Author Archives: Laura Evangelista

About Laura Evangelista

Hi, I'm Laura. I am an undergraduate senior at Michigan State University, studying journalism and specializing in design. Last summer I was a designer at the State News in East Lansing and an intern at Rizzi Designs in Lansing. I just got back from a 6 week study abroad trip for visual communication in Spain! email: lauramarie222@gmail.com twitter: @lauramarie222 portfolio: http://lauramarie.carbonmade.com/

Laura E. gets sentimental…

There are certain moments I want to box up in a little glass snow globe to keep on my nightstand so I can shake it and relive my favorite days. This was one of those days, but I know that no image or representation of it could ever do it justice. Just for kicks, here are some photos that could give you some idea of what we saw.

El Escorial is a little town that is a 45 minute bus ride northwest of Madrid, famous for its royal palace that includes a cathedral, monastery, school, library, gardens and fabulous views. The castle was built for King Philip II starting in 1563, taking 21 years to complete.

Our tour guide was a little bespectacled man of what I’ll call great knowledge and enthusiasm, with English annunciation worthy of an impression perfected by Karl. The religious devotion of King Philip II is apparent in the solemn severity of the architecture and the lack of frivolity in his court. The inlaid wood doors and original tile work still preserved today are remarkable artisan achievements of which I could hardly believe were created almost 500 years ago.

After our castle tour and garden exploration we had lunch in a café that offered us the cheapest price (9 €) for the menu of the day – I had something the waiter and I called “revolutionary potatoes” (which arose from my lack of proper pronunciation of the real dish) and chicken, along with a couple sips of wine, making the hike through the rain – did I forget to mention the rain? – much more enjoyable.

So, this castle was sweet. The gardens were equally amazing. But what I wasn’t prepared for was the beauty of the three-mile hike we took to the top of the mountain overlooking the castle. Each sight of the day was more breathtaking than the last.

Nancy led the 12 of us along a winding road up the mountain. The majority of us were cloaked in an array of colorful ponchos, making it hard to lose the group and great for taking photos. Do you know how pretty everyone looks in ponchos?

The hike should have taken about half the time, but it seems we are easily distracted by every moss covered boulder and field of wildflowers. The defining moment of the day for me was (probably a little too recklessly) jumping up on a rock that overlooked the most beautiful and vast greenery I’ve ever seen, gasping, and screaming for everyone else to climb up. The look on each person’s face as they registered the view was the most amazing display of human emotion I could imagine.

Reaching the top of the mountain, we climbed up the manmade rock steps to survey what we had conquered. I’m not a very sentimental person (ummm sometimes), but the view made my heart surge with joy. I’ve never been so at peace with nature and in awe of my environment at the same time. Looking at that made me remember that the world is such an open place of beauty and possibility.

So often I forget about nature. I’m busy. You’re busy. We go to work, maybe school, we don’t take the time to listen to the world. I could have sat on that mountaintop for hours, taking in the view and hearing things that are usually blocked out by my endless mental to-do list.

As Nancy said to Karl, “They have to learn one word in Spainsh – tranquilo. They’re on Spanish time now. Learn to be tranquil.”

I’m trying. I still have that mental to-do list, but maybe I’ll slow it down. I don’t have that memory snow globe, but if I take the time to really observe and appreciate things, maybe I don’t need the snow globe. I’ll try to be a little more tranquilo.

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CaixaForum Madrid

Yesterday, 3 hours into our walking tour of Madrid led by Karl and his crutch, we stopped to admire a gorgeous hanging garden. We sat next to a building, photographing and chugging water, and in true Karl fashion he said, “Hey guys, let’s go in this place!” …so we did.

The building housed one of the Obra Social Fundacion “la Caixa”, featuring different galleries sponsored by the bank la Caixa. This particular one is called CaixaForum Madrid and the third floor exhibit was a documentary photo gallery, Fotopres “la Caixa” 09.

The pamphlet reads, “The exhibition presents the work of the photographers selected as the winners of this year’s edition together with work by young documentary photographers who have been able to carry out their projects at various locations around the world thanks to FOTOPRES “LA CAIXA” 09 grants.”

There were nine sets of photos from different photographers. Subjects ranged from transgender in Pakistan to gender violence to DubaiLand. View the photos from the three winners here. Here are some of our thoughts about the gallery:

John Kalmar

I was riding a wave of excitement and joy after wandering through Retiro Park for a couple hours when Karl shepherded us into the Fotopres “la Caixa” exhibit. What I saw brought me back down to reality. The photos were incredibly moving, yet horrifying. It’s a travesty to see what humans are still capable of doing to each other. One positive that can be taken out of these photographs is the power of documentary photography. These people are given a voice through these photographs, and these images can further serve as a platform for social reform.

