By Emily Sinrod

This summer, I spent four weeks in Cádiz, a small coastal town in Andalucía, Spain. As part of a Spanish immersion program, I lived with a host family and took Spanish classes, learning about both Spanish and local culture. My favorite part of my time in Cádiz and something I will never forget is the photography class I had the opportunity to be a part of. I have taken art classes nearly all my life but have never had formal instruction or training as a photographer. I had no idea what to expect to learn from this class: not only was this my first photography class, but it was led entirely in Spanish!

Javier, a full time professional photographer, was an absolutely incredible instructor. He had long gray hair and pierced ears, always seen in his staple of a dark gray t-shirt, shorts, black sandals and oversized camera case. He spoke quietly but with a demanding presence, and had a very artistic and comforting aura. One night, my friends and I were walking along the beach and we actually ran into Javier dancing along with a group of drummers and we joked that he is everywhere, like a spirit of the city.

Our meetings took place from 5 to 7 pm, which seemed very late to me going into it. However, as I assimilated into routine, I was alert and refreshed after a nap during our siesta and this period of “Spanish afternoon” provided a gentle breeze and the perfect sky for our outings. Javier led the group of 10 kids or so around the intricately wound narrow streets of Cádiz, taking us to the best views and locations for pictures. We spent time at an old fortress, a lush garden and cave under a waterfall in Parque Génovez and the famous beach La Caleta with a rainbow of boats in the crystal blue ocean.

Each meeting, in addition to strolling around different locations, we had some sort of theme to think about when we were taking our pictures. A constant theme that was prevalent was making sure each photo had a unique aspect. If you take a picture of a flower, it is important to showcase why this flower is different, why this flower is from Cádiz and not from your backyard. We practiced taking the same shot from different angles and understanding how a change of perspective can completely alter a photo. We took portraits of each other and posed group photos to tell a story or offer a visually pleasing arrangement. We also took pictures of locals and practiced taking pictures without them noticing and capturing them in the action. Javier had a great sense of humor and encouraged us to chase after pigeons, teaching us how to change our shutter speed to capture a pigeon in flight.

From what I could understand in Spanish, I gained so much knowledge about photography from this hands on opportunity and learned about art from a lens I have never been able to look through before. Attached are some of my favorite pictures I took of the city, my classmates, the locals, and Javier. I am so happy I branched out and tried something new, stepping out of my comfort zone to take part in this incredible experience.