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Study Abroad Images Grace The Grille

By Middlebury Campus

Author: Hans Manzke

For many Middlebury students, the study abroad program presents the opportunity of a lifetime. While immersed in a foreign language or a specific country’s culture, there comes, very rarely, the occasion to experience a brief moment in time that one will remember for the rest of one’s life. Those participating in the Study Abroad Photo Contest were lucky enough to have such an experience, as attested to by their beautiful and arresting images on display at The Grille last week.

Fifteen aspiring shutterbugs exhibited snapshots of their experiences while studying abroad during the 2002-2003 academic year, revealing intimate and stirring snapshots of life outside of our own country. Some submissions included breathtaking views of the natural and manmade worlds, others portraits with a very human touch, while still others melded the two. Judging took place on Wednesday, with prizes to be awarded to each of the participants. The Middlebury Campus had the opportunity to talk to the Grand Prize, First Runner-Up, and 3rd place winners in order to lend a little insight into the incredible experiences of these students.

Ben Spitz ’04 captured third place with his entry, entitled “I Should Have Asked her Name.” Taken in Pisac, Peru during the 2002-2003 academic year, Spitz’s photograph presents the viewer with a young, traditionally dressed Peruvian girl. Spitz cites this type of photograph as an “anthropological artifact,” adding that he had misgivings regarding his possible contribution to the exploitation of the tourist-dictated lives of the natives. While his observations are directly applicable and pertinent, the photographer was lucky enough to experience an image powerful enough to last for a lifetime. Spitz’s portrait truly is worth a thousand words, inspiring appreciation and introspection.

The First Runner-Up spot was taken by fellow senior Louisa Conrad. Photographed in Varanasi, India during Winter Term 2003, her submission, entitled “Offerings to the Ganges,” contrasts India’s deep sense of spirituality with its pervasive poverty. Conrad captured an image of a girl selling spiritual offerings along India’s largest and most important river. She went on to explain that these offerings were meant for the Ganges itself, called “Ganga-Gi” or the Mother Ganges. Considered to be a holy river, many devout Hindus view the Ganges as the cradle of life for their country, providing purification and spiritual accessibility. Conrad’s image provides an elegant and simple window into the tenuous world of Indian culture.

Completing the senior class’ strong showing, Kirsten Thomas ’04 took the Grand Prize with her enchanting photograph “Namib Sunrise.” Thomas passionately expresses,”I like the picture aesthetically, the colors came out wonderfully, and it serves as a wonderful reminder for me of the 5 months I spent in the country.” Captured in Namibia during the 2003 spring semester, the sand dune depicted is the largest in the Namib desert. Thomas was especially pleased with the contrast of light and dark and the striking nature of the blue sky. Reflecting on her photograph and her experience in Namibia, Thomas characterized her image as a commanding memento of her time spent abroad. “Namib Sunrise” is as striking as it is austere.

After voting concluded, third place finisher Spitz was awarded a $25 gift certificate to Mister Up’s, while first runner-up Louisa Conrad received brunch for two at Tully and Marie’s. For her image, Grand Prize Winner Thomas obtained one round trip airfare to a continental U.S. destination, courtesy of Milne Travel. All 15 participants were awarded prizes from local establishments, ranging from Forth n’ Goal goods to College Store gift certificates.

The Study Abroad Photo Contest not only provided the college community with an excellent opportunity to experience student experiences firsthand, but also to reflect on the vast possibilities that our world holds.

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