Abbey Moore

As an asspiring photographer myself these photos captured every emotion from hope to pure terror. I think John said it correctly when he said the photos brought him back to reality. The world is so diverse and with the photos nestled in a beautiful, clean and joyous city it really gives you perspective on how different the world can be when you just cross country borders. What was also inspiring to me was the uniqueness of each photographer’s project. Every one of the photographers had a narrow focus and their photos did what photos do best, they told a story. The courage of the photographers I think must also not be ignored as it could not have been easy to sit back and watch these things happen while focusing on sharing others messages with the world. And in the midst of telling a story their technical beauty of their photographs was hard to ignore. Each picture seemed to be illuminated from behind as the light was brilliant in even the most horrifying places. It was truly an inspiration to use your talent as a photographer to do something good.

Lauryn Schroeder

A tad bit weary, Karl promised us he had one more place that he wanted to take us before we sat down to get a bite to eat. But it wasn’t long before he yelled the all too familiar, “Hey guys, let’s go here too! Just for a couple minutes I promise!” Well I don’t even think Karl knew what we were in store for when we entered the 3rd floor exhibit of La Caixa Forum. The portraits of women from Pakistan, whose faces and lives had been torn apart by violence were the first things to catch my eye, but were also the things that churned my stomach. I started slow, and read each and every photo’s description from that section, and it wasn’t long till I found myself brought to tears by the emotion radiating from each portrait. Those photos were by far the hardest to get through, and I felt not only physically tired from walking, but emotionally tired after that. It was something, I think that our entire group needed to see though. We are so lucky. Traveling through EUROPE of all places with a group of close friends and a teacher that is more of a kid than some of us combined. The biggest thing we worry about is whether to get the salmon bocadillo or the jamon y queso at lunch. Or what shoes to wear with which dress (or jersey). For me, the entire exhibit was a wake up call. This trip has given me some of the best experiences of my life and I will try my hardest not to take any of it for granted.

Laura Fosmire

I have to talk specifically about the photos of the abused Pakistani women because I can think of nothing else. I remember that they were the very first thing I spotted when I entered the hall, and they made me stop dead in my tracks. I spent at least a half hour staring blankly at each terrifyingly disfigured face. My initial reaction was absolute emptiness, probably shock. The last photo was particularly haunting, because the woman in it had no plastic surgery yet done, and all of the skin between her face and neck was still melted together. She was staring directly into the photographer’s lens and out at the viewer, and I stood there for at least 15 minutes staring directly into her huge, dark eyes. Never in my life had I seen such an expression of misery and dejection, as if she was saying; “Look. Look at me. Look at what they did to me.”

Eventually I had to leave the gallery, because the photos began to make me angry. And disgusted. Not disgusted because of the hideous mutations of the women — I was no longer bothered by that. Instead, I was disgusted by the actions of the men, family members and husbands that had caused these women such pain. And I was infuriated that somewhere in the world, this horrific kind of abuse is still going on, while hundreds of thousands (such as myself) are ignorant of it. To imagine that gender injustices still exist frustrates me, but to realize that they extend this far makes my blood boil. Particularly when I think of the people I know in my life who tease and make fun of feminists and still crack sexist jokes and still have sexist ideals. I just want to show them this exhibit, so they can finally realize that sexism and gender violence in all of its forms is still shockingly, terrifyingly real.

Alanna Thiede

When I first walked into the room of photos, the portraits of abused women made me stop mid-stride. There faces were tarnished by acid. I’m sure their spirits suffered too. Husbands, cousins and friends changed these womens’ lives, caused them to have dozens of surgeries, wrecked their careers and devastated them.
But there was hope and that was what bad me quietly cry as I walked by these photographs.
I read each caption and then focused in on the woman’s face. Not because I was gawking at their injuries. I just knew that I should not turn my head from such sorrow. If they could endure the pure torture they were put through and then agree to put it on display, then I could stand to let their images speak for a few moments.
I live such a lucky life and really do appreciate everything I have but sometimes it is easy to forget the life I could’ve had. That woman with the haunted eyes, melted flesh and forgotten dreams of being an airline stewardess could have been me.
I could have suffered like she did.

Katie Dalebout

Walking through this exhibit during the best week of my life, quickly put my charmed life into perspective. Even my most trying moments are nothing compared to those of the subjects of these photographs. I realized my life could have been completely different purely due to circumstances out of my control. I had not anticipated the deep emotion these photos and captions would evoke; it was the perfect time for me to receive a reminder of how lucky I am. Amidst these amazing heart-wrenching photos, I found a since of optimism. My favorite photographer in the exhibit, took a narrow subject matter, of African immigrants to Europe, and focused on an unexplored area of their existence in their new homes. Instead of focusing on the extreme poverty he showcased some very specific colorful and optimistic areas of their existence. It was interesting to see this portrayed this way. This photojournalism at its best was an unforgettable eye-opening experience.

