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Active Learning as a MOJO Photographer in Firenze

When classes began in early January, I was tremendously impressed by my professors’ abilities to make their class come alive. Most possess a radiant passion in their particular subjects. The common trait amongst them is curiosity. I am being taught how to embrace my innate curiousity again. I always think of children and their nonexistent attention spans due to this organic sense of amazement with the universe.
I’ve realized that the subject matter is irrelevant to the significance of the classroom experience. It extracts from the spirit of the instructor. These timeless classroom experiences perpetuate each weekday. Their passion, little by little, acquaints with mine. It wasn’t until arriving in Florence that I realized how happy I feel when I am outside walking without a destination, my camera at my side.
My photography professor began his career path as a lawyer and received his PhD. Professor Jacopo Santini realized after all the work and school, that he wasn’t fulfilled. I recall him saying the first day; “I hope to teach you blindness. Then, how to see again.” “Get lost with your camera, alone. You cannot be lost if you’re with someone. Do this and you will have gained something.”

My favorite excursion was the trip to the Museo Nazionale Alinari Della Fotografia. The small and inviting atmosphere greeted me immediately. The arrangements were simple and I remember admiring the blank walls in relationship to the photo displays. There were about six exhibits portraying a different conceptual theme. Each photographic theme seemed to be spiritual to me. My three favorites were a set of photos showing a person right after they wake up and right before they go to bed. These two times are when people are most alone with themselves. Another exhibit displayed portraits of individuals immediately following a yoga class. I connected with this because this natural yogic “high” bonded me to the study of meditation. The last was a series of people on a beach.
There was a quote and/or description of the photographer’s intention near each selection. The first quote that stuck with me: “C'e uno spettacolo pui grandioso del mare, ed e il cielo, c'e uno spettacolo piu grandioso del cielo, ed e l'interno un' anima” -Victor Hugo. This quote was introducing the beach photos. Before it was translated for me, I already understood the general message by observing the faces and expressions of the subjects. In class during our critiques, I find it important for the photos to speak for themselves. Leonardo Da Vinci once said, “The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.”  The strongest critiques are discussions after the audience has a chance to observe in silence. Each person makes a connection with a work of art in a unique way. I was proud of my conscious decision to look at the photos before summoning my professor to translate the quote by Hugo.
The quote read; "There is a more grandiose scene (view) than the sea and it is the sky; there is a more grandiose scene than the sky and it is the inner self (the bottom, the depth) of a soul".
After grasping the beauty and depth of this quote, I looked at the photos again and this time, peered directly into each person’s soul. Their soft eyes told me a story. The sea backdrop was infinite, much like each human spirit positioned near it.

Anna Freundl is the CEA Spring 2013 MOJO in Florence, Italy

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