Like many Guilfordians, Lindsay Vanderhoogt had a pretty cool summer. The senior and Biology major took advantage of one of the diverse study abroad trips offered by Guilford and I was lucky enough to catch up with her after a trip full of travel and photography. Her take on the study abroad experience along with the artistic process is both interesting and a sentiment that most can connect with. Let’s see what she had to say!
Hand/Eye: You had an amazing experience this summer. What were you up to?
Lindsay Vanderhoogt: I was a part of a Guilford study abroad trip with Heather Hayton on a trip to Sikkim, India for five weeks. We were a small group of nine current students and recent graduates and were paired up with two guides, Pintso and Tamding, from an eco-tourism group who led us around the area. We had the opportunity to explore monasteries, learn about the history of the place and the religions, as well as the impact that tourism is having on Sikkim as a country and holy land.
H/E: As a photographer, what did you find as artistic inspiration while you were there?
LV: I have always been a portrait photographer and people have always been my subjects. I was really taken by the children and street dogs we came across. The people we met were so wonderful and they were what made the experience as incredible as it was. I appreciate landscape and landmark photography, which I tried a little bit of, but its not really my thing.
H/E: What was it about the children that you found so compelling?
LV: The children were always so friendly. I mean, we were a group of nine white people traveling around India and we were often out of place. I felt we tended to make the adults uncomfortable, but the children we came across were so welcoming. They loved just seeing us and saying hello. All of the kids were all so endearing and brought a smile to my face.
H/E: How did your pictures help you process the trip?
LV: The past few years, I’ve maintained a blog of all of my photo projects. When I left for India, I totally expected the blog to continue to be a space to post pictures to show everyone back home, but it became somewhat of a travel blog for me once I was there. I treated the space as a journal in which I could express my feelings, which I could then supplement with pictures. Sikkim is beautiful and peaceful, but has a lot of problems. The blog was a space that I could process my emotions and show everyone at home what I was doing.
H/E: You are a senior that is not participating in thesis. How do you plan to showcase your pictures this year?
LV: I will be working on an Independent project with Heather (our group leader) to prepare some marketing materials to benefit the Guilford trip and the eco-tourism group, Educorps Retreats. The guides who were with us in Sikkim were so amazing and it is so important that we promote them. Our main focus is that those who visit Sikkim in the future do so with respect and responsibility. Sikkim is one of the most special, unique, and beautiful places in the world, so if more and more people are going to visit, we want to make sure that is done in a way that is respectful to the people and environment there.
H/E: Though you have many visual reminders, what will you be taking away most from your trip?
LV: Oh man, that is really, really difficult…Just because something is different doesn’t mean that it is wrong. As Americans and humans we need to learn to be more accepting of other cultures and people.
H/E: Do you see that statement having an effect your art?
LV: Definitely. This trip forced me out of my comfort zone and had me try my journalistic photography for the first time. If I could find a way to educate people through my work, that would be the most fulfilling thing I could do.
Check out Lindsay’s blog with all of her pictures and journal entries from Sikkim at http://bodyimagephoto.wordpress.com