The oldest surviving photograph is an 1826 “window view”. Today, we can take thousands of pictures every day, and thanks to Erasmus +, participants have the opportunity to explore “European Values Through Wide-Angle Lens” for a training session of the same name in Santander, Spain, October 7-13, 2019.
How did the training go, why you should not be afraid to go to the exchanges and many interesting things we invite you to find out from the feedback of the participants.
Training course “European Values Through Wide-Angle Lens” was my first attempt to participate in an international project and, fortunately, this attempt was great. All participants were gathered in the Spanish town of Santander on the Bay of Biscay. Beautiful town that looks like it is page in tourist’s booklet: the ocean, smiling people, and the sun (in October!).
I really experienced a cultural shock, not because of the stunning scenery, they amazed me though. I saw how cultural values such as respect, freedom, dignity were realized in real life. Moreover, every time when we were surprised about something, the organizers were surprised too but the reason was different: do you really haven’t such conditions in your country?
Literally at first sight we’ve noticed: there are a lot of people in wheelchairs in Santander. But their number does not exceed the number, for example, in my city. In our reality most of them are just sitting at home as in prison. In Santander there are no high stairs in front of each building, there are no curbs, and there are no dangerous ramps. Each street is equipped with paths for the blind people. I mean, there are people with disabilities, but there are no disabilities in the public space. The real shock was to see a wheelchair for surfing.
The training course’s program included various activities, but the main thing is practice. We just walked on the streets and took pictures of people. Each of us had own task given by the trainers: hard working men, a female driver, teenagers’ life, a couple in love … or just a photo with a story. Our first street photography session was during the pouring rain, we didn’t get the city map, and at first it seemed like everything was against us. But the members of our team (we were divided into groups of three) definitely made their best photos for the whole week at that day. Figuratively speaking, the rain washed away all uncertain things and opened the city for us.
Cultural values are the opportunity to share the achievements of our countries. We were surprised how different we are and at the same time, how much we have in common. Before arrival, each participant had to send a photo with the realities of their country. On the third day of training course we had an exhibition. We looked at these realities, not knowing what, where and how. Then everyone chose the most impressive photo. A guy from Italy chose my photo with an elderly man near the Wall of Remembrance on Sofiyivska Square in Kyiv. It was very strange to hear why he chose it and how he understood what was happening. And by the way, almost no one knows that war is still going in Ukraine. Not because they are not interested, in their countries there is no information about it at all. It sounds very often, Europe does not hear us, perhaps because we don’t tell anything?
Once again I convinced, the English language united people. It became a common language for participants from Ukraine, Serbia, Armenia, Italy, Germany, Bulgaria, Romania, Portugal and Spain. But during these street photo sessions, I also realized how important to know the language of the country which you are visiting. In Santander, few people know English, and a participant who knows Spanish helped us find the key to the hearts of the locals. At the beginning, some locals did not want to hear anything about the project when we spoke to them in English. But after explanations in their native language, they blossomed “Oh, an international project, yes, yes, of course, take a picture of me.”
At the end of the training course, each of us had to choose the two best photos for the final exhibition in the youth center. For me personally, the most difficult thing was to choose only two photos, and then figure out a name and a non-banal description for them. It will not be an exaggeration every photo t the exhibition demonstrated that all participants were able to catch their own very special moment.
Participation in the project also opened up completely new experiences: the ocean (don’t believe the locals and skeptics who say that this is just a bay, because it is colossal and furious), a strange-looking cherimoya fruit and local rrrrrrabas. Plus beautiful nature, the Magdalena Palace, the Cabo Mayor lighthouse, Somo Island, songs in the “Centro Botin” elevator and much more. And as it always happened after such projects, there are many jokes that only participants would understand: bonitas, “haters gonna hate” and sea fingers that aren’t look like fingers (don’t google it).
That’s why, after my great experience, which became real thanks to the Erasmus+ , I recommend everyone to participate and fill out an application for the following projects. All of them will help you to meet interesting people and will broaden your horizons.
Now, when I feel better after culture shock I have to share my impressions about the trip to Spain. The small but welcoming town of Santander in the north of hot Spain hosted (not without the help of NGO “Ser Hoven”) participants from Ukraine, Germany, Romania, Bulgaria, Portugal, Italy, Armenia, Serbia and Spain.
All participants of the exchange, no doubt, had their own point of view on European values. It is became obvious during the photo shoots that took place directly on the streets of the city.
Who and what values considers as most important; Who and how feel modern European life; To whom and what hurts – in my opinion, about all this and even more best is told by an exhibition of photographic works made during the training by the participants themselves.
Summarizing my impressions in a few words, I can say that this exchange was a real cultural shock to me. As I was shocked of how friendly Santander is to people with disabilities, I think the Spaniards will be amazed at the lack of proper infrastructure in Ukrainian cities.
Thanks to the wide-angle lens, we have learned to see the values, and now the most important task is to bring them to life. We will do it with NGO “European Club”. And will start from the exhibition of photographic works already seen by Spain and which is so needed for the Kremenchuk and Ukrainians as a whole.