When I was 5 years old, my family and I gathered around the Christmas tree bright and early on Christmas morning. I was more than excited when I unwrapped a small handheld camera that was pink and orange, and about half the size of a dollar bill. The screen on the camera was less than half an inch wide and tall, and the camera could only hold about 3 photos at a time. Still, I was ecstatic. I would walk around the house and take pictures of my family, and then delete them right away so I could take a couple more. This planted the roots for my love of photography. On a trip to Italy, that love blossomed.

Around the time I was ten years old, my family and I decided to stop doing presents for Christmas and take vacations instead. This became one of my favorite traditions very quickly. In 2018, we took our first trip to Europe. We spent a majority of the time in Italy, specifically the Rome region. We decided to stay around there because the art and architecture was inspiring. Before the trip, I decided to purchase my first DSLR camera. I practiced using it for the weeks leading up to the trip, but the trip felt like some kind of final exam. It felt like a test that I had been studying for for weeks, and this was my chance to prove my knowledge.

I fell in love with Italy after one day of being there. The pasta and gelato was definitely a factor, but there was something about the energy and the culture that really just changed me as a person. It was my first big exposure to a country outside of North America. Every day we were there was a learning experience, but I didn’t want to let the time just slip through my fingers. I knew at this moment that this was my test. Yes, it was a test I assigned to myself. But I knew that I had to find a way to capture the feeling I was experiencing over there.

Less than a week into our trip, we decided to take a tour called “Rome in a Day”. We started at a small coffee shop in the shadows of the Colosseum. We walked around and through all of the big architectural landmarks. We would spend about an hour at each location, then leave to check out a new city, museum, or town square that was historically famous. There was something humbling, grounding, and almost magical about being right next to the Colosseum. I had seen it in photos, but the photos were nothing like what I experienced.

So I pulled out my camera, adjusted the settings, and began trying to recreate the scene exactly as I was experiencing it. I did this at every structure or town that we went to. I wanted to focus on getting everything from my perspective, because it was a powerful experience to me. Being in a country where they don’t speak English, and my Italian was far from understandable, it was comforting to see everyone taking photos from different places. While everyone’s photos would turn out different, it felt unifying to know that we were all connecting through the click of our cameras. We all had one thing in common, and that was that we never wanted to forget that moment.

Throughout the rest of the trip I continued to take many many photos. At the end of each day, I would go back to our house and spend hours looking at them and editing them. The photos I took in Rome are still some of my favorites to this day, and I could say the same about that vacation. Rome was magical. Photographing it was even more magical.

– Hayley Susov (HS Senior)