Saturday, June 11, 2011

International Photography: A Journey Through The World In Pictures

This picture was taken in the gardens of the Palais Royal in Paris. A friend I was visiting, took me there, and I couldn’t stop taking pictures of all the cute kids running around in the gardens. Though I’m sure this little boys parents were somewhere nearby, it appeared as if he was running by himself. Nearby there were two adorable little girls feeding the pigeons next to a homeless guy drinking liquor from a brown bag. He was just smiling, watching the kids playing. I remember thinking that in America people would be much more cautious of such interactions, but here it was completely natural and the little kids were so taken with him.

After studying abroad in Prague when I was 20, I traveled to Croatia and Slovenia with my first boyfriend, Yonatan, whom I had met on my program. When I told my parents he and I were going to Croatia and Slovenia, after our program concluded, they were terrified. Thinking only of war torn images and stories, they didn’t know that these countries were now incredibly peaceful and serene places. It didn’t help that they thought he was a communist and was corrupting their daughter. But he was none of those things, and he is actually partly responsible for opening me up to my love of travel.
It was on this semester abroad with him that I really left my home in Los Angeles for the first time. It was during this semester abroad that I developed serious wanderlust. I took this picture while sitting at a café with Yoni in Ljubliana, Slovenia.

This was taken right outside of Sacre Couer in Paris. One of my all time favorite buildings in the world. The beautiful white structure makes you feel like you’re in heaven, especially the way it’s nestled so perfectly above the city. It’s such a great spot for taking pictures, you have the musicians, poised lovingly with their instruments, spilling out onto the stairs, children running around, lovers making out, while the city throbs below them.. The locals and the tourists alike, come out to bask in this magnificent place and it’s truly magical.
This little boy had to be a native Parisienne. I don’t think his mom, whose hand he was holding, even knew I was taking his picture. But I’m pretty sure he knew what I was doing.

This little guy kills me. I took this on the boat ride back to Rio from Illa Grande. I was reading Anais Nin’s Delta of Venus. He was wearing the cutest little overalls and though you can’t see it in this picture, they had 2 tennis rackets stitched onto the front of them.

Taking this picture is an unbelievably vivid memory for me. I saw this woman on the subway in Paris and I was awestruck, not only by her beauty, but by her outfit, and the grace with which she carried herself. It was as if she had stepped onto the train from another time. I have no idea where she was going, but I told myself it was most likely to the opera or an incredibly elegant dinner party, where other people would be dressed just as marvelously. I tried to be sneaky about taking her picture, which isn’t easy to do with a big camera on a crowded subway. I didn’t want her to change or alter anything about her posture or her gaze. I just wanted to catch her in a moment in between destinations.

I took this picture in New York with my sister standing by my side. It was a cold day and that’s about all I can remember.

This is one of the only pictures I can hardly remember taking. I took it years ago in New York, during a very hot summer, while waiting for the train and only recently rediscovered it. After staring at it for a while, the memory of taking it finally came back to me.

It was the summer and my sister and I thought it would be fun to have beer in the middle of the day. She took hers into the bathtub and I thought she looked so pretty with the water and the bubbles.

A few months after I finally moved to New York, President Bush declared war on Iraq. Having always idealized the sixties and the revolutionary thinkers and activists from my parents’ generation, I was overjoyed to take to the streets of New York in protest. Though I was upset we were at war, I felt a lot of comfort and pride in being able to join thousands of other people in protest. It felt like the closest thing I would ever have to experiencing Woodstock. And in those first few weeks there were countless protests and I went to every one of them. I marched in the rain from Times Square to Washington Square. I smoked cigarettes and even picked up a boy once. It really was incredible. This image was one of many that captured the intensity and beauty of the experience, which for me was about uniting and coming together in the face of something awful.

This Buick was parked right next to the diner featured in another photograph here, “Brooklyn Diner”. The vintage car only added to the feeling that I had traveled back in time to an older more romantic version of New York, the way I imagined it to be years ago when my grandparents were kids.

