Photography: On Location in Havana

Immerse yourself in Cuban culture while creating your own series of photographic essays.

21st century Havana is a city of contradictions — steeped in tradition but on the verge of a radical change in cultural direction. From rumba and salsa and Revolution-era art and literature to the recent opening of western influence, Havana is a landscape that is overflowing with possibilities for documentary storytelling — and it’s yours to discover.

“I learned in Cuba to always be analytical of different points of views, and to form connections with the people you are trying to represent with your art, even despite language or cultural barriers. Since Cuba, I’ve become wholly invested in documentary work, and it is there that I became close with the two friends with whom I am now starting a documentary production company."
-Anita Gou


Program Overview

In the photography program in Havana offered in collaboration with the Ludwig Foundation of Cuba, the Cuban National Institute of Film and Television (ICAIC), and the University of Havana, you will use the incredible street life of Havana, Cuba as your canvas to document the modern Cuban experience that most Westerners never get to see. This unique opportunity allows you to interpret through photography the shifting cultural experience of Cuba at this unique crossroads in its rich and turbulent history. You study photography and image making in a mixed media setting, presenting a series of photographic essays of your experience of daily Cuban life.

Outside the classroom, you live in a historic Cuban ‘casa particular’ with a Cuban family and other students.  All casas are centrally located within walking distance to the campus of the Ludwig Foundation of Cuba and the University of Havana.

Motorcycle in Cuba


Your semester abroad consists of your core program course and three additional companion courses, completing a full-time, 16-18 unit semester.

Photography: On Location (Core)


IPHTI-UT 1060 | 4 units | Instructor: Adrian Fernandez

Students study digital photography and image making in a mixed media and multidisciplinary context, while experiencing Cuban culture. This course emphasizes the journey as much as the destination as it allows students the opportunity to witness, record, and present a series of photographic essays of their own experiences. Projects can include Place (render a place or setting); Event (emphasizing the process or unfolding of the experience); Portrait (render a portrait series of a person(s) you have encountered in Cuba); and the Final Project that supports your individual ideas on image making along with your understanding and interest in the Cuban experience. Discussions on composition, lighting, night shooting, filtration, portraiture, motion, location, and the narrative structure in creating images are covered along with critiques and master classes led by Cuba’s leading artists and photographers.

Required Purchase: Students must bring their own DSLR digital camera to use during the program. 

Art and Culture of Cuba

ISPEC-UT 961 | 4 units | Instructor: Ludwig Foundation

This course provides a multifaceted understanding of Cuban history, culture, and arts from the period of Spanish colonialism, through the wars of independence and the Revolution, and into the “Special Period” of the 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union. It examines the many political and cultural transformations and, consequently, how the country’s artistic legacy manifests the spirit of an era through literature, photography, music, dance, theatre, and visual arts.

In addition to class discussions and readings, students interact with the country’s leading artists, writers, and performers. Students also attend lectures, performances, and exhibitions at the Ludwig Foundation, ICAIC, and the National Theatre of Cuba. Students also particpate in a walking tour of Old Havana and visit the organic farm Finca Marta.

Introductory Spanish

ISPEC-UT 1959 | 6 units | Instructor: Ludwig Foundation

Designed for beginners who need to acquire the basic language skills for functional and practical proficiency, the course introduces pronunciation, vocabulary, useful expressions, and fundamental grammar that allow communication and provide opportunities for expanding the range of one’s conversational ability.

Note: More advanced Spanish courses (IOART-UT 1960 or IOART-UT 1964) are available to students based on the results of a placement exam administered by the University of Havana.

The Cuban Image: 1959-Present

ISPEC-UT 971 | 4 units | Instructor: Ludwig Foundation

This course will use a wide cinematographic selection, the direct contact with visual artists and filmmakers, and the specialized bibliography and “life histories” of some of the protagonists, to study the cultural history and the main problems in the last fifty years of Cuban society.

A special emphasis will be placed on the cultural relationships between Cuba and the United States of America since the very beginning of the 20th century; as well as those from Europe and the so-called Third World Countries. Students will discuss the cultural processes and the artistic samples from different multiple perspectives such as race, marginality and social exclusion, the remarkable role of artists and intellectuals, and the cultural, gender and sexual identities.

The course will also analyze the Cuban model: the governmental support for culture. The course will explore the shaping of new cultural processes that conditioned iconographic and any other artistic creations, their evolution and the way they were experienced by individuals. The students will have to forge their own criteria taking in consideration the different perspectives of the available sources. Throughout the course there will be a “crescendo” on this viewpoint to provide a critical and multifaceted approach to contemporary Cuban reality, revealing the modifications on individuals and groups through time.

Thinking about the special nature of the consensus in the Cuban society students will face the transit of the “illusion of homogenization” that was generally accepted for more than forty years to the current “kaleidoscopic” society. The collective subject became invisible; the different individuals didn’t speak the same language anymore and couldn’t recognize their own reflection on an imaginary mirror. Therefore the possibilities to establish a new social consensus seem to be a utopian dream. Having a daily life almost immersed in the actual Cuban conditions the students will be in the privileged position of being able to understand the present crossroads of the Cuban society, its new contradictions and possible future paths.

All the students shall watch a minimum number of films, and reading the specialized bibliography will be mandatory. Students will work in teams and individually