Through the Lens: Europe Photography Final Project, Semester 1, Zoe Abel

There is something truly incredible about seeing the world. Something incredible about having a conversation in French, standing atop a mountain, discovering a message etched in the marble of a cathedral or seeing a newspaper with a headline that wasn't about Trump. I could be on the couch at home, under a blanket, binge watching every season of Scandal on Netflix, but instead I have been given an incredible opportunity to experience the world. I can learn from the world, I can see the people of the world, I can speak with the people of the world. I can escape my normal life and forget where I am from. I can realize the limitations of my own views, understand that my country's news is not the entire world's news, and I can appreciate all the kinds of beauty in the world. Because in the end, I won't remember who betrayed Olivia on Scandal, but I will remember seeing the world.

"Sweetie, you can't buy happiness, but you can buy a plane ticket, and that's pretty damn close" -United Airways Gate Lady

I get so excited walking into airports. They give me such a sense of purpose and direction. I am walking into this airport and I am going somewhere and everyone here is going somewhere, and they are not all going to the same somewhere. We are all adventurers, embarking on our next adventure.
This is something I noticed on this trip. My family are watchers. They watch. I'm more of a talker, but I'm learning. In this photo, my brother had just pointed out a plane to my sister and they both stood silent, watching the plane being refilled. They just watched.
My sister loves to watch people. She doesn't know that she does it, but me and my camera do. She can tell us about an entire person based on things she notices. A small blue "I'm with her" button, barely visible underneath long scarf of a woman listening to her family discussing the benefits of a Trump presidency. She notices these people and she watches them. She gets quiet and she watches. We used to make up stories about people when we were little. At night, we would lie in bed in the dark and talk about all sorts of people. She would watch them. Even when she was little. She watches.
My sister also loves to sleep. On me. All night.
As we were landing in Newark to make our connection, my sister leaned over to me and said, "I can't tell if the swooping feeling in my stomach is because we're landing or because I just can't wait to go to Europe with our family."
We arrived in Geneva at some ungodly hour. I'm not sure I even remember taking this picture. My sister tells me I mumbled something that sounded like "photography homework....." took this picture and then fell asleep in an airport chair.
My mother watches too. Hers is a different kind of watching, though. My mother sees the world from a very different perspective than I do. She has this uncanny ability to see beauty in so many places.
After arriving at our appartment, we decided to take a walk and see where it took us. It took us to Lac Léman, which is one of Switzerland's largest freshwater lakes. This part of the lake was the area near the city center (which was behind us). Pictures can't even do this place justice.
Boats in Le port du lac Léman
These are "Swiss Swans," which, according to my brother "are the exact same as American swans, except they make Swan noises in Swiss French"
This may be one of my favorite images from the whole trip. I think, in this image, I may have come to a realization about what the term "painting with light" means. I used the lens and the sunlight to my advantage and was very proud of how this turned out. Or, as my brother puts it, "Wowzers!"
This picture is for my parents. One of their favorite parts of the trip was the Swiss, French and Italian wines they got to try.
This was how most of our mornings went. We all sat around the kitchen and cooked and laughed together. My sister loves making things, we both have food allergies, and it's hard for us to find food, so she decided to make her own food. Here, she was making a concoction of flour, sugar, water and raisins and baking it in the oven. When they were finished, we sat at the table and all talked about our adventures, what we had learned and ate my sister's concoctions. Those flour-water-sugar creations were my favorite memory from the trip because we all took turns making them, no matter how lumpy they turned out. This picture may not be from the top of a mountain, or of anything remarkable, but it holds so much emotion. It holds happiness and it holds memories of spending time with my sister without fighting. We made flour concoctions and talked together as a family. We didn't argue or talk about politics or work/school, we were laughed and made concoctions. Because everyone needs a little flour concoction to bring their family together.
"They really need to make statues with clothes on. I'll donate my underwear......actually, never mind, that's gross..... I'll buy them some underwear. Let's start a GoFundMe Page?" -My ten year old brother, after seeing a naked statue
Le jet d'eau (Fountain) at Lac Leman.
I really did feel like the paparazzi on this trip. In fact, a few times I had to ask my family to stop walking, back up and then keep walking because they had been in perfect lighting for a photo.
I was not opposed to just staying in this city for a few more weeks.
I had to include this photo because this was something I saw everywhere in Europe. This row of motorcycles stretched for several blocks.
and surprise! More wine! I thought this place was cool, because they had a person get up on that sliding ladder to get the high-up bottles of wine.
