A group of Longwood photography students will spend the winter break traveling through India as part of a unique Longwood study abroad project. Their professor and tour guide—Michael Mergen, assistant professor of art—is determined that they bring back lessons in life, as well as a more critical eye for art. Officially dubbed "Art 495: Experience India," this is the first photography excursion to that country by a Longwood class. The group departs Dec. 27and will return Jan. 11. 

"For some of these students it will probably be the first time they have traveled out of the state, not only the country," said Mergen. "We hope that this experience, seeing India from its jungles to the deserts, will help to flatten out the world and assist in their journey toward being both artists and citizen leaders."

Art 495 is being coordinated by Longwood’s Office of International Affairs. The itinerary has been designed to give the students an opportunity to see and explore the lives of a cross-section of the country beyond the typical tourist attractions. Before visiting academic settings in the north of the nation, they will be starting in the south of the country.

"While many westerners do visit there, Mysore is a special city, off the beaten path for most tourists," said Mergen. "There we will spend time at an Operation Shanti orphanage nearby where the students will visit with and teach photography at a local orphanage. That should be an experience they won’t soon forget, and one that will challenge their understanding of the world as well as their ability to see into the scene as photographers."

The primary focus of the program will be photography workshops that encourage the students to experience and document an environment that is completely unknown to them. Digital photography techniques will allow for nightly work reviews with work to be shared remotely through a blog created for the adventure.

"We want them to look beyond the obvious and ask, ‘What am I seeing that represents my point of view in the world?’" said Mergen, who will be making his third trip to India and will be accompanied by ceramicist Adam Paulek, assistant professor of art.

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