When I look at the pictures I took of Coimbra, and mostly those of Coimbra University, I feel as I still need to pinch myself to realize that the places I have visited were actually real, and not part of a Harry Potter’s movie set. It might sound like a cliche, and I might not be the only one to feel like that, but walking through the University halls and courtyards, running into students wearing their typical uniforms of black robes, patterned with colored patches and symbols, made me wonder if I was about to meet Harry and his friends in the next corner.
Truth is, when I mentioned this similarity to the University tour guide, she confirmed my thoughts and told me that J.K Rowling used to live in Porto for a few years and was inspired by her visits to Coimbra, which later were transcribe in the Hogwarts Aesthetic, including the uniform.
Coimbra is known as the Medieval Capital of Portugal for over a hundred years, and the University, which is considered one of the greatest in the world for the past five centuries, plays a significance role in the Portuguese history. In 2013 it was named a UNESCO World Heritage site. Some of the notable University buildings include the 12th century Cathedral of Santa Cruz, the Royal Palace of Alcacova, which housed the University since 1537, the Joanine Library with its phenomenal rich Baroque decor, the 18th century Botanical Garden and University Press, as well as the large ‘University City’ created during the 1940s.
As the University is situated on a hill overlooking the city, there are a lot of students dorms/fraternities called ‘Republicas’ down the hills, each Rebublica holds a different facade and its residents’ characters. There are currently over 24 Republics in operation, with almost all of them grouped in the Council of Republics (CR), which meets the request of any of the houses that compose it and take its decisions unanimously. A friend of mine, who used to be a member in one of the Republicas few years ago, told me there is an unwritten rule that whenever an alumni is coming to Coimbra, he can stay in his original Republica.
I visited the University at the end of February and the streets around the University were quite calm. My guide rest assured me that this time of the year was not really portraying the University atmosphere. ‘If you can’ she said, ‘come and visit us in the beginning of May, at the end of the second semester for the Queima das Fitas festival’. This festival, (The Burning of the Ribbons) which represents the end of the Academic year, is one of the biggest student parties in all Europe and it lasts eight days, a day for each of the University Faculty. It includes a parade of the University students, sport activities and the historic night-time Student Fado serenade (Serenata Monumental) which takes place in the stairs of the Cathedral in front of a crowd of thousands of students, alumni, tourists and visitors.
One of the highlights of my visit to Coimbra (which turned out to be one of the highlights of my trip to Portugal) was getting this special opportunity to photograph the Joanine Library from the inside. When the University tour guide opened the heavy doors that lead inside the library, I was at awe. And yes, I had to pinch myself and soak in all this beauty. While I was taking pictures of this beautiful Baroque Style Library, I had to remind myself to give my eyes a rest from the camera’s viewfinder, to really absorb this beauty.
The Library, which was built in 1717 during the reign of King John the 5th, (you can see his majestic portrait below) is located on the ruins of the former Medieval royal prison. The magnificent interior (stone floor patterned with geometric motifs, plaster ceilings decorated with allegorical trompe-l’oeil paintings and real gold leaves decorating the shelves) clearly connected with the Portuguese Empire of that period.
When I climbed the narrow steps to the second level of the library, just to have a better view and to understand its enormous amount of books, (57,000) the University tour guide leaned toward me and whispered that behind these shelves of books there is a real school of bats (!) that keep the moth away. (Harry Potter, remember?) At the same breath she mentioned that the library contains an amazing collection of 15th century Judaica, including the Abravanel family Bible and documents of the Coimbra Inquisition.
After taking a great amount of pictures of the library, we walked outside through the Via Latina, right into the Great Hall of Acts, where most of the Academic ceremonies are taking place. This is where grad students and Doctoral students are presenting and defending their thesis, where the official opening of the Academic year is taking place and where ranks of honors are given to particular people. I could only imagine how does it feel to be a student in Coimbra University, presenting his thesis under the investigating eyes of Afonso Henriques, the King of Portugal, portrayed on a large canvas on the wall.
To show respect, hierarchy and admiration, the students must sit lower than the eye level of the faculty.
