Junior travels to Spain with National Geographic


Photo Courtesy of Carolyn Mason

Junior Carolyn Mason traveled to Barcelona, Spain this past summer as a Youth Ambassador for National Geographic.

Each summer, BSM students travel all over the world to explore different cultures and experiences. This was no different for junior Carolyn Mason, who traveled to Spain with National Geographic to work on her photography.

Her journey began with an application to enter this prestigious program, which only accepts a select few students. Each applicant accepted into the program has to submit an essay that shares how much experience they have with cameras and other equipment. “The amount of equipment that you have to bring is pretty heavy and the experience is pretty advanced,” Mason said.

Mason joined twenty-four other students in the heart of Barcelona, all who all had a passionate interest in photography. Mason believes that this fantastic experience, in a way, prepared her for college. In Barcelona, she was exposed to what it’s like to be thrown into an environment with complete strangers. Meeting  new people and waiting for what was going to come next, Mason was a little anxious. “It all ended up being really helpful because I was terrified, like absolutely terrified. It’s a scary thing, but it worked out because everyone was very supportive and we all became best friends, so it was really fun,” Mason said.

It’s a scary thing, but it worked out because everyone was very supportive and we all became best friends, so it was really fun.

— Carolyn Mason

Throughout the trip, the young photographers journeyed out into the city for shoots and cultural experiences. Mason used much of her time there to focus on portraiture, something she has always enjoyed.

People in Mason’s group were trying to take pictures of a woman beggar from afar during their trip—scared to approach her—but Mason decided to introduce herself to this woman. Sharing stories and details about her family and children, Mason built a connection with her. “Photos of her from far away made her look very broken and disheveled. But I took a photo of her very close to her face, and when I looked at the photo later, I thought it was beautiful because in the photo, she was just a woman. She wasn’t a homeless woman, she wasn’t dehumanized or anything by sitting on the floor and being dirty, but instead she was a beautiful woman,” Mason said.

Mason’s powerful ideas about photography stem from her own childhood. Her grandfather admired photography and always loved playing around with a camera. Practicing taking pictures with old film cameras and Polaroid cameras ran in the family; Mason’s grandfather showed her father how to use them and Mason learned from her father. “My grandpa gave me all his old cameras when I was little and I used to just play with them. When I was old enough and I went on my first international trip, my dad bought me my first camera and I’ve been in love with it ever since,” Mason said.

Not only did the trip allow Mason to hone her skills behind the lens, but it helped her begin a potential career in the field as well. The people who run the program are National Geographic Ambassadors and they assign professional photographers to travel with the group of young photographers; they teach them small tricks and other skills that make their photos even more beautiful. “Our photographer was Tino Soriano. At the end of the trip, National Geographic collected all of our photos; they can legally publish our photos or use them for whatever they want. I’m officially a Youth Ambassador for National Geographic,” Mason said.