why can’t it still be christmas?

This morning, I hooked my camera up to my computer to download pictures I’d meant to upload on to the blog several days ago. Last weekend, some friends came over for a little Chinese New Year dumpling-making celebration, kicking off the real theme of my year, the Year of the Potluck (I’ll explain more later…).

That’s when I realized I’d never downloaded my pictures from Christmas (besides the chicken one). Watching them upload one by one brought back such a warm feeling of being home and surrounded by family. So the Chinese New Year pictures are on hold; I thought I’d share these instead.

On another note, big blog-related news coming this week! Get very excited!

Happy weekend!

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best photos of 2011.

I didn’t really realize, or at least recall, what an intense year 2011 was––uprisings, natural disasters, war, famine. When I stumbled on this collection of “The 45 Most Powerful Images of 2011,” I was reminded pretty quickly.

This collection of images, to me, is a reminder of the importance of photography. The photographs here astonish and capture the viewer in a way that words seldom can. They challenge the viewer’s perspective on another person, on an event, on life. They are shocking and provocative. They pose questions or, more importantly, cause the viewer to ask questions.

Of the 45 images, this is my favorite:

by @NevineZaki

It’s not the most technically composed photograph in the bunch (it was tweeted from a camera phone), but this is one of the most incredible images I’ve ever seen. Snuck into this reminder of what a destructive year 2011 really was for many people in the world is this image of provocative hope: Egyptian Muslims in prayer, encircled by a group of Christians, protecting them from attacks during the Arab Spring uprisings.

This is the way people should be. This is the way religion should be. This is the way the world should be.

It is important that photographers’ images cause us to posit questions like: How might we be better? How might we be neighbors? Witnesses? And while it is important that they capture images that illustrate the realities of our world––famine, war, disaster––it is equally as, if not more, important that they––we––fulfill our responsibility to capture hope.

Question: Which of the 45 images stuck out to you the most and why?

“I hope…”

Aside

I hope you will reflect on what you’ve done with your talent and energy. I hope you will judge yourselves not on your professional accomplishments alone, but also on how well you work to address the world’s deepest inequities, on how well you treat people a world away who have nothing in common with you but their humanity.

-Bill Gates

Thanks to my cousin-in-law, Lorrie, for sending me this great quote––such an inspiration that I had to share.

new places: india

So much to say about the last three weeks, but some initial reflections (and pictures, of course)…

India is an experience in near-collision. On the streets of New York City, you brace yourself for the shoulder-check of a hurried stranger, recognizing that New York just requires a hardened version of yourself to walk the streets. In India, rather, it feels as if there just isn’t enough space for everything. You share the road with rickshaw wallahs, taxis, bicyclists, merchant carts piled high with fruit or carrying a steaming gas-powered stovetop, mangy stray dogs, sacred cows, goats climbing over garbage piles…not to mention 1.2 billion people and counting.

You clutch the strap of your bag more tightly not for fear of danger but in the way you would clutch the safety bar at the peak of a rollercoaster when one last imploring sign reminds you: Hold on.

You squeeze your eyes closed and wait for the collision––even so, India assaults you. Smells pleasant and rank, foreign and familiar. Cardamon, cinnamon, steamy chai tea, a pleasant potpourri of spices rising from bubbling pots––all jostle for position against the inevitable smells that accompany allowing cows the right of way on city streets. Your ears too fill with the rhythm of life here, sometimes cacophonous and other times a sweet symphony.

This is India: an experience in duality––modernity and tradition, wealth and poverty––where all ways of life, all everyday experiences, are played out unashamedly in public. In contrast to a culture that feels, at times, overly safe or sterile, India overwhelms. So you do all you can think to do: clutch tightly the strap of your bag and jump in.

900 pictures to sort through, but here are a few initial favorites…

Read the rest of the New Places series.

behind the lens.

Whenever I travel, I’m always the person holding the camera, keeping it ready and close. I’m the person who demands that the car be pulled over for a shot, who trails behind the group, head swiveling from side to side. I’m the one who slows everyone else down, who needs to change lenses constantly, who carries an extra bag of supplies. I like to think it makes me a nice travel companion when I share the snaps after we’ve returned, but I’ve never asked anyone I’ve traveled with how they’ve felt about it.

I’m not walking through the woods — I’m hunting. And the world is to discover.

Some friends have said to me, “Doesn’t it keep you from just experiencing the trip, always staying behind the lens?” But for me, it’s just the opposite. Carrying the camera heightens my senses, makes me more attentive to details, which are my favorite things to shoot. It’s not for everyone, but for me, I experience travel more deeply than I otherwise would when I have my camera in hand. I see colors and contrast. Light and shadows. The power of a detail or of a panorama.

I’m not walking through the woods — I’m hunting. And the world is to discover.