Each faculty of the University is defined by a different color. The Faculty of Medicine, for example, is characterized by the Yellow color, and the Yellow Room (walls lined with yellow silk wall paper) is where the meeting of the constituent bodies of the Faculty took place. The paintings on the walls are of 19th century Rectors of the University. The Coimbra Faculty colors are: Forest Green- represents the University, Red is for Law, Yellow for Medicine, Royal Blue for Humanities, Sky Blue and White stand for Sciences and Technology, Purple is the color of Pharmacy, Red and White is Economics, Orange represents Psychology, Brown is for Sports Science and Black and White is for the Student’s Union. These colors, by the way, will be presented as patterns or patches on the students robes, bags and notebooks.
I highly recommend to take a guided tour when you visit the University of Coimbra. Whether you are a Harry Potter’s fan or not, the stories, the facts, the additional information you get to hear, are somewhat better than the movie.
Few posts ago I wrote about The Life and Style of Karen Shavit, an entrepreneur and an inspiring Israeli woman, who I am happy to call a friend.
When I first visited Karen few months ago, it was when she just moved in to her new house in Emek Izrael, so I could only take pictures of her lovely kitchen. I told her that the moment she is settled, I would come again to shoot her entire house. I also promised her it would look great in Design Sponge, one if not the most leading Design and Lifestyle blogs. So when the opportunity arrived, I took a train to the North of Israel to visit Karen and spend some quality time with her. When I got in her house, it felt like Welcome to Wonder and Vintage Land. See for yourself.
I was so excited when Karen’s home was well received by Design Sponge’s readers. You can see and read more about Karen’s and her design choices, in Design Sponge Sneak Peek here.
Thank you Amy and Grace for the beautiful feature.
Here are some of my favorite images from Karen’s house.
I will start this post with a confession and admit right from the start that this is not an easy post for me to write. We, the photographers, might find it sometimes easy to snap a beautiful picture which captures what we see in front of our eyes, or through the lenses. But the truth is that reality and life are not always like that.
I can write about all the places I have visited and shot on 2013 (Lisbon, Porto, Berlin, Tel Aviv, Flanders, London and Greece) or write about all the great assignments I got and my debut editorials in some of the top International Travel Magazines (Travel+Leisure, Conde Nast, Lonely Planet, Resource Magazine) or even brag about the great exposure my personal ‘Intimacy Under the Wires’ photography project got (The Independent UK, La Repubblica, Huffington Post, PetaPixels). I can also mention the people I got to meet and work with (Karim Rashid).
But what these pictures can’t and couldn’t tell, is how sad and heartbreaking the year of 2013 has been for me.
It was the year when I changed my life almost 360 degrees so I could be next to my dad while he was fighting cancer. The year I ‘danced’ through my photo assignments and deadlines so I would never skip any kind of treatment my dad went through. The year in which I spend some nights in the hospital alongside my dad, just so he would see a familiar face when he woke up. The year in which the sentence ‘Family Comes First’ was not just a sentence, but an act of life.
It was a very tough year. Words can not describe. Not even my pictures!
And throughout this hard time, I got to realize what is the Importance of Life (spend as much time as possible with your loved ones and never hold back)
Who are my REAL friends (those who will always be there for me and will come over when I ask them to, or even without me asking…they will just BE THERE)
and no matter what kind of personality I have or mood-swings I was going through, I had to keep being strong and optimistic.
Till the end.
My dad passed away on November 2013. When someone who is so close to you dies, it is always too soon.
My dad is the one who taught me everything I know about Photography and the one who always encouraged me to take risks and chances and live life with no regrets.
When I look at the images at the top of this post and count the features and assignments I did throughout this year, I know I owe this all to him. To My Dad.
My New Year’s resolutions? Live each day as it was your last and shoot as though tomorrow you will be strictly blind….
I am quite excited to announce my first giveaway on my blog.
I know the Holiday Season and the New Year right after always draw attention and the urge to give special gifts. So now this is my time to give a special gift to you.
AFAR has just won the Hottest Travel Magazine for 2013 by AdWeek.
