light and movement

long exposure lights streetview

The stars we are given. The constellations we make. That is to say, stars exist in the cosmos, but constellations are the imaginary lines we draw between them, the readings we give the sky, the stories we tell.

-Rebecca Solnit

Clic-Clac photo marathon, 4th prize, old woman, strollerIn June, I was awarded the fourth prize for the Clic Clac Photo Marathon (see my post about it here). The prize was a week-long photography course at the Kunstschule in Offenburg, Germany. So all last week I got down and dirty with my DSLR.

The course was taught by art photographer Axel Bleyer. He walked us through all the manual settings of our cameras. We talked about the golden mean. We discussed ISO and aperture. And our project was to shoot images that included the color red. Seems pretty easy, right? Well sort of, the class was 100% in German and, sadly, my German skills are pretty mediocre (Hallo. Ich bin Melissa). Luckily my classmates and Axel were keen on helping me understand. Good people. It was a cultural, linguistic and artistic experience that really stretched me. By Friday evening, at the open house, I felt just like a kid on the last day of summer camp – exchanging numbers, hugging, making plans. It was great. Below are some of the images I made during the week.

spring, shadow

ladders, construction site

sewer, drain, dead leaves, garbage

bench, shadow, dead leaves

Mehr Liebe - Graffiti

Eating vegetables

vegetables on table


This is what friends do on a Sunday afternoon…


Saturday, I participated in a photo marathon called Clic-Clac that took place in Offenburg, Germany and Strasbourg, France.

Rain. It wasn’t a promising way to start out a day meant for wandering the two cities and taking photos…Around the time we began our first photography challenge, little by little the sky lightened up and by the time lunch was served (at the Kunstschule in Offenburg) the sky was gorgeous and the sun was shining.

The premise of the photo marathon was that we were given 2 themes/challenges to illustrate with one photograph per theme with approximately 2 and a half hours to find a subject and photograph it. The first theme was given in the morning in Offenburg and the second in Strasbourg. The two themes were:

1: double je – in English it is understood as ‘double I’, but it’s a word play. ‘je’ means ‘I’ but sounds the same as the word for game (jeu) in French.

2: je t’ai vu – translated means ‘I saw you’.

The possibilities were endless. Nonetheless, avoiding clichés was not easy.

My submissions:

I happened on my photo by pure chance. I didn’t know how to go about illustrating this playful theme. Walking towards downtown Offenburg, I was mostly watching people. I was keen on capturing individual people on my virtual film. By chance, I saw an elderly woman with perfect posture pushing an old empty stroller with her shopping hanging from the handles just across the street from where I was. It caused my mind to start thinking about youth and age and the return to innocence and dependence. She was the perfect incarnation of this theme so I took her photo.

Theme 1:

LP and I thought maybe we could get a shot or two on the water. We are lucky enough to have friends with an amazing apartment on the canal in Petite France with a kayak. We took it out for about a half hour. It was just what I needed for a gorgeous shot of a couple – a woman embracing a man and the man not reciprocating. The lines. The colors. The knowing look she was casting over his shoulder.

Theme 2:

Jim’s submissions:

LP (Jim/life partner) and I set off with no ideas and sleep in our eyes. double je I kept thinking…The Kunstschule (or art school in English), where our instructions were delivered, was right next to the city library. LP was keen on seeing what the library had inside and perhaps find some inspiration. He did. It involved the front page of Die Zeit newspaper featuring a monkey and me.

Theme 1:

It was already late by the time we had docked the boat. Jim was worried about not finding a subject. Cycling along the quai back to the library we happened on a neighborhood block party at Place Saint Louis. Just on the corner was a guy who had set up a photo booth and was taking photos of people with a four-shot Polaroid camera. That was it for LP! He had his shot and we had 1 hour to submit our photos back at the library.Theme 2:

After all the photos were submitted, the whole group headed over to place d’Austerlitz for an apéro-mix at La Chambre. We were able to exchange contact information with our new friends and finally….and most importantly…see all the photos that had been submitted by all the participants.

We also got to see a news report that France 3 did on the event. Our gorgeous faces were featured more than once during the 3 minute report. You can see it here.

God and Satan debate: Who will get the soul of the hard-working carpenter Kuzma after he is struck dead by a poorly aimed bolt of lightning that God had intended for the Devil? God wins the first round of arguments for the soul of Kuzma. Up he goes to heaven, but soon enough Kuzma is getting in trouble and not able to enjoy simple pleasures (he wants some booty and a smoke. What’s so bad about that?)

Literally bored as hell, Kuzma starts stirring up trouble so that’s where he goes, to hell. At first things are fine and dandy down under, but quickly the orgy of drink and ugly women gets old – plus ugly booty can only go so far. Eventually Kuzma escapes back to the living world with a pig-boy, who becomes a boy-boy upon exiting hell, and restores a burnt village, where he finds happiness (booty and drink).

The end.

The above is my attempt at a synopsis of the 18 minute short “Neither God Nor the Devil,” a Russian stop motion film from 1964. Now watch it yourself and tell me what you think.

There are more than 900 videos from the animation studio Soyuzmultfilma (which made Ни богу, ни черту) featured on a YouTube channel here.
Some of my favorites are: Daughter of the Sun, Ball of Yarn and Geese Swans.


**Disclaimer** This post deals with revelations and discoveries I had while pooping, so feel free to add “while pooping” to the end of sentences you see fit to modify.

I subscribe to Scientific American, a popular science magazine that’s been published for over 160 years  – some months I read the whole magazine and some months it doesn’t get cracked it until months or even a year later. In reality what happens is that there is a rotating collection of these magazines next to the toilet. So yes…I am distracted by science while seated on the porcelain throne.

A few days ago, I was skimming the October 2012 issue of Scientific American and found this gem on the page 80:

Great news, America! It’s a simple graphic depicting the US in pretty colors, showing the decline of the well-being of most of America. At first glance you’re like, “Ok! America is getting fatter and drunker.” Then, WHAT??!!! The article says, “And yet Americans are smoking less and exercising more”! Amazing…my poo that is.

What I didn’t see immediately is that what “they” (Scientific American or the source listed on the side of the page: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) consider “exercise“.

Look at it again a bit closer:

Did you see it? Did you see how they define exercise? “Participated in a physical activity during the past month.” How does a single physical activity equal exercise? And what is “physical activity”? Does walking from your living room to your car to take a trip to the Starbucks drive-thru count? Can taking the stairs down to the basement to put the laundry in the washer count? Going to dinner with friends? Does pooing count as “physical activity”? It should. Think about the last time you were enjoying a BM, your whole core was engaged.

Don’t get me wrong, the statistics for smoking, obesity and drinking all make sense and are clearly defined, but this “exercise” category is weak sauce.

Seriously Scientific American…