RIT photographers shoot Cuba
It's a land that has long been considered off-limits, but in
February a group of RIT photography students and faculty members
traveled to Cuba for a week-long assignment. The trip was part
of the curriculum for Photography in Cuba, a first-of-its-kind
course offered by the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences.
Denis Defibaugh, associate professor of applied photography,
and Dawn Tower DuBois, assistant professor at RIT's National Technical
Institute for the Deaf, taught the course. "We thought that, as
photographers, it would be a great opportunity for students to
visit a completely different culture," Tower DuBois says.
Initially, it seemed unlikely the idea would work. Without diplomatic
ties between the United States and Cuba, taking students there appeared
risky. Defibaugh and Tower DuBois researched the idea further and
discovered a handful of American colleges and universities that
have successfully offered educational opportunities in Cuba. That
information helped to reassure RIT administrators, who granted their
Next, organizers were required to seek formal permission from
the U.S. government. After applying to the Department of the Treasury,
the college received a two-year license for travel to and from
Upon arriving in Cuba in February, the group wasted little time
getting acclimated. "We took a tour of Havana, first by bus and
then on foot," says Defibaugh. "It was a really good way for the
students to get a sense of their surroundings."
Other excursions included a baseball game, a day at Santa Maria
Beach and a tour of a Cuban cigar factory. During the remaining
time, students were free to explore on their own. Defibaugh says
each of them made a point of getting acquainted with the residents.
"The students felt there was a real vitality to the Cuban people,"
he states. "I was really happy with the number of interactions
they had going to peoples' homes, walking around with them and
engaging them in conversation."
Christina Fallara, a fourth-year student, was initially surprised
that the Cubans were so approachable. She focused her creativity
on compiling "street portraits" to capture the essence of their
"You're certain to learn things any time you go and deal with
people of a different culture," Fallara says. "I think it's important
to travel to different areas when possible and see what life is
like outside of our own reality. It helps make you more open-minded."
Faculty coordinators say that type of feedback reflects the success
of this journey.
"Many of the photographs they've taken are absolutely beautiful,"
remarks Tower DuBois. "The images truly illustrate the charm and
exuberance of the Cubans and their society. I'm really proud of
how our students responded to this opportunity."