So this is your chance to win a one year subscription to the Hottest Travel Magazine.
Here is how to enter:
1. Leave a comment below with your most desire Travel destination for 2014
2. Tell me what is your favorite Wanderlist
3. ‘Like’ Sivan Askayo Photography on facebook and leave a comment below you did so.
Each action counts toward one entry. (please leave a comment below per action). Entries must be posted by December 26 to qualify. The winner will be drawn at random and announced at the bottom of this post by January 1st.
Who can win: Open to readers worldwide. (If you are a US Resident you can win a one-year print subscription and if you are Overseas, you can win a one-year digital subscription)
I am very excited to collaborate for the THIRD time with one of my favorite Travel sites, Let’s Travel Somewhere. My first story was about Vietnam, the second story was about New York, and now I’m all about Florence in Italy.
“I was 16 years old when I first visited Florence. It was a “Sweet 16″ trip to Italy and the tour guide took us to Florence, just for a day. All I remember from that day was the statue of David in a blur. 20 years later, and I went back to Florence for the second time, but this time as a Photographer.
Florence was glorious. A bright Renaissance gem in North of Italy, where I spent 6 days and observed more than just the statue of David. Florence for me was running up the hills all the way to Piazzale Michelangelo, just to see the city waking up soaked in a morning dew. Florence for me was climbing up 412 stairs up the tower of the Duomo, for the sake of taking beautiful pictures. Florence for me was all about chocolate and coffee. Florence is walking through Santa Croce’s busy courtyard or feeding pigeons in San Marco Square. Florence for me was visiting the Academia at via Ricasoli on a busy day, paying only 4 Euro to see the masterpiece of David, and sneaking pictures of him when the museum guards were not watching. Florence is visiting Galleria Uffizi and observing The Birth of Venus, The Primavera or the Neptune statue in full glory. Florence is having Ricotta Cheese and Figs for lunch and chocolate and ice cream for dinner. Florence is walking in cobble stone streets with funny names such as Via de Tornabuoni or Via Maffia. Florence is having an afternoon stroll in Giardino di Boboli, or drinking water from Fontana dello Sprone. Florence is watching men in their best tailored suits riding their bicycles. Florence is visiting the Towers of Donati or the great halls of the old synagogue in Via Farini. Florence is watching the sunset over Ponte Vecchio while you are holding a bottle of wine in one hand and your loved one in other. Florence is doing and experiencing all of the above. Over and Over again”
To see more of my Florence images and read more about it, please click on this link.
A few months ago I made a phone call to Bill Cramer, the founder of Wonderful Machine. Bill was very friendly (I remember it was a holiday eve but he was still at the office) and he answered all my questions I wanted to ask about his company, while I was debating if I should join Wonderful Machine or not.
Wonderful Machine is an online interface which provides clients with the most comprehensive source of high quality photographers doing all kinds of work, all over the world. Bill and his team are quite selective about the photographers they show, they list them only in locations where they actually live, and only in specialties in which they are highly proficient.
For us, the photographers, is a great way to be exposed to new clients and different assignments, stock requests and so on. After I hung up the phone with Bill, I felt very confident to join the site.
And indeed…good things started to happen. I do believe it is a combination of my hard work as well and the face-to-face interactions I make an effort to maintain with photo editors and colleagues. Few days ago Wonderful Machine mentioned me on their Spotlight page and wrote few facts you should know…
…She doesn’t watch TV, but swims every morning. Was introduced to photography by her Father, who always carried his Nikon around with him. Grew up in Israel, but moved to New York at age 26 where she resided for 12 years. Recently shot a double-spread for Conde Nast Traveller…
I was so thrilled the other day to get an email from the Photo Editor of the New Review magazine, part of The Independent on Sunday.
‘I’ve seen your project “Intimacy Under the Wires” and I thought it wold be good for our Portfolio section which is a double page spread in the mag featuring photography’ she wrote me and I couldn’t hide my excitement. I emailed one of my London friends right away to make sure The Independent is a well respected magazine, and more over, to let him know to be on the look out from now on.
