Posted on March 07, 2013

Click on any image to see full gallery

On a snowy and blustery day I sought refuge in one of the most exotic places on campus: the Durfee Conservatory. Open from 10:00-4:00 every weekday, it provides a great hideaway for those looking for some peaceful quiet or a pleasant stroll in the daytime. Not to mention it feels like you are in a jungle. Plants hanging above you and on the walls; most that you've probably never seen before. There is a pond with fish and the tallest cactus I have ever seen. I recommend a visit at least once.

Posted on March 03, 2013

Click on any image to see full gallery

I've been passing the posters for UMass Night Out for a few weeks; every semester, University Programming Council arranges for a Friday night of activities in and around the campus center.  Since  all the events are free and I've been practically living in the campus center for the past few weeks, I decided drop in for some welcome relief from schoolwork in the form of free entertainment.

I popped in and out of events, from the Not Ready For Bedtime Players performance in the basement of the campus center to the free movie screening in the Cape Cod Lounge, before grabbing free popcorn and ending up in a room with a playing card covered floor.  While I had evidently missed the first magician performance, I was just on time to catch Michael Kent's comedy magic routine.

Lucky for the audience, and at the misfortune of the poor souls who volunteered to be a part of the show, Kent struck a good balance between legitimately surprising tricks and the sort of public embarrassment that consistently got laughs from the crowd.  After a day of running around, it was a perfect, and free, way to catch my breath and usher in the weekend.

Posted on February 18, 2013

Click on any image to see full gallery

This was going to be a story about my 21st birthday.

It was going to be a tale of the glorious weekend when my years would accumulate enough to turn my vertical New Jersey license horizontal, allowing me to loiter inside Atlantic City casinos without getting kicked out or order that strawberry daiquiri I've always been curious about.

Alas, this is not a post about my birthday, at least in those senses. Instead, what began as such became a chronicle of the weekend when two photographers came together to, perhaps accidentally, document every last second of their time together.

I had been looking forward to my big sister coming to visit for weeks.  For awhile it was iffy; too much snow and too much work threatened to postpone the celebration I looked forward to.  Despite the odds, she showed up this previous Saturday with four film cameras and one digital in tow.

The weekend as I remember it was a lot of fun; we spent the morning hanging out with my boyfriend, wandered into a Northampton sushi restaurant with a friend, went to Amherst Brewing company for a beer sampler, and explored the streets and shops of Amherst.

The pictures I took don't quite reflect the weekend I remember; in the grand majority of the 250 I shot, my sister is holding a camera or setting up for a photo.  Some people argue that a photographer is never truly in the moment, always seeing life through the lens rather than the eyes.  Having lived a weekend like this, where cameras were always present but always an afterthought, I can't say I agree.  Observing through a lens didn't disconnect me from the situation at hand, but brought me closer to the people I was spending that valuable time with.

Posted on February 09, 2013

Click on any image to see full gallery

After a snowfall of about one and a half feet of snow, the students of UMass are out enjoying the drastically changed landscape. Despite campus being closed, there were still people all around lobbing snow at one another and shoving each other into snow drifts. I went with two friends to walk around campus and document the fun being had.

Outside my dorm, on the hill in front of Baker, there were many sledders, skiers, and snowboarders. I heard shouts of "Go!" when it was safe at the bottom for the next person to speed down the hill. A jump had been set up for those that had the guts to take it to the next level.

Posted on February 09, 2013

Click on any image to see full gallery

As someone who never liked the cold and would really enjoy snow if it were only  50 degrees warmer, going to school in Massachusetts was a bold choice.  While Massachusetts sat snowed into a state of emergency, I donned my parka, knit fingerless gloves and camera and took to campus by foot to photograph the ever-accepted half-snow day. 
While I got plenty of the deserted campus shots I expected,  I also ran into a handful of others outside braving the blizzard.  Some were walking back up the hill toward Van Meter after a late lunch or wandering off through the otherwise desolate pathways of campus, destination unknown. I ran into others, suited up in clothes for the weather, waging snowball wars outside of Orchard Hill or skiing down the hill. 
Hours later, I'm warm and ready for bed as the snow still flakes down outside my window.  My shades are drawn, but the sound of snowplows circling the building continues to make the weather evident.  With my birthday and other plans later this weekend, I have to be thankful for the constant drone outside, without which I would surely be snowed in come sunrise.

