Best Destinations for Student Photographers & Artists

Learning to responsibly tell the stories of people living in communities abroad contributes to cross-cultural understanding.

All the great creatives traveled. Follow in the footsteps of great artists, photographers, musicians and writers, and seek inspiration in a new place: Contribute to the murals painted out of necessity in Brazilian favelas—low-income urban neighborhoods—or study Picasso's Guernica in Spain, or document with your camera the rich colors and micro-moments of market exchanges in Cusco, Peru. Travel allows you to reflect, see everything in a new light and return home creatively inspired.

Keep your mind and heart open on any trip abroad and it’s likely you’ll be witness to more types of art than you ever thought possible. Still, certain destinations are must-do pilgrimages, and GLA's themed service-learning programs in these locations are a great way to explore your passion while gaining context and guidance from the local community.


Program: Cuba: Culture in Focus™

Over the past few years, Cuba has become a very popular photography destination, and for good reason: the “mystique” factor, since travel to Cuba for many photographers has not been an option until recently; the lively Cuban culture, the people, the arts and the architecture are all beautiful; the countryside towns with cobblestone streets, the rural landscapes and the vibrant urban areas are prime for the photographer’s eye.

Hands-on Learning: Hone your photography skills. On this 10-day program, venture out to specially selected locations to meet the Cuban people and tell the stories of present-day Cuba: Dance studios, private homes, bustling Havana neighborhoods and rural Viñales provide wonderful photographic backdrops and opportunities to meet Cubans from all walks of life. Participate in lectures, assignments and supportive image reviews with Cuban photographers.

Community Service: Work with a community art organization. Visit Muraleando, a community art organization that, in its two-and-a-half years of existence, has managed to physically transform a struggling barrio into a People’s Art Gallery. The changes are spiritual as well: A sense of belonging has developed where residents now feel empowered to solve problems with their own efforts. 


Program: India: Service Through the Lens™

Great photographers know that every place has its own beauty; however, it is a fact that there are few locations that are as naturally photogenic as India, with its incredible diversity, topographical extremes, soulful culture, technicolor traditions and stunning architecture. No place in the world can compare for capturing the vivacity of life.

Hands-on Learning: Learn about ethical humanitarian photography. As stories of people you meet unfold, capture them with the guidance of professional photojournalists and editors, and evaluate how the narratives can be responsibly told through photography and journalism. 

Community Service:Through community service, build a personal understanding of the community, allowing you to tell a clearer and more compelling story with your work. Spend time at a local daycare center where teachers and staff run their establishments with minimal resources. Bond with the children as you assist with tutoring and providing after-school activities.

Above: Photographs of India taken by GLA alum Ryan Parrilla while on program.


Program: Peru: Service Through the Lens™

Within the mountains of Peru lies a wealth of ancient Inca temples, Spanish colonial towns, and breathtaking Andean vistas—endless subjects for the inspiration-hungry artist. Because the Inca culture is so intensely colorful, spiritual and tied to the incredible land, every activity here is treasure for an artists' eye: from shopping for wares fom local artisans to hiking to the enchanting ruins of Machu Picchu.

Hands-on Learning: Learn to adjust for portraiture, adventure, landscapes and more. Peru uniquely offers opportunities to explore portraiture, street photography, as well as architectural, landscape and adventure photography. Shadow working photojournalists, tour a photography studio in Cuzco and take workshops on topics like building a following or shooting traditional film. At program’s end, participate in an expo, where you’ll get to creatively display your best work.

Community Service: Make your photography a service to the community. With your peers, engage in a yearbook project for a local school. Collaborate on portraiture and post-production to come up with a memento that the students and their families can enjoy. You'll also take part in community development projects that target infrastructure-, education- or health-related concerns, depending on the time of your arrival. 

Above: Photographs of Peru taken by GLA alum Jake Timchak while on program.


Program: Spain: Cultural Odyssey™

Spain's art scene defies definitions. Art in Spain is a legacy, blurring the romance of Goya with the unusual expressionism of El Greco, celebrating the Golden Age, and then merging old masters with influential upstarts like Picasso and Dali. For any art history nerd, being guided around the country's renowned museums and galleries while exploring unrivaled artistic heritage is a dream come true.

Hands-on Learning: See every artistic highlight of Spain you could possibly fit into three weeks!Study the historic work of painters like Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí, and see Gaudí’s Barcelona. Visit the 2000-year old Roman aqueduct in Segovia, and learn about the influences of Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities on Toledo's melting-pot architecture. You'll even experience henna from a local artist who keeps ancient Arab traditions alive in Spain. 

Community Service: While experiencing Spain’s must-sees, remember to look beyond its reputation as a popular tourism destination and consider the country’s modern-day role as a major epicenter of immigration, melting pot of cultures and confluence of diverse faiths. Visit an urban Impact Hub and community garden, two examples of how ideas for social innovation, youth activism and sustainability have come to fruition.