Newton Teen Finds His Passion for Photography Abroad

Blog written by Jason Alpert-Wisnia, Costa Rica Alum, 2017

I Live and Breath to Photograph Things.

Whether it is a local protest, the struggles of the people or the animals around me, there is an urge to document it. I started taking photos in elementary school on the family camera, before getting my own pocket-sized Fujifilm as a gift from my grandmother. I carried it everywhere through middle school to document memories for safe-keeping.

In high school, my hobby developed into a passion when I had the opportunity to take an actual course on the art form. Photography soon became my newest devotion.

When I went to Costa Rica for 4-weeks during the summer before junior year with Global Routes, I was still learning to grow out of my shell as a photographer. The camera I brought with me, a Canon Rebel T6, was a gift I got freshmen year; I was still getting a handle on it, and had almost ruined it when it got some sand inside at Normandy Beach the previous February.

Jason taking photos at the Rainforest RAC as students flew down the river zipline.

Wherever we went, I had my Rebel camera in hand. Granted, that sometimes made it harder for me to do other things. However, in this temporary state I was able to appreciate things I often would have overlooked: a unique butterfly I had only seen in National Geographic, the local pets, and the people I met. They all became subjects for me to capture and these photos served as my means of giving another dimension to each of them.

A photograph of my host-family’s dog Pinto on a gravel pile represented his being a daily distraction to my working at the community center, because of how much I wanted to play with him.

A photo of a crocodile and a butterfly symbolized the circle of life and the way we can so easily miss brief moments in time.

Costa Rica Gave my Artistic Side a Chance to Flourish.

Costa Rica really opened my eyes so that I became an observer of the world around me, especially because I was without the technological stimuli of back home (except for a cheap AM/FM Walkman I brought in a moment of weakness). I was journaling like everyone else so that I could read and reboot my memories in the future (my journal sits in a shelf beside my desk where I am writing this). These photographs allowed me to truly capture those images I have come to most associate with my time helping others and living abroad.

My mother always likes to joke about how I left the trip a boy and came back a man because of how she did not recognize me when I returned to Boston’s Logan Airport (thanks to a killer haircut I got from the local hairdresser), but I would say that is only part of my maturing that summer.

I Was Able to Help Those In Need & Put in Good Work.

Before Global Routes, I had never really had the opportunity to focus on things so intensely, and thus I was able to focus on both helping those in need and putting in good work. At the same time, this experience away allowed me to pass my time productively, instead of just sitting around on my cell phone. Costa Rica gave my artistic side a chance to flourish.

Jason with his Costa Rican homestay family.

Since My Time in Costa Rica With Global Routes, My Photography “Career” has Flourished.

I have gotten to cover multiple major protests and social justice initiatives in Boston, Washington DC, and elsewhere, and have had work used by news publications such as the Boston Globe. My work has earned awards from the Scholastic’s annual Art & Writing competition, and one photo was featured in Drexel University’s 2018 high school photography exhibit. Most significantly, after submitting a 25-image portfolio to New York University’s TISCH school (which included a photograph from Costa Rica), I was accepted into its undergraduate photography program. There I plan to hone my craft further, photographing the world around me in the same fields I currently find myself most interested: political, street photography, and documentary, which all have their roots in Global Routes.

The confidence I gained in Costa Rica when interacting with my subjects gave me the drive to go up to people and “fight” to convince them that I could get that one photo, no longer content to just watch and wait. Now when I go into new places, sometimes with risk involved, my goal is to tell a story — a “skill” I gained from my time with the Global Routes program.

Currently, as I finish up high school, I am working within a genre of photography known as urban exploration, visiting and documenting long-abandoned structures such as a shuttered mental institution. Some of my photographs are displayed on my website,, along with other assorted work.

What Are You Waiting For? Take The Leap!

If you are at all on the fence about Global Routes, take a leap of faith and do it. I was not much of an outdoors person and am a big tech user (listening to music, streaming, etc), so initially Global Routes did not seem like a perfect fit. With time, though, I realized that this type of getting away from it all would be a good idea, and that this would allow me to help others. There were some things to work past, sure, but in the end the “struggles” of my time in Costa Rica became lessons to apply to my life back in the States. I would not trade my time with Arvin, Alan, Ronaldo, Randee, Sam, and the entire Costa Rica crew for anything else; I took the chance, and came back more mature and confident as a result. So what are you waiting for?

Visit Jason’s website for many more photos:

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