Posted on February 04, 2013

Click on any image to see full gallery

One afternoon, I decided to garner all of the physical evidence of being a UMass student I possessed. I wanted to see what it looked like all in the same place. I found the free towel I got at the summer orientation before my freshman year. I found the water bottles I received from the dining hall and the advising office.

I remembered all of the free T-shirts I'd gotten from various events and activities. I bought one for myself but soon realized that they weren't too difficult to acquire. Simply going to a sporting event, joining a club, or being active around campus would bring you into contact with many free-stuff opportunities.

I collected my textbooks; surely they would be proof that I was a student. Some of the books from past classes I found interesting and wanted to keep for future reference. Some were written by my professors and all were carefully selected.

Looking through my desk I found some old newspapers from the past semester. Some I kept because my photos were featured in the issue and I wanted to have a printed copy, others I kept simply because I had been planning on reading that day's paper and I forgot about it.

After looking some of them over for a few minutes, I remembered all of the events I went to last semester on campus and looked for the ticket stubs. I found only some of the tickets from the many places I went last semester. I went to the movies many times with my friends, I went to concerts on campus and in the local area, I even saw Noam Chomsky speak about the political climate of our time. Obviously, after looking over all of this I thought about what really made me a UMass student-the people I know. Looking back at all of the physical evidence, I can really see how much of an impact UMass has made on my life. All of these things wouldn't have happened if I hadn't come to UMass.

Posted on January 26, 2013

Click on any image to see full gallery

On Friday, anyone driving past the horseshoe in Southwest would have a hard time ignoring the mountain of snow piled up on Southwest Beach.  Previously called the Metawampe Stompe and located near the Campus Center, this year's Rail Jam drew skiers, snowboarders and onlooker alike to the island of grass on the southern edge of campus.  As someone who can neither ski nor snowboard, I took my place in the latter of the three categories, lining up along the barrier to appreciate the competitions jumps, tricks and, yes, wipeouts.

Posted on January 25, 2013

Click on any image to see full gallery

Starting a new semester is always such a strange feeling. On one hand, when I climb the usual three flights of stairs to my room or habitually cut through the Student Union on my way to the library, the familiar sights and sounds from the soul of the campus make me feel like I never left.  On the other, the energy brought about by thousands of new schedules is almost tangible, presenting itself as the students who comb corridors in search of their next class, or my friends who tell detailed stories of their first days.
A second semester junior, I was almost surprised by how quickly I fell back into the swing of things.  The names Herter and Morrill aren't quite as alien to me as they were two years ago, and I feel at home passing time between classes in the basement of Bartlett, the building that has hosted the grand majority of my classes since freshman year.
Though I feel like I know this campus like the back of my hand, I started this semester with something very much outside of my routine: I attended my first UMass basketball game.
When I was picking colleges, one thing I considered was school spirit.  I come from a high school where no one but the players were excited about school sports, and I wanted to find a community supportive of our school name and athletics.
Why, then, have I never been to a game? Freshman and sophomore year, it just never seemed like the right time; it always seemed like either my friends were busy or I was.
The right time would eventually come the Saturday before winter semester was to begin.  My friend Evan, who I was visiting before moving into my dorm on Sunday, his parents and I made it to the Mullins Center around 3:30. Of course, we weren't going to see just any basketball game; this special game against George Washington would see Marcus Camby's number retired from UMass basketball during a halftime ceremony.  When the NBA player spoke, he received a standing ovation from the maroon-clad crowd surrounding the floor.
As far as first games go, this one was a pretty good choice.  Although we were ultimately closely defeated, the game was a tight one that kept me rooting on the edge of my chair.
Posted on January 21, 2013