I met this little girl while traveling in Brazil. My two friends and I were visiting Centro, a very commercial part of Rio. This little girl approached us with a box of candy that she was selling. One of the girls I was traveling with spoke Portugese,. So she and the little girl had a conversation, from which I learned, that she and her family were homeless and living on the beach. Her family had sent her out onto the streets to sell candy out of a box and she was told that she couldn’t return, until she had sold all of it. It killed me. What really broke my heart, however, was that she told us she had a headache. I had Excedrin with me and wanted to give her some but I knew it wouldn’t be right. I took several pictures of her in black and white and in color. She was wonderful and really liked being photographed. This was one of those experiences where I found my camera to be an incredible way to communicate with someone. Though I couldn’t speak more than a few words of Portugese I do remember feeling like she and I connected through the series of images that we took together.

This is another image of the sweet little Brazilian girl selling her candy from the cardboard box she was holding and fighting a headache.
(See “Little Girl In Rio“ for more)

I took this photo when I was in Brazil on a boat from Rio De Janeiro to an island called Illa Grande. Brazil was the first country I visited that was not in Europe, and I remember, as I took this picture feeling like I was experiencing something exotic for the first time.

It was December 2006 and I was nursing a terribly broken heart. So being the masochistic slavaphile that I am, I decided it would be fitting to venture off to Russia by myself in the dead of winter. I had just concluded an epic journey through the Hermitage Museum, when I stumbled outside to find a couple who had just been married. They were flanked by a sea of photographers and friends who were having them pose all around the courtyard of the winter palace. I couldn’t resist so I “casually” became part of the wedding party for about 30 minutes, and followed them around with my camera, while they had their picture formally taken. They were a beautiful couple and though you can’t see it from the black and white film, the bride’s yellow dress and brown and white fur wrap were so unique and non traditional, at least by American standards.

JUST MARRIED (see above)

I took this photo at an amazing diner in Brooklyn. I don’t remember thinking it would turn out quite this way. I was visiting New York at the time with my sister, Jessica. The diner made me feel like we had traveled back in time to a golden era in Brooklyn.

The summer before I moved to New York I went to visit one of my best friends Olga, who I had met studying abroad in Prague. We weren’t that close at the time, but she was kind enough to let me stay with her at her apartment in Washington Heights. I spent a lot of time walking around her neighborhood. Everything west of Broadway was heavily Russian and everything east of Broadway was very Central & South American; there were lots of Dominicans, Argentines and Puerto Ricans. It was very exciting to just walk the streets with my camera and absorb the different cultures that blended so seamlessly together. Walking through “The Heights”, I found this man and I loved him immediately. He was shy about having his picture taken, but I think he really loved it. I took a series of him, this is the only one where he appears serious. In the other images he’s giggling. I think you can still see his big smile behind that serious expression of his.

I love this boy. He is only a kid, but there’s something about his face that really takes my breath away. He seems so elegant and wise beyond his years. I took this when I first got to Rio De Janeiro, right on the boardwalk by the ocean. I never got to speak to him, but I’m grateful I caught him in this moment.

I took this while waiting to get on a tram in Prague in the winter of 2006. I love the scratches on the window and the way the frame her face.

This was also taken right outside the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia. These proud, uniformed men were so elegant. They appeared to have stepped out of another time and again opened up an emotional space inside of me I only get to experience when traveling.

While traveling in Brazil, I became friends with this eccentric and colorful girl named Patty. She worked at this restaurant in Ipanema called Za’s Za’s, that had the best sea bass I’ve ever had in my entire life. My friends and I became friends with her over the course of our stay and went to visit her one day at her apartment in Copacabana. These boys were outside of her apartment building and I took almost two rolls of film of them. They were so sweet and it seemed as if they’d never been photographed before but they loved every second of it.

This is one of the most beautiful men I’ve ever seen. I was on the subway in Paris and I remember thinking that I never wanted to get off the train because I just wanted to keep taking his picture. He held the Koran under his arm and even though he wasn’t’ actively praying, there was something about his face that made me feel like he was. He seemed very holy. At some point I think he knew I was taking his picture and I was worried he wouldn’t like it, this is something I always struggle with, but he was too beautiful not to photograph.


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Rachel Fleischer