The day after I got a list of questions from one the writers and my Portfolio was scheduled to be published on Sunday, November 24.
To read the full interview with me and also find out my age (yes, they mentioned that) you can see here.
To see the highlights of ‘Intimacy Under the Wires’ project, you can find here on my website.
So excited to have one of my favorite snow images featured as a double spread opener for the Holiday story ‘New York, New Traditions’ in Conde Nast Traveller, December Holiday Issue. Conde Nast Traveller is one of the leading Travel magazines in the US and the World.
This image is part of a series of snow images I took during the winter of 2009. It was a snowy morning weekend when kids just want to go out and play with their slides in the park. I was coming out of the gym on 63rd and Central Park West and started to walk home. (I always walk along the Park). I’ve noticed the kids and their parents, and of course, the colorful clothes. I didn’t have my camera with me so I walked home (Thank God I live 3 blocks away from the Park), I dropped my gym bag in my apartment and grabbed my camera. When I got back to the park I was happy to discover more kids with more colorful winter clothes playing outdoors. I liked how the colors just popped out in the whiteness of the snow. The series of these snow images became one of my favorites.
“…Who can resist a holiday season in New York? Certainly not us (nor millions of tourists, for that matter). It’s when the city is at its buoyant best, when everything seems most shimmering and magical. In honor of our favorite time of year, we rounded up the places you’ll want to visit after the places you came to visit. So welcome to our city- because this month, it’s your city too…”
…Let’s face it-If you’re in New York during the holidays, you’re going to find yourself doing one of the things every tourist does. You (or someone in your crew) will want to try out the ice-skating rink at Rockefeller Center. You’ll go to The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center. You won’t be able to resist the sparkling Christmas tree in Washington Square Park. Nor should you. After all, Christmas in New York is all about these beloved traditions, for tourists and, yes, us locals as well. But we wanted to give you some traditions you’ll love as much as the old ones. And so we opened our little black books to share the restaurants, bars, best-kept secrets, and moments we know you’ll adore, whether it’s the oysters-and stout happy hour at the John Dory Oyster Bar (one of the city’s best deals, and just steps from Macy’s gloriously vibrant windows) or the perfect cozy place to rest your feet (with a martini, of course) after an always-awe inspiring (and always exhausting) day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. All you need is a good pair of shoes, a good deal of stamina…and this guide. Who knows? You may even see one of us right there with you….
If you don’t have a chance to grab a hard copy of Conde Nast Traveller, here is the article on line.
Few months ago I was contacted by the Art Director of Mercedes Benz Magazine, asking to see some of my images of Tokyo. I was thrilled to share and send some of my favorite images of this magnificent city. In fact, I was waiting for the right opportunity to post them. I can’t think of a better mach of these high end images of Tokyo with such a luxury brand such as Mercedes Benz.
The article is about the simplicity of Japanese aesthetics surprisingly to be found in the expensive shopping districts, Omotesando and Ginza, both I had the opportunity to shoot during my 72 hours in Tokyo.
The article talks about some of the greatest malls in Tokyo, architecture, shopping and of course The Mercedes Benz Connection in Tokyo.
If you are not a Mercedes Benz owner, chances are you will not have a chance to read the magazine… But here is a sneak peek of it.
There is one thing to live in a city and another thing is to write about it.
Despite the fact I haven’t been living in Tel Aviv for twelve years now, my ‘Israelism’ grant me the title of a Tel Aviv expert among the readers abroad. I’ve been writing about Tel Aviv to EasyJet Blog, than a detailed article to Resource Magazine and my recent Tel Avivism article is Tel Aviv City Guide on DesignSponge.
I had to divide Tel Aviv to areas, such as The North and Tel Aviv Port, City Center, The Heart of Tel Aviv and the White City, The South part of the city and of course, Jaffa.
Here is a detailed list of restaurants, hotels, shops, studios and cultural locations in Tel Aviv, the city that never sleeps. Highly recommend to bookmark this list when you next travel to Tel Aviv.
Thanks Amy, Grace and Stephanie for this great opportunity.