I’ve taken over 200 pictures so far from my 3 days in India. Unfortunately, I seem to have left my camera cord in my apartment back in DC, so unless I can find one while I’m here, I may have to wait to post photos until I’m back. But there will be plenty then.

the love they bear.

Two weeks ago, a very dear friend of mine got married in a beautiful little church in Holland, Michigan, followed by a party of a reception on the beach. I arrived two nights early for bridesmaids’ festivities, but weighing heavily on me was the fact that this was also the beginning of a long two week stretch of travel and events for work. Gwen had been there for me during all the prep for these work events in the same way that I tried to help (sadly, from afar) in the preparations for her special day. So with my bridesmaids dress and work computer in tow, I boarded the plane with a confusing mix of elation and anxiety.

But there couldn’t have been a more perfect way to start the trip than this beautiful wedding––and important reminder of the good, of the important things.

This was the quote that graced the cover of the ceremony programs. Couldn’t be more apt:

…that the love they bear one another, and the joy they take in one another, may help them grow in love for this whole troubled world.

-Frederick Buechner


Much love to you, G (and more pictures here).

a beautiful wedding & a new perspective.

Look at that. Two posts in rapid succession. So fast. Lighting speed. For a brief moment, I’m a blogging ninja. 

Since the updates have reached a new low (6 weeks!?), clearly I’m assuming no one is reading this anymore and am embracing that freedom thusly.

***

Maybe it’s just this phase of my life––the phase where you spend your savings on flights, hotels, dresses, heels you can walk in front of a sanctuary full of people in, heels you can dance in, heels you can wear outside, heels you can…

Ok, I actually have no problem with the heels, and if you could see my shoe rack, you’d know that. It’s a problem. But there’s just something about weddings that I don’t like (insert reader’s gasp here).

Ok, it’s not that I don’t like weddings. I just like to feel like the wedding I’m going to is original, unique. And I think the wedding industry has sucked some of that spirit out of it all.

And all it takes it my beautiful, wonderful friends to remind me…maybe it’s me.

The wedding we attended in Seattle last weekend was of two dear friends. It was also my first time experiencing a wedding from “behind the lens” (somewhat unintentionally). And I realized that the joy of weddings is not in the details that aren’t there; it’s in the details I just miss. It gave me such great joy to seek out (and find!) so many beautiful, thoughtful details my friends had incorporated into their day. And the responsibility of documenting them helped me see them. And I’m honestly excited for the next chance I get to do this again.

All the rest of them here, if you’re interested. Much love to Austin and T.

new places : seattle

There comes a moment, every few weeks, when I realize with a sigh that it’s been two…four….six (!?!?) weeks since I’ve updated the blog. Alas. So to compensate I’m publishing two in a row, and they’re both full of pictures. Get excited.

***

I’ve been to Seattle once before so, like New York, this wasn’t technically a new place. But my first Seattle encounter was somewhat…subpar. It was New Years Day––which, in Chicago, doesn’t really constitute a holiday, meaning that, you know, bars, restaurants, etc. are all still open. Seattle on the other hand…

Walking around outside for twelve hours. In the rain. Literally the only thing open was a sushi dive, and so raise our glasses of saki we did.

Still, everyone raves about this west coast paradise, so when we made plans to return to Seattle for our friends’ wedding, I knew the experience would be redemptive. And truly, it was. Coffee shops. Farmers markets. The ocean on one side and mountains on the other. A noticeable lack of sweltering humidity (in fact, I wore a scarf and cardigan pretty much every day…in July…English major’s heaven).

A beautiful, beautiful place. I hope we go again soon.

Read the rest of the New Places series.

new places: ireland.

On one hand, Ireland is exactly what you expect. Boisterous, friendly people. Fiddle and accordion duets (called “trad sessions,” trad meaning traditional) in snug but well-lit pubs where every man, woman, and child is raising a glass of Guiness. Oh, and green. Very green.

On the other hand, Ireland surprises, disarms. First of all, for a nation with such significant cultural influence (at least to a Chicagoan), it’s really tiny. In just over a week, we saw the east, west, and north coasts. But mostly because you think you know what to expect out of Ireland, and even if you’re mostly right, it still blows all your expectations out the water.

A quick recap of the trip:

We drank Guiness is 5 different cities.

We watched the rolling pastures of southern Counties Kerry and Clare turn into the craggy, windswept vistas of northern County Donegal.

We drank whiskey for lunch.

And checked a fourth continent off my “camping around the world” list.

We drove the “Ring of Dingle” and were stunned into silence by beauty “so amazing it makes your heart ache,” as Jon put it.

We learned about a tragic (and tragically recent) religious conflict that still has whole communities living in homes so fortified, you’d be more likely to think you were visiting Kabul or Baghdad.

We checked off the new country year of intention goal. We took a breath of cold sea air. And we fell in love with a beautiful place.

There’s too much to say for a single post, so I have a few more updates I’m mulling over that I’ll be posting soon, including lots more pictures.

With that, erin go bragh!