Students from Northeastern University, who study photography and storytelling, took part in a three-week-long study abroad program in Havana, Cuba. Northeastern professor Luis Brens, who led the program, says that this program was designed to immerse the students in Cuban culture while teaching them the nuances of street photography.
Brens, who has been leading this program since 2013 says, “Taking them to a completely different culture where we are literally disconnected from how we lived here every day, to me, that’s our biggest goal. Photography jumps in really good in that because they can make pictures based on that. They can connect and hopefully make a journey out of that.” Brens also says that for students to immerse themselves, they had to shoot photos outside the comfortable tourist-friendly areas of Cuba.
Samantha Barry, a third-year student who is studying journalism at Northeastern, took part in this event. Talking about her experience, she says that she found two Cuban kids running around, wrapped in tape from old cassettes. As she reached for her camera, she realised that she had walked into a photographer’s dream of finding moments like those. “I probably sat there for half an hour, watching these kids pretend to be all sorts of things with this film and it was really a moment for me,” she says.
Talking about Brens, Barry says, “Professor Brens was really big on us going out into the streets of Havana, into old and central Havana, pushing away from the touristy areas and trying to get real connections with the people who lived there and worked there, that was when we produced our best work.”
Earlier in June, the United States Treasury Department announced new restrictions on American travel to Cuba. Educational group trips were also included in the travel restrictions, but Brens says that the photography program in Cuba is said to continue. However, the institution is looking into other considerations, if things change.