Combining a photo essay with an intimate written portrait, Cristian T. ’18 presents the story of his month in Spain as an exchange student.
I could stand there for hours, days, staring up at Picasso’s “Guernica.” My host family had taken me to visit the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid on this Saturday night in March. On one of the walls, a number of photographs were hanging, showing the progression of Picasso’s piece. I got to see how “Guernica” changed over time and came to be what stood there towering over me.
My host mother directed me through the photographs. She pointed out that the bull’s eyes were not originally crossed, how in an early incarnation the eyes stared straight ahead at the same point. Picasso decided to change this and make its left and right eye stare out in two different directions. As I stood there at the far right and stared up at the bull, it stared back at me. She explained to me how by doing what he did, Picasso was putting the viewer into the piece, making us a part of it rather than just observing it. In this room I realized that I want to achieve the same with my art. I decided that when I begin college in the fall, art will be my major and not my minor, even if that means taking on a double-major.
I’ve always had a passion for taking photos. I started out just using my phone, but it wasn’t until I got a camera for Christmas in 2015 that I was able to take the basic photography class sophomore year. With a camera in my hand, I get to see the world anew. Looking through the viewfinder, I see the visual speak to the invisible.
Photography can not only capture people’s emotions or the mood of a place, it can evoke and change feelings by hitting the shutter button, by the act of taking the photo itself. Having a camera in my hand gives me space to think both strategically and spontaneously, and allows me to piece together a puzzle that depicts something far beyond what the eyes can see.
I recently spent a month in Spain as part of the LCDS-CVE exchange, attending the Colegio Virgen de Europa in Madrid and living with a host family. I was sitting above the dining commons beside the international flags when I first read about the program last summer. I applied in August and found out I had been accepted within the first few days of school.
It was the one of the most exciting pieces of news I’ve ever received, and an opportunity that I got more from than I could have ever imagined.
With my host family, we traversed arches and doorways that showed us Spain’s past, present and future. Underground parking lots and subway stations connected me to each city I visited. Each train ride felt like a pulse through a city’s living heart.
Together, we stared up at Muslim, Jewish and Christian ceilings. With every excursion, they taught me more rich history of the Iberian Peninsula they call home.
This experience only strengthened my desire to study and document different societies and cultures. Being able to mix my perspective with different customs and ways of living gave me renewed clarity as to the life I want to live in the future.
I know I want to return to Spain and live there again, but I also intend to explore Latin America. For a time, I thought I wouldn’t be able to do both, but this exchange taught me to strive for both. I want to build for myself a bridge of understanding between these disparate regions united by a common language.
I want to visit the birthplace of my parents and ancestors in the Caribbean, and explore the relation of my family to the people who made me feel like family on the other side of the Atlantic.
My travels took me into Madrid a number of times, and I also toured Toledo, Granada, Barcelona and the small town of La Iglesuela. But for as beautiful as these places were, it wasn’t that beauty that made my experience what it was. It was the people who made a whole out of the beautiful pieces, my host family.
It was watching movies and TV shows, and singing along with them in the car. It was sharing a place at their kitchen table and in their conversations. It was every time I asked them what a word meant in Spanish, and every time they wanted someone to practice their English on without fear of judgment.
It’s hard to believe that a handful of days one spring could pack in so much meaning and affect me so profoundly. I now have a stronger sense of what I want to do after graduating from LCDS. I want to live and explore these regions more deeply, and experience new cultures with an open mind.
And I know that art will be an integral part of that journey.