Student Perspective: Photography vs. Reality
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Student Perspective: Photography vs. Reality

Lance Oppenheim is a talented photographer and videographer who was awarded one of our Gap Year Global Ambassador Scholarships. While traveling throughout Southeast Asia and India, Lance was captivated by the beautiful landscapes and unique cultures he encountered. He was also surprised by the prevalence of cameras and phones, and questioned the significance of these now-common, and often intrusive, devices.

“Over the course of the three fleeting months I traversed Southeast Asia with my Rustic clan, I witnessed some of the most beautifully bizarre imagery I had ever encountered from cultures seemingly unburdened by instant notifications and an over-reliance on technology. However, whether we were in the most remote of villages or famous historic sites, phones and cameras appeared.

I pondered the relationship between the camera and reality, especially as as I, too, shamelessly involved my camera in several intimate situations to produce the following photographs. What happens when the unnatural force of a camera is present? I was endlessly captivated by the idea of whether anything ‘natural’ indeed still exists under the gaze of a camera. If, even in the most remote of monasteries in Chiang Dao, there is a group of photo-hungry tourists snapping away at flustered Thai monks collecting alms, who’s to say whether the photos are emblematic of a Buddhist day-to-day ritual or rather, of the monks in the photos curtailing such rituals to skirt away from the meddling clicks of the tourists’ cameras?

It is my intent that the following photographs explore this notion by presenting the following question: What is real and what is staged, intentionally and unintentionally, when a camera is present?”

Two monks appreciate the gargantuan Burmese pagodas of Bagan by striking stoic poses for each other (and my camera!).


A group of young monks share a laugh after looking at an Instagram image on one of their smartphones.


Amidst the Wat Phra Kaew temples in Bangkok, a photoshoot of epic proportions begins…


Take two!


Take three!


At the Taj Mahal, a woman spends several minutes attempting to perfect her selfie.


In a remote Burmese village, a man shares a laugh while talking on his smartphone.


Interested in an adventure of a lifetime? Check out our Gap website. If you’re an alum with a story to share, contact us!


About the Author

Katey Finnegan