Far afield, class finds new point of view

by Charmaine Daniels

art photograph by Megan Brennan '10

For the assignment on macro photography, Megan Brennan '10 photographed this Otavalo Market vendor framed by the necklaces that she makes.

Art professor Scott Fuller and a group of students traversed the natural and cultural wonders of Ecuador for 16 days this spring - traveling by bus, taxi, and even by dugout canoe on a tributary of the Amazon - as part of the college's first-ever field class in digital photography. In this May semester class, they experienced the country's diverse geography and culture. Their focus included everything from the intricacies of colonial churches in the capital of Quito to a thin-air climb at 14,000 feet on the slope of Cotopaxi Volcano.

The class operated technologically much as it would in the classroom thanks to a laptop and external hard drive, allowing student photos to be downloaded and shared for critiques. But there the similarity ended.

Megan Brennan '10, a nursing major from Quincy, Mass., says, "In the field, learning took place within a conversation and we applied the knowledge immediately. Rather than reading examples, we were experiencing them."

Fuller says that a new culture provides a wealth of opportunities to learn about being a student, a traveler and a diplomat. "It definitely changed their perspective on the world," he says.

Colorful open-air markets, street life and exotic wildlife, such as crocodiles, anacondas, pink dolphins, monkeys, toucans and piranha, made interesting subjects for assignments. Students were required to document and analyze what they experienced, including a 5-page paper with cultural and personal observations tied to a series of questions. They also had to create a 40-page book filled with their images.

An exhibit of the Ecuador images is planned for the fall semester. Fuller says he plans to offer the field course again in Ecuador. "It's the best way to teach a photo class; everything is right in front of you and you always have your camera."