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ISEP Student Stories: Sarah’s Spanish Photography Challenge

July 5, 2016

Sarah O’L, a University of Tennessee Knoxville student studying abroad at the Universidad de Vigo in Spain, is an avid photographer. As part of her study abroad adventure, she set a goal for herself: overcome her fear of snapping photos of strangers!

I came to Spain with the idea of photographing the people. My major is a combination of Spanish and photography and I knew that my semester in Spain would be the perfect opportunity to explore and practice my interests.

There are many styles of portraiture that I admire, but my specific goal in Spain was to photograph strangers. There is something a bit intimidating about this for me and I was determined to overcome my fear.

Each time I ask someone to take their photo and they let me, I feel happy and excited. It gives me motivation to keep working and I now feel more confident and less shy. When I started this project, my initial idea was to take street-portraits of people, but I soon discovered that I am much happier with my candid portraits.

Enjoying the sun in Barcelona
Enjoying the sun in Barcelona

My favorite portrait to date is the portrait of two women sitting on the edge of a fountain in Barcelona. It was a beautiful thing to see them enjoying the sun and fully appreciating the beautiful day. I also really appreciate taking posed street-portraits of people. Although occasionally people do not feel comfortable having their photo taken, most of them are very nice when I explain my project. It’s a great way to interact with locals while traveling.

I am glad to say that I’ve learned a lot about myself as a photographer this semester; that I have learned what sort of photos I enjoy taking and what I need to improve. Each photo carries with it a memory of a time and a place, of café con leche and tortialla in Pamplona on a grey morning, of the beautiful streets of Barcelona on a sunny day, of walks by the river in Granada, the smell of fish in a Galician fish market…the list goes on.

The beautiful streets of Barcelona
The beautiful streets of Barcelona
The sweetest elderly man, Granada
The sweetest elderly man, Granada
A fish market in Cambados, a town in Galicia
A fish market in Cambados, a town in Galicia
Breakfast in Salamanca
Breakfast in Salamanca

I wish I could say that I now know exactly what I want to do with my life, but I don’t. I do know that I am incredibly passionate about Spanish culture and photography. While I knew this before my semester here, living here made my passion grow tremendously. I don’t know what the future will bring, but I have been bitten by the “living in another country bug” and I don’t think that I will recover any time soon.

Check out more of Sarah’s photos of Spain and chronicles of her study abroad experience in her personal blog, A Work in Progress. Do you have photos of your study abroad that you’d like to share with us? Submit them to the ISEP Photo Contest and you could win cool prizes!

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