Photography and Emulating an Experience


(Campo de’ Fiori)

I am Michael Canniff and I am a senior at the University of Minnesota. I have wanted to experience study abroad since I graduated high school back in 2012. After graduation the world was in front of me and college looming in what seemed like an ominously close future. I tried to imagine being able to explore the world and see everything I had seen in movies and on the Internet. Growing up in the digital age allowed me to experience the cultures of the world with the click of a button. I have been gearing up to experience these sites since before I can remember. When I joined the architecture major at the University of Minnesota and learned of the amazing programs they had available for the architecture students my excitement grew exponentially. It was an easy decision to enroll in the Rome/ Istanbul program. Who wouldn’t want to be able experience two drastically different cultures that have been linked through out history? Here I am trying to take it all in, but how do I record and create a physical memory of my experience?


(Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, Rome)

When I first traveled in Europe in the Summer of 2013 it was a life changing experience. I was given the chance to travel through some of the largest cities in Europe, including London, Munich and Paris. Before I left for this trip, I purchased a Canon Rebel T3i. This camera would become eye I viewed everything through. I took over 1,200 photos on my vacation, but something seemed to be lacking from my photographs. If you were to go through the images from my vacation you would find a recurring void of people. I tried to document the things but not the experience of the things. I am saddened to say that there are very few photos of the people I traveled with. There is a void of sentimentality in my photos. This semester I will not only take pictures of things but of the experience of seeing them with the amazing people I am on this trip with.


(Boboli Gardens, Florence)

The night before I left this January for my flight to Rome I found myself packing the same camera into the same bag I had three years ago. Over the course of this trip I have been trying to capture the sense that overcomes one when they see a monolithic and culturally important piece of art, but also I have been trying to include the people I am experiencing these amazing sights with. The idea of a pristine and ideal representation of the monumentality of Rome’s testimonials has become a thing of the past. For me, Rome isn’t about being pristine but has become a place of reality. All I heard from people that have traveled to Rome was that the streets were littered with trash. That was the climax of their forewarning of Rome. How can you focus on the trash when you are in on of the most amazing cities on earth? How can that be all you took away from this glorious city?


(View from Piazzale Michelangelo, Florence)

With the world-wide adoption of selfies, the landmarks are no longer the focus. The people that are in front of the ancient ruins of the Temple of Saturn are the focus of the photo. What’s a picture of this temple going to mean to you in three years if there is no sentimental importance to the image? With the rise of the “millennials”, there has been an influx focus on the ideas of self-obsession and discussion the selfies role in what media has portrayed as rampant narcissism. In fact we are taking back our lives and representing our identity and our experiences through images. This constant selfie taking is less about narcissism than about being able to identify ourselves within an experience.


(Cameron, Olivia, Julia)

If you want to see more of my photos they can be seen on Instagram under Michael_canniff

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(Graffiti, Florence)

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