I love the arts, and seeing unique forms of artistic expression is something that I really enjoy doing. My family, on the other hand, would prefer not to sit through a three hour ballet. They won.
Place de la cathédrale Saint-Pierre
View of the city of Geneva from La cathédrale Saint-Pierre
View of Western Geneva from the top of the Cathedrale
Standing up here on the top of the cathedral was fascinating. When I see sights like this, I often envision stories and characters coming to life. I can hear the bell tolling from the bell tower and hear the sweep of the long white robes of the priests as they descend the flights of narrow stairs. I can hear the choir singing. I imagine being here in the thirteenth century, what the city would look like and what I would be doing. I think of a life for myself. If I lived here in the thirteenth century, I would have children by now, I might bring them to this very cathedral. I would cook and clean all day and glance up at this very balcony of the church and wonder what my life would be like if I was up there.
This literally translates to "Carnivore Restaurant," and being a family of vegetarians, we decided to skip this one.
We met up with some old family-friends who we had known when we lived in South Africa. They are Swiss natives and took us to the Swiss town of Lausanne. Imagine the sterotypical snow-covered Swiss village with mountains and cute little cottages and chocolate shops. That's what Lausanne is. It's also home to the international Olympic museum and the home of the Olympic Games.
We left Switzerland and drove into France through the alps.
This moment makes me smile every time I see it. This is because in our daily lives, we are all so busy and so invested in what we each have to do next that we very rarely take selfies with each other. The smiles on both my dad and brother's faces remind me of what the trip really was about- family.
It was freezing cold in Chamonix, France. After taking this picture of my brother, he proceeded to sing three songs from the movie "Frozen" to emphasize just how cold he was.
We boarded a cable car to get to the top of the first mountain. Or, in the words of my dad, who is terrified of heights, "we boarded a cable car and almost died."
This photo was taken just as we rose over the summit of the mountain.
Something I loved about this picture was how the sun made a six-pointed shape, similar to how I drew it when I was a child.
"Really, please don't fall off the mountain." -My dad
"How have they not fallen off the mountain?!" -My dad
This was one of my favorite photos from the entire trip. My family all agrees that we would not be able to climb a mountain, let alone take a picture on the top of one. I love this photo because it shows the height and depth of the climbers and where they are, as well as how far they still have to go.
"The Death Mobile" -My dad
My brother watched as the cable car slowly made its way up the mountain. You can see in the photo a small portion of the town of Chamonix in the valley below.
My sister and I spent the next day skiing in Chamonix. I may or may not have fallen off the mini-ski lift three times and skied down the hill on my face, but we don't have to talk about that. My sister and I enjoyed skiing, but in the words of my mom, "sliding down a mountain on two poles doesn't sound like my idea of a great time.....who wants to go get some cider instead?"
We drove from Chamonix down to Milan and stayed overnight. Also, we may or may not have ordered pizza from room service at midnight. Oops. We went to the train station in the morning to catch our train to Florence.
Doesn't every family play blackjack with gummy candies?
Welcome to Florence! I left my coat in a Taxi and we chased it for a few blocks and we got locked out of our rental apartment for two hours, because these things happen on vacation. We then decided to go to the Galleria dell'Accademia di Firenze to see Michelangelo's David.
"Can we get one of these for our house?" -My sister
My dad took art history in college and told us so many fascinating things about each of these sculptures. He taught us about the invention of three-dimensional sculptures and how the sculptor made the sculptures look the real from all sides, instead of just the point of focus.
"Hey! This statue is naked too! I'm only ten, I don't need to see all that!" -My brother
This sculpture was my and my mom's favorite. We loved how David's rocks and the slingshot (which can only be seen from behind) were made significantly less prominent in the sculpture, signifying that David beat the giant Goliath on the basis of wit and intelligence as opposed to killing him only because he had stones and a slingshot with him (facts provided by my dad). I also noticed the "tree branch" looking thing behind David's leg, which is to help keep the integrity of the statue upright. The arms are secured by the slingshot and rocks and the legs are secured by the "tree branch" (facts provided by my dad and museum tour guide who overheard my question).
My sister loves museums, in small doses. There is only so much she can watch and observe at a time, because she needs time to look at the little things. She has to move through museums at her own pace, and if people are moving too fast or too slow, she gets annoyed.
Life's too short to get the single scoop.
Nothing like a good old Hazelnut gelato when the temperature is below freezing!
This is a Jewish Temple in Florence. We stopped outside of it, because our family is Jewish and our heritage is important to us. We wanted to see if it was open, but it wasn't, as it was Saturday (Shabbat). As my brother so aptly put it, "Jews really like to sleep on Saturdays. I am Jewish and I love sleeping on Saturdays. Maybe the tour guides are sleeping? I bet the tour guides are sleeping........"

