The photo shows a woman’s jean-clad legs, from mid-thigh down, her bare feet in braided rope sandals. She’s sitting in a grassy field. The photograph is vivid but simple, made up of blue, green, tan and pink colors — the last provided by a bright rose placed by the woman’s legs. It seems, perhaps, that the woman is lounging in a park somewhere on a summer day.
However, after reading the inscription next to this photo by Andi Noble ’15, the image takes on a different note. “Despite the desert heat [of Peru], I continue to wear long pants to avoid calling unwanted attention to myself in the form of piropos [or catcalls from men]. …I have never experienced living in a society where women such as myself are so blatantly objectified, and it just doesn’t feel right,” she writes.
This photo is part of the current show Exposure, in Smith Union’s Lamarche Gallery until Feb. 28. Exposure consists of 62 images, taken in 15 countries by 22 Bowdoin students during their study-abroad experiences in 2012 and 2013. Christine Wintersteen and Kate Myall, Bowdoin’s International Programs and Off-Campus Study director and assistant director, organized the photo-journaling project. Abigail Geringer ’14 curated the show.
Wintersteen said she and Myall always seek new ways for students to engage with and reflect on their time abroad, as well as try to find ways for students, after they’ve returned home, to share their experiences with the Bowdoin community. She and Myall came up with the idea for Exposure two years ago. Over the last 18 months, they emailed students studying away, sending them a series of prompts designed to progress along with the semester. The prompts focused initially on first impressions, followed by the establishment of everyday routines with a new family. They progressed to feelings of discomfort, and finally settled on reflection. Dozens of photos poured in from around the world, Myall writes in the show’s introduction, including “portraits and selfies. Composed scenes and candids. Color and black & white. Cameras from SLRs to flip phones. Some blurry, some so real you could walk into them. Some strictly interpreting the prompt, others taking an unexpected departure.”
In the show, the images are grouped by weekly prompt. Each photograph is accompanied by a written piece. While sifting through students’ responses, Geringer was reminded of her own study abroad experience to Scotland. “It is important to find ways of sharing the small things, because study abroad can’t be summed up in one story or one image,” she said.
For the prompt “Here and There,” which asked students to find something in their new environment that reminded them of Bowdoin, students snapped a photo of a stone lion sculpture in Florence, a person holding an umbrella in Bologna, a rower on a river in Argentina, a vista in Scotland reminiscent of Popham Beach, and a bodega in Havana where Cubans use their monthly rations to buy basic necessities. Of this last photo, which depicts a lean man standing in a spartan cafe, Bridgett McCoy ’15 writes, “…our 100 polar points far exceed the value of a 200 Pesos Nacionales monthly salary of a mechanic, and our little C-Store has a better selection than any bodega.”
In another prompt asking students to take portraits of their off-campus “family,” Lizzy Hamilton ’15 describes a picture of her in a kitchen with a little boy: “In my family [in Peru], I live with an older woman, and her grandson is often in the house. We play boardgames together and I taught him how to bake chocolate chip cookies.”
Myall said she was struck by the relatively small moments she viewed in some of the photographs. “When you think everything about a study abroad trip is so big,” she said, “it’s interesting to see the normalcy in the photos.”
Wintersteen said some of the photos you’d “never look twice at or find “frame-worthy,” but after reading the text and realizing how meaningful they were to the student taking the photo, you “understand how the photographer viewed the moment.”
- Kyra Babakian ’14, Bologna, Italy
- Allie Frosina ’14, Siena, Italy
- Abbie Geringer ’14, Scotland
- Lizzy Hamilton ’15, Mendoz, Peru
- Robbie Harrison ’14, Valparaiso, Chile
- Michelle Johnson ’14, Lima, Peru
- Jarred Kennedy-Loving ’15, Berlin, Germany
- Amalie MacGowan ’15, Paris, France
- Bridgett McCoy ’15, Havana, Cuba
- Clare McLaughlin ’15, Kenya
- Jen McMorrow ’14, Alexandria, Egypt
- Marta Misiulaityte ’14, Berlin, Germany
- Andi Noble ’15, Mendoza, Peru
- Julia O’Keefe ’15, Dublin, Ireland
- Kari Reinhardt ’15, Scotland
- Madelena Rizzo ’14, Poitiers, France
- Becky Stoneman ’14, Dunedin, New Zealand
- Libby Szuflita ’15, Copenhagen, Denmark
- Nina Underman ’15, Istanbul, Turkey
- Emily Weinberger ’15, Buenos Aires, Argentina
- Gretchen Williams ’14, Siena, Italy
- Catherine Yochum ’15, Paris, France
- Tianchen Zhou ’14, Japan