“It’s culturally and visually so stimulating, the smells and sounds are all overwhelming in an incredible and good way,” says Photography Professor Jessica Wynne. She was mingling with the nine students she led through India as part of the International Photographic Study and Practice course this winter intersession. Upon viewing each others’ photographs at a reception outside the Great Hall, they talked in exuberant detail about their study abroad experience.
“We took a boat ride on the Ganges at dawn. Just nine of us on the boat. It was magical,” says David Western, a Fashion Merchandising Management major. “There are men who ride around with bird feed trying to get you to buy it to feed the birds. There are people washing clothes and bathing” he says.
“We were going non-stop from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. everyday,” says Prof. Wynne. “We started in Delhi, then went to Agra to the Taj Mahal. We flew to Varanasi, famous for the sacred pilgrimages to the Ganges.”
“The Ganges is a sacred river for Hindus. It’s the highest honor to be cremated there,” says Wynne. “Hindus believe if they are cremated on the banks of the Ganges River their soul will be free from the cycle of death and rebirth. It’s all happening at once; they bathe, wash their clothes, let children play, and at the same time they are burning bodies.”
Western, a rock climber and skier interested in travel and sports photography, said “It was an opportunity to learn more about myself as a photographer. I’ve photographed climbers in extreme conditions. This pushed me to work on different styles.” A theme he focused on was images captured through car windows.
“I wanted to explore how people react to the camera in the East versus the West,” said photography major Sophia Pavlatos, who decided to make the trip “because it was unconventional…It was incredible to see how open they were to my camera,” she said.
For the photo of the man on the outdoor bed (above) Pavlatos said “I let myself into his backyard in rural Delhi and he welcomed me with a natural pose.
“‘Namaste’ and a smile got me far enough,” she says.
“Before photographing them we spoke, a mixture of facial expressions and light English. I met their families and asked to take their photos. It’s not posed. Their lifestyle allows for genuine photographs. They don’t have the media giving them an aesthetic–they give 100 percent of themselves,” says Pavlatos.
“I took a series of abstract photos, about 20 of just color and shapes of objects,” says Fine Arts major Pamela Stoicev. “I’m interested in the things people overlook. In my painting class we’re doing a culture painting, referencing lore and culture. So it worked out perfectly. I’m very happy that the two classes merged,” she says.
Some mischievous monkeys captured the attention of Karina Demirciyan, a Communications Design major. “We went to a yoga studio and these monkeys were jumping up and down going from the roof to the ground and then to the next group of buildings,” she said.
“It was like Wak-a-mole. I stayed there with my camera and took the shot. It was perfect timing. Then there was a tarp they were poking in and out of,” hence another capture.
Ziara Rosario, a Fashion Business Merchandising major was struck by shapes and passageways. “I focused on architecture because architecture carries the same weight as other forms of expression of the culture,” she said.
“I had a lot of fun looking at the in-between-stuff as you walk. This was leaving the Taj Mahal. There are alleyways, but you might not think to catch these places.”
Click on link for more information on Short-Term Study Abroad programs.
All photos used with permission