How to Get to Know the World through Photography

Our Transformed by Travel Photo Contest is open to all our current and former exchange participants and alumni. And this year, the stakes are high. The grand prize winner will receive a trip to Washington, D.C. (yes, that includes airfare ✈️) this November to attend FotoWeek, a citywide celebration of photography.

One of the winning photos of the 2015 Transformed By Travel Photo Contest: Mountain Village by Victor Westerwoudt.

Knowing that this year’s contest will be extra competitive, we recently caught up with Victor, one of our winners from last year’s contest and a 2011-12 alumnus of our Train USA J-1 programs, to get to know him some more and learn the secret behind his prize-winning entry.

Victor Westerwoudt, Train USA J-1 Alumnus (’11-’12)

Tell us a little about your U.S. internship experience. What was the most rewarding or surprising aspect of your experience?

I have been travelling and living abroad quite a lot since I started going to university. The internship in Knoxville really was a unique experience since it allowed me to broaden my scientific horizon within a company environment (having a background in physics and doing the internship in a research department). Second of all, Knoxville is probably not the first place that pops into your mind when you think about go-to places for an internship in the United States. However, having stayed there for seven months really got me to appreciate the city, surroundings, and all its typical southern hospitality! A completely different experience than one you would get when travelling.

Tell us more about the story behind this photo. What brought you to Myanmar? What else happened on this trip?

I like to travel a lot. Myanmar had been on my wishlist for some time since the country opened up to tourists. What I found really amazing about the country is the openness and curiosity of the people. Where in some other Asian countries you are constantly bothered by people wanting to sell you stuff, the people in Myanmar would just be interested in talking to you to get to know who you are, what you do and what you think of their country. I guess this curiosity is something I also tried to capture in the photo. These two boys basically took great pride and joy in showing me around the village they lived in, using me as a climbing tree along the way.

What advice would you give to future participants?

My only advice to people that participate in any of Cultural Vistas’ programs is to use the time and opportunity that you have to experience what the local culture is really like. Living in another culture for a while will feel strange in the beginning, but only once you open up for the things you might find different from your own culture you will experience it to the fullest.

What advice do you have for future photo contest entrants?

My advice for future photo contest entrants or any travelling photographers is that the camera can serve as a great icebreaker. Asking to take a photo of someone is always as little scary, but most of the time people are really happy and honored to be in the photo. On top of that, it might lead to interesting conversations or exciting unplanned adventures.

Snap, Share, and Win Our Photo Contest

Do you have a photo that can show the transformative power of travel? Enter our photo contest by October 3. Unlimited entries. The winner gets a two-day trip for one to Washington, D.C. during FotoWeekDC with a customized itinerary. Runners-up receive cash prizes, while all winners also receive a free Exposure subscription.