Theme/Deeper message in the photo above: I took this photo through the iron gate that was closed around it. I noticed a gap in the fence with two sharp, pointed shapes aimed towards the temple. I took this photo incorporating those shapes on purpose, as I wanted to show that this temple is closed off. I wanted to show that many temples, mosques and churches in the world are closed off because they are afraid. I wanted to convey that in this image.

This is one side of Il Duomo, one of the world's biggest cathedrals in the world. The cathedral stretches for blocks, and this photo just captures a small fraction of how large this cathedral is. In the words of my dad, "This cathedral makes the national cathedral look like a speck of dust on an ant"
This was in the Piazza that we were staying in. A man was blowing bubbles and young children were chasing after them. I captured this moment, which was when this young child popped the biggest bubble. Immediately after this photo was taken, the child shrieked and laughed. The child's parents were standing a few meters away and I went over to them and showed them the picture. We didn't have a common language between us, as they only spoke Chinese and didn't understand when I tried a few different languages. I showed them the picture, which was their way of saying thank you.
This guy must have made a fortune out of his bubble blowing business. Children were dragging their parents into the Piazza to pop bubbles all afternoon.
New Year's Eve in Florence! This also may be the only picture of my mom that exists where her eyes are open. We call it her "camera blink reflex," where every time she sees a camera, she automatically blinks.
Florence city skyline at night, just seconds before the New Year
Everyone in Florence did this on New Year's. Everyone released lanterns into the air as the New Year began, and suddenly the sky was full of orange balls of light. It was gorgeous.
Happy 2017!!!! I snapped this picture at the exact second that the New Year begun, in the short break between "ONE!" and "HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!"
They released the lantern into the sky just after the new year begun, and soon this lantern joined the thousands already in the sky.
As per the request of my mother, who is Catholic, we attended a mass at El Duomo. It was so fascinating, and the service was entirely in Italian. Unfortunately, I encountered one hurdle that had affected me in other places along the trip- No Photography Allowed Inside (unless you book a tourist ticket)
The security guard did allow me to snap a quick photo of the ceiling before I left.
Doesn't every teen follow their parents around with a camera and capture them being adorable? After all, my parents are pretty cute together *cue sounds of the three Abel children making gagging sounds*
I do not have a Gelato addiction. I do not have a Gelato addiction. I do not have a Gelato addiction.
This was actually one of Michelangelo's earlier paintings, and my mother liked this one so much that she asked me to take a photograph of it.
My dad told me that this sculpture reminded me of him, and I asked him why. He said "because when you're tired or annoyed, you make that same dramatic statue pose."
Yes, I did ask my dad if we could order every single pizza on the menu. He asked my mom. She said no.
We took a taxi home from the airport. My brother got horrible motion sickness/food poisoning on the flight home and had to be escorted through passport control and customs quickly so we could get him home. After I took this picture, I flipped the "off" switch on my camera, and zipped it back up in my bag for the last time on this trip. I leaned my head against the window, and watched the raindrops pressed up against the window. I looked out the window at the nearly empty roads into Washington DC, out over the monument and the capitol and the Potomac. I was home, and coming home was bittersweet. Soon my camera would be returned to school and so would I.

This quote is one of my mother's favorite quotes of all time. She uses it all the time. She always tells us to value and give experiences over material possessions, because they matter more to people. We use it to describe our trip, and how much time we spent together as a family, and how many stories we now have to come and tell our friends.

"Fill your life with experiences. Not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show." -Anonymous

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Zoe Abel
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