Written by Carly Matsumoto on June 04 2018


There is an exhilarating feeling that comes with traveling somewhere new; smiling at an unfamiliar face, scarfing down local cuisine, touching your bare feet on the grass, jamming to a new beat. I’d describe it as an immediate vulnerability with the unknown; holding hands with the excitement of exploration. I have been incredibly fortunate to have had this feeling many times, and I never want it to stop.

Last summer I co-lead Outside the Lens’ FOTO Colombia immersion trip in which we facilitated the exploration of peace and reconciliation in Colombia through imagery with American and Colombian students. Through a partnership with the U.S. Peace Corps we were able to travel to places and meet people the average traveler wouldn’t. Many students from both countries experienced the transformative power of international connection for the first time on this trip. Watching that happen with photography as an added element was truly magical. Instead of sharing their feelings from my perspective, I will let the students speak from theirs. Here are their reflections:

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“We’re across the world. I’m from the United States and they’re from Colombia, but in reality we’re not that different.

I would like to be a part of that… share photos from other places for other people to see the lives of other people and their stories and, you know, their thoughts and feelings through a photo.

There’s a bond between the people there. They go through the same struggles together and in the United States it’s not that simple, it’s not that connected. I would like for Americans to strive for this community relationship. Instead of people pursuing their lives individually, coming together.”

-    Andrea

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“This trip has really made me think about myself in different ways because looking at these people who’ve gone through so many difficult things and they’re so resilient and it’s really incredible how they can be happy and welcoming even when they haven’t always felt safe to do so. It makes me feel like anything I go through I can still come out of it and be happy and kind to others.”

-    Jenna

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“This experience changed my way to see the world because I was thinking that the peace was impossible.  Now I think that in Colombia we are working within the peace… In other countries [we are seen as] violent, we fight and all… but that’s not right... So when we take a picture we can change the minds of other people to show the true Colombian citizen.”

-    Yuranis

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“Having interacted with the students from the United States, who enjoy photography like me, I feel very happy for these new relationships and to be a part of this program. “

[Translated from Spanish]

-    Oscar

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“At first I was worried, but I felt so welcomed into the villages and it was an amazing experience to work with others. I now believe I want to travel more.

I now believe the world is bigger than we think.”

-    Grace

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“I learned about how can we change the world through pictures and how can we teach others… how to be peaceful. The photography connect[ed] me with the Americans when we work together to have a good photo [and] interchange ideas.”

-    Jose David

For an adventure you will surely not forget, join us on this years’ photography expedition in Colombia.

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