“My family thought I was crazy when I told them I wanted to go to China,” said this week’s It’s A Snap photo contest winner, 23-year-old Ricardo Montiel, a student in Asian studies at the University of Madison, Wis.
On his first trip to China in the summer of 2008, Montiel was studying the Chinese language in Tianjin, when he took a week break and visited four cities, including Suzhou, nicknamed the “Venice of the East”. His photo of a canal in Suzhou, was this week’s top-rated image.
“It’s much easier to learn the language when you’re there,” said Montiel. “The people are so friendly. If you’re lost, they approach you. They like to talk to foreigners — they don’t get a lot of contact with outsiders.”
Montiel says his family had the wrong impression of China. “I am the first person in the family that has traveled anywhere, so when I went to China the first time in the summer of 2008, I wanted to capture every single moment, so I took pictures of almost everything I saw — I was such tourist. But I wanted to show everyone at home what China was really like,” said Montiel.
Now a senior, ready to graduate this May, Montiel said he developed a passion for photography on his 2008 trip, returning a second time in the summer of 2009 with a new appreciation and a photojournalist’s approach.
“I realized that with all we have in the U.S. we should feel happy, privileged. People in China don’t have what we have,” he said.