Click on any image to see full gallery

Yesterday I walked over to Gorman Dorm to help my younger sister move in. She had brought most (probably all) of her clothes home for the break and it was time to bring them back. My mother had also taken her to the grocery store to stock up on all varieties of snacks. It seems that if my parents weren't feeding her anymore she would be fending for herself (it's called a meal plan). After a couple trips up and down the stairs it was time to say goodbye until the next long weekend.

Posted on January 18, 2013

Click on any image to see full gallery

It's been a good winter break.  I say this both objectively and in comparison to the past few.

I suppose, in retrospect, it isn't hard to trump my time at home freshman year, a chunk of which I spent in bed recovering from wisdom tooth removal, or sophomore year, which I spent mostly camera-less.

Still, I feel like I spent time this break creating memories, rather than just looking forward to new ones.  Over the past few weeks, I danced with flashlights in the middle of the night, caught up on my reading, saw a great film or two, turned into a tourist in the streets of Boston and became a guide through the townships of northern New Jersey.

After visiting Amherst, Alexa and I headed southeast toward my boyfriend Gabe's house.  Once there, we had one request: we wanted to go to the New England Aquarium.
I've only been to Boston a couple times before; last summer, I spent a memorable rainy night huddled under a tarp on the banks of the Charles River, watching 4th of July fireworks among a crowd of thousands.  Four years before that, I skimmed the city with two busloads of my choir colleagues on the way to a singing competition.  Our schedule, which did the best it could to mesh performance and sightseeing, was tight, and it wasn't a surprise when the planned trip to the aquarium became a race back to the busses.  I always wanted to go back, and now seemed like the perfect time.

Gabe, being a wonderful boyfriend and a good sport, humored my urges to go on the most stereotypically touristy excursions in Boston.
That day, I fumbled with my Charlie Ticket while entering the T station, ate overpriced food at Quincy Market, gazed at cuttlefish and seahorses at the aquarium, and enjoyed every moment of it. Camera constantly in hand, there's no doubt I looked like the definition of a tourist.  This truth didn't bother me; it would only be another day or so before the tourist tables turned.

The last night at his house, I watched Gabe buy a train ticket for the following Saturday: Newark, NJ to Providence, RI, one-way.
After the long drive back to Jersey, we dropped Alexa off and I started brainstorming locations of interest. The following days were filled with musical museum visits, tea drinking in Montclair, street exploring in the heart of Morristown and searching far and wide for a 17th birthday present for my little sister.

Day-trips are fun, but introducing someone from far away to my hometown is equally fulfilling.

“There's the diner we go to at midnight,” I point out as we drive down the streets of my neighborhood, “Oh, there's the summer camp I used to work at.  There's my old high school, and see that stream? That used to be part of the Morris Canal. I pass it every day.”

I've gotten very used to seeing the old section of the Morris Canal daily, whether I'm headed to Shop Rite to pick up milk for my mom or driving over to route 10 on my way to Alexa's house.

Now that I'm feeling familiar with my hometown, it's time to shake that all up again.  Right now, my room is a mess, clothes and dorm supplies haphazardly thrown into various semi-piles across my floor.  By this time tomorrow, I'll be packed and prepared to head back up to Amherst.  Dorms don't open until Sunday, but I'll be heading up Saturday to stay with friends.

This semester will certainly be an interesting one; between my investigative journalism class, my final semester of spanish, all of the photography I'm involved in, and dipping my toe into the world of writing for the Collegian, I know I'm going to need to get back into the swing of properly budgeting my time if I want to stay on top of my work.  Still, I have a few more days before I can actively confront my new schedule. For now, I can only breathe in the last few days of break with an excited eye toward next semester.