Laura Evangelista

I was drawn to the portraits of the Pakistani women like a moth to flame (forgive the cliche). I stood under the spotlight that shown down directly in front of the display, making me feel like I was the only person in the room. The presentation only intensified the deep connection I felt with these women, these victims of acid violence, who never proclaimed their victimization.

What struck me hardest about Emilio Morenatti’s ‘Generation of Violence in Pakistan’ was the juxtaposition of the soft portrait format of each photo and the unexpected disfiguration of each subject. It was incredible to see how determined each woman was to live her life as if she was not in unbearable pain as a result of backlash from petty family arguments and disgruntled spouses. They seemed without anger in a way that awed and confused me.

The emotions I felt after spending some time on this exhibit distracted me so much that I don’t even remember the rest of the photos I looked at. I don’t know what I saw when I left the group to explore another floor, and I don’t know how long I was walking around (the group searching the museum for me) before I snapped out of it and could return to reality. The quiet strength the women in the photos projected is still a mystery to me.

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WAIT. Who is Veggie Monster!?

“I love small leather goods… they just get me,” said Cheryl on our walk back to the train station from the Dalí Theatre-Museum.

He has no idea...

As funny as Cheryl is, there is somewhat of a universal truth in her statement. There is something that “just gets” everyone. For you, it might also be small leather goods (but let’s be real – probably not); it could be anything that intrigues or fascinates you. For Abbey it’s Disney movies (jk Abbs – it’s Frida Kahlo or something). For Adam, it’s anything except Spain. I’d pin Katie D. for the Toms type. What thing “just gets” you? Really though, because that’s important. That thing, or those things, is or are what makes you an individual. This trip is helping me discover what “just gets” me. So far, it’s seafood tapas and taking pictures of old people when they’re not looking. It can get awkward.

Anyway…

By the time the 12 of us boarded the train at 10:15 a.m., we were “bright-eyed and bushy tailed” (another Cheryl-ism) with BIG goals of actually writing in our journals and doing our homework for the week. That didn’t last long… Laura F., John, Lauryn and I played the card game ‘spoons’ (the one where you need four of a kind and you have to grab a spoon before they’re gone), but there is no silverware in Spain so we used pens. This game got a little violent, mostly because John is greedy and tries to take all the pens. Laura F. lost every game (sorry to call you out) so I vote she sticks to being the group’s Spanish interpreter… that might be a more valuable skill anyway.

Somehow we stumbled on the topic of childhood TV shows. Abbey acting as the expert on all things Disney corrected Lauryn’s statement and set us straight about Pixar merging with Disney for Toy Story. Thanks Abbs. Other topics: Lamb Chop’s, Barney (specifically if the washed up child actors brag about their Barney experience on resumes at the age of 25), Gummy Bears, Cookie Monster’s ugly/tragic transformation to Veggie Monster, Pee Wee’s Play House (well, just how creepy it was), and the sad realization that Bob Saget is not actually the sweet fatherly Danny Tanner after seeing his stand-up comedy.

We got off the train after an hour and a half, eyes not so bright and tails a little wilted, and attempted to find somewhere to eat. After a failed 25 minutes of walking aimlessly, we discovered a little café called Café de la Font, where the silverware (ok, ok, it does exist in Spain) was 3 feet long and the food was delicious.

We are Dalí

Oh yeah, we went to the Dalí Theatre-Museum too. That was cool… ummm I’m pretty sure I didn’t understand one thing in there. I loved his sketches and his ability to excel across so many types of art media.

The best word to describe Dalí and his work (he designed the theatre-museum, too) would be dimensionality. Every time you look at something and you absolutely know what it is, you suddenly see another thing that totally changes the perspective and matter of the artwork.

I think art, like almost everything, is incredibly subjective. I’ll let the other bloggers speak more to his work, but this quote allowed me to take the museum in with an attitude of acceptance and awe, rather than trying to figure out what the heck was going on:

“I want my museum to be like a single block, a labyrinth, a great surrealist object. It will be a totally theatrical museum. The people who come to see it will leave with the sensations of having a theatrical dream.” – Salvador Dalí

I do hope you maybe laughed once or at least enjoyed reading this BLAWG (Cheryl-ism). Here is my own blawg that I’m yet to update, my flickr photos, and my twitter. So many links on the quest to master multimedia.

Shout out to my fam and friends. I miss you like crazy, but I’ll miss you more when I move here someday!

-Laura E.

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