European summer

Somehow, someway, I finally found time to blog photos from my summer in Europe! These photos are in no certain order, just sort of a hodgepodge of memories and pretty light. Here we go!

While in Prague, we decided to wander over to the Jewish quarter and check out a WWII memorial. It was something I thought would be a quick pit stop in our day, but it ended up being something that changed my life, my heart and my next several months upon returning home to America. It’s funny how we never know what’s right around the corner for us, isn’t it?

The experience was eye opening, heart opening, and ultimately brought me to Germany later that year to meet and love on refugees whose experiences felt eerily similar to the ones whose names are listed on the walls of this old synagogue, shown below.

Each marking on the wall is a person's name, date of birth and date of death. There were around 90,000 names, reflecting each Czech Jew that was murdered in the holocaust. The memorial is in an old synagogue, a place of worship now also a place of memorial. It was fitting, to continue to worship God amidst the names of those who would not forsake Him, even unto death. We walked silently, joining in the grieving chorus of all of humanity, in disbelief by the things that are possible when we, humanity, become collectively silent and seek to silence. 

In preparing for this trip, I wrestled with bringing my camera along. Too often, carrying a camera on my shoulder feels like work. I used to carry a camera everywhere, to every coffee outing and road trip adventure, etc. But slowly over time, photography became my career. I’m not complaining - I am grateful every day for this career. But it does make vacations confusing, you know? How do I take time off “work” if I’m bringing a camera? Well anyway, I decided that what I truly love about photography is portraiture. Very specifically. I love to take photos of people. People I know and love, or strangers, and all the in-between categories. So I made a goal to take portraits I would be proud of while I was in Europe. As you look through this blog post, a lot of what you will find is faces. That’s on purpose. 

One face in particular, Kensey (shown below) is a brave soul I connected with on Instagram and convinced her to pose for me while we were visiting in Prague. She was living in Prague at the time, though is from Seattle originally, and she agreed to come hang out with us, grab coffee, and stand in front of my camera for a bit. It was an honor that someone who doesn’t know me, trusted me to take her portrait. Below are some of my favorites from our time with Kensey. Ps, check her out on Instagram! @Klizbx

Towards the end of my trip, I left Casey and Jesse and flew to Amsterdam to meet up with my lifelong sisterfriend Kristin. It was SO surreal to hang out with her in Europe, as my mind kept flashing back to all those nights spent sleeping over at each other's houses growing up, listening to NSYNC and dancing around her room. Somewhere along the way, we grew up, eh Kris? When did that happen? I have considered it a very special privilege to have known you almost all of my years, beautiful friend.

One day, we took the high speed train to Paris, and spent 8 hours in the city. It was such a chaotic day, in retrospect you just can't do Paris in a day. At one point, we almost got stuck in Paris, and before we could even resolve the issue, we just sat down at a street side cafe and had wine. At 10am. Whatever, right? There are worse places to be stuck and worse people to be stuck with. Perhaps my favorite memory was us sitting under the eiffel tower and eating baguettes and drinking more wine from plastic cups, listening to Ingrid Michaelson on my phone. It was so simple, we could have been anywhere in the world, back in Orlando at a local park. But we were in Paris, doing normal things. We loved it! 

I also remember what I know refer to as the Sahara Desert Louvre Dust Bowl of 2015, it should go down in record books. It was unfathomably hot in Paris that day, and the Louvre had giant clouds of sand roaming over the gardens. We walked from the Louvre a few blocks west, so hot and delirious that we finally went into a Chinese restaurant for "lunch" and by lunch, we just sat and paid them money so we could use their air conditioning to catch our bearings. 

After that we found an ice cream place (see the theme... searching for cold) and sat at a table, side by side, facing the sidewalk, just completely zoned out and enjoying our ice cream, observing the city that hadn't noticed yet that we had come to visit. Everyone walked by, on their way to and from something important, and we sat there in a contented silence, absorbing it all. Needless to say, on the train ride home, we slept A LOT.

Aren't these girls beautiful? Wandering around cobblestone streets with them was the highlight of my year. Not because it was fun (but it was), but because we are messy and human and imperfect and getting to see more of their hearts was a tremendous treasure. I feel privileged when people trust me with more of who they are, and I walked away from Europe feeling deeply connected in new ways to these old friends. That's the kinda thing worth crossing oceans for, if you ask me.

At some point in Barcelona, we all took our tops off and played in the Med.

Since being home, I have enjoyed telling this story and watching people squirm. Americans tend to be offended by it and I think I find a particular amount of mischief in sharing. There’s really about a thousand political stances people will take when it comes to womens bodies. Isn’t that strange? To make politics out of bodies? I’ll just say this:

That day was beautiful, these women are my sisters. Any time women can be free in their own skin, nothing hidden in the daylight, insecurities washed up along the shore, their laughter hanging on the wind - that is a victory that no culturally inherited notions of propriety can diminish. There is nothing more beautiful than a woman free. I find nothing offensive about the female frame - in fact I think there is something really holy about it, which is why I took pictures...

And finally, if you're even still reading this far, I'll leave you with this, my favorite portrait from the trip! 

Shannon Smith3 Comments