experienced high. I thought that Ireland had been built up; ruined by modernization. At this international airport, I thought I had landed in someone’s cow farm! It was dainty; I can’t help but think of the odd Led Zeppelin IV album cover when trying to describe what it looked like. It wasn’t what I expected.
I was told to move to the side at the immigration checkpoint when I said I’d be there for five months. Obviously I wasn’t the only one to have arrived to study abroad. One quick aside on airport employers who are outside of the US: they are incredibly friendly, sweet, and genuinely nice people. Whatever the UK’s equivalent of our awful TSA was enjoyable; the agent was cracking jokes as he did a full on frisk search on me! Frisk away British man! I don’t understand your accent…hahahaaa (true story).
So I skipped over to a bench and waited my turn. If I cannot hear a British accent, I most definitely cannot understand anything that comes out of an Irishman. I keep telling myself, “No, that’s not Gaelic you’re hearing. See? They just said an English word!” To no avail, I openly admit to hearing maybe 1 out of 6 words they say. That improves when they realize I don’t have a similar accent, but when a conversation between two Irishmen takes place around me, I wince.
The gentleman at the immigration desk asked a few general questions, to which I strained my neck in order to comprehend. At one instance, I was nodding my head “yes” when he casually asked, “Why did you choose Ireland?” When he repeated himself (maybe twice) I answered that I’m being picked up by my relatives, a major part of my experience to come. If the guy wasn’t friendly before, at that point, we became friends. Blood runs deep in Ireland. There is absolutely no doubt about that.
(I apologize for not posting any photos just yet. And I have so much more to write. But I must go!)
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You grab good looking people and shoot them in the snow! My good friend needed some shots for some things he’s looking into.
So we had some fun shooting around the sunset. It’s always easy to shoot photogenic people…
Yea, I did some harsh edits. But I have almost 80 shots that are worth editing. So I have a lot of different styles I want to play with.