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Summer Photo Tour of Britain Deveops Students\' Artistic Eye

(Posted August 31, 2004)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Around the turn of the century, college students and wealthy daughters preparing for a life of culture were expected to take a trip to Europe to soak in the art and culture of the Old World. Juniata College art professor Alexander "Sandy" McBride updated that tradition by taking a dozen art students to Great Britain to create art on a photography tour in June.

"I had always wanted to take students on a photography trip to Europe but the logistics of trying to find darkrooms and other facilities was always a roadblock," explains McBride. "With digital photography the darkroom is in the computer and all the students brought along laptops to make the whole process easier."

The students, who attended a three-day class at Juniata before leaving for the University of Gloucestershire, are not just set loose on the English landscape to snap off generalized photos. McBride gives them four specific assignments that must be completed before students can pass the course. The first assignment for example is to make a photograph of what it feels like to arrive in England.

"I would like the students to create photographs that reveal how they are feeling when they took the picture," he says. "The nature of the image must express an idea and the photographer should feel that it is an honest representation of what they were feeling."

McBride has overseen the art course once previously, taking eight students to Britain in 2003. This year, the group journeyed to historical sites such as the Gloucester Cathedral, Stonehenge, the Roman baths at Bath, Lacock Abbey (which includes the home of Henry Fox Talbot, one of the founding pioneers of photography) and Stratford, where the students toured Shakespeare's home and (Shakespeare's wife)Anne Hathaway's cottage.

McBride, who relied heavily on his wife, Kim Richardson, professor emerita of education at Juniata, to organize the logistics of the trip and tours, says the teaching experience of a short study-abroad trip is much more personal.

"It's more like a family trip, where the students can connect more personally with me," McBride says.

While the art students learn the basics of art photography -- structure, composition, emotion -- McBride also emphasizes that students take in the cultural experiences available to them. The students are encouraged to explore on their own and are allowed an entire day to tour London by themselves. McBride believes establishing an emotional connection with a place results in better photography.

"The work of art takes place within the person," he says. "The world doesn't need another 100 photographs. The important thing is what's happening to you as you take it."

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.