University Crossing Exhibition Chronicles Study Abroad Trip to Portuguese Islands

A young person looks at the camera in crowd of people on a street. Image by Megan McCarthy
"Child in Horta, 2023" by junior digital media major Megan McCarthy is among 50 prints on display at University Crossing as part of the "Postcards from the Azores" student photo exhibit.

By Ed Brennen

More than a century after his great-grandparents emigrated from the Azores to Lowell, digital media major Wyatt Da Cunha became the first in his family to return to the Portuguese islands, located about 870 miles off Portugal’s North Atlantic coast.
Da Cunha chronicled his two-week trip by taking nearly 3,000 photos — all part of the Photography in the Azores study abroad program.
“It was important for me to get a physical understanding of where they came from and what their lives were like,” says Da Cunha, a junior from Lowell. “You can read stories and look at records, but you can’t get a material sense of what type of people they might have been.”
Da Cunha was among 11 UML students who studied abroad in the Azores last spring, led by Pavel Romaniko, an associate teaching professor of art and design and director of the digital media program, and Anna Isaak-Ross, a former instructor at UML.
An exhibition of the students’ photography work, “Postcards from the Azores,” is on view on the second and third floors of University Crossing until May 12.
People look at a photo exhibit in a hallway. There is a blue banner hanging on the railing. Image by Ed Brennen
"Postcards from the Azores" is on display on the second and third floors of University Crossing until May 12.

“It’s nice to see work that’s printed and not just show the work digitally,” says Romaniko, who has led the annual trip for four years and will be taking another group of students to the Azores in May.
Last spring, students visited four of the Azores’ nine islands, starting in Sao Miguel, where they photographed the colorful Santo Cristo festival. The group also visited an active volcano and were immersed in Azorean culture as they shot still photos and captured drone footage.
Samantha Richards, a senior sound recording technology major with a minor in digital media, says the three-credit course connected her interests in music and photography. During the exhibit’s opening reception, she shared some of her favorite close-up photos from the trip and explained how they were analogous to detailed sounds in music.
“When mixing music, you have to think of the big picture and the space. But the things I tend to focus on are the little textures, like a gritty synth bass that melds well with a smooth vocal — stuff that clicks together,” she says. “I gravitate toward these (close-up) photos.”
A person points at a photo hanging on an exhbit wall while another person looks on. Image by Ed Brennen
Guests check out the students' work during the exhibition's opening reception at University Crossing.

Richards had never traveled abroad before. The Lowell native says she always thought she wanted to live in a city, but she gained a new appreciation for nature in the Azores.
“I need to be able to walk somewhere with grass. Imagine not seeing this every day,” she says.
It was also the first time abroad for Megan McCarthy, a junior digital media major from Medway, Massachusetts.
“I love street photography, and this was a great way to interact with that in a place other than my home city,” says McCarthy, whose favorite image from the trip was a photo she took of a young girl at the Santa Cristo festival called “Child in Horta, 2023.”
“I gravitate toward people. It’s easier to find those unique moments of intensity,” she says.
Three people sit on blue couches doing homework. There are photos hanging on the wall behind them. Image by Ed Brennen
With Azores photos as a backdrop, students do homework at University Crossing.

Jordan Gladstone, a junior digital media major from Marblehead, Massachusetts, took about 4,000 photos in the Azores — including 600 on the first day.
“Having that hands-on experience for two weeks straight, just taking photos day and night, was fantastic,” says Gladstone, whose mother and grandfather are also photographers. 
One of Gladstone’s favorite images was of two young girls who were making handprints with white paint on a wall.
“I realized that the camera isn’t something between you and the other person, but it’s something that can bring you together,” he says.
The exhibit also includes work by Kamila De Los Santos, Emy Hartshorn, Hope Parker, Josephine Parsons, Matt Limoli, Sofia Santos and Justin Yung.
The travel program and exhibit are sponsored by the Saab Center for Portuguese Studies, the Office of the Provost, the College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Dean’s Office, the Dean of Student Affairs & Wellness, and the Art & Design Department.