Cambodian Adventure: Learning History and Photography

Niki Stefanelli, fine arts instructor at Athenian, went on a trip to Cambodia and Vietnam this summer to hone her photography skills. This spring she will run a photography interim trip based on her adventure. Apply now!

Last year, Niki taught a class called “Continuing 2-D Art” which offered students an opportunity to create an independent project in a media of their choice. To Niki’s surprise, most of the students were interested in learning about photography. Since Niki’s primary medium is oil paint, she decided to look into professional development that would help her cater more directly to her students’ interests. Comparing photography workshops, Niki discovered Peace of Angkor Photography Tours, which offers week-long, individual intensive workshops (that cost less than workshops in the States!). With the guidance of professional photographer Dave Perkes, Niki spent two weeks traveling through Cambodia and Vietnam with her son Ade, a current 8th grader in the Middle School.

When Niki was preparing for her summer trip, she wrote:

This year I am examining the question: “How can I share who I am as an artist with my students so that they benefit from having a professional artist as a teacher?” I find that I am a better teacher (and happier person) when I have time to be a creative artist. I believe that allowing my students to see my creative process, both the successes and the frustrations, allows me to teach through example. The Photography Workshop will be a starting point for my artistic process for July and August, and I will share that journey with my students in September.

These are the results of her trip. Photos by Ade have his name in the title; the rest are Niki’s photos.

Niki’s photos will be shown in the World Affairs Council’s Global Visions 2012 Exhibition in San Francisco.  The show opens October 4 at 6pm at the World Affairs Council’s office in San Francisco.

Interim 2013

Inspired by her experience, Niki will take students back to many of the places she visited with Ade. Niki will be leading an interim trip in March 2013 to both Cambodia and Vietnam with Athenian librarian Jim Sternberg. The trip will focus on culture and history with opportunities for individual instruction in photography. Niki adds:

Cambodia and Vietnam are both amazing countries to visit. Much of what we know about Vietnam and Cambodia from an American perspective is based on media coverage of the Vietnam War. There is so much more to learn about cultural traditions, the countries long histories, and even the history of the war itself, by visiting and meeting people in Cambodia and Vietnam. People are incredibly welcoming, the food is amazing, and the sights, sounds and smells overwhelm the senses.

Interim Description: We will travel to two vibrant South East Asian countries to explore the local culture, ancient ruins and history of these amazing places. We start in Siem Reap, Cambodia where we visit the ancient temples of Angkor Wat, spend a day on the Tonle Sap Lake visiting floating fishing villages, explore local farming communities and visit a school. From there we travel to Hoi An, Vietnam where we experience Vietnamese farming, cooking and fishing traditions. Then we are off to Hanoi, the bustling capital of North Vietnam. Hanoi will be our base for an overnight homestay in the Northern village of Mai Chau and a 2 night trip aboard a junk boat in Halong Bay. For students interested in photography, there will be many opportunities to shoot during the trip, and Niki will provide individual instruction. Students with no photography experience/interest may still join the trip. Although we will visit a few historical places, most of our understanding of history will come through our interactions with local people as we travel through Cambodia and Vietnam. Please note the trip includes the following activities: boat rides on various boat types including kayaks, bike riding and hiking in the mountains, all in a hot/humid climate. (Trip costs include airfare from Cambodia to Vietnam and from Central Vietnam to North Vietnam, 10 nights in hotels, one night village homestay and 2 nights aboard a junk boat.)

To apply: fill out this form and submit to Kathleen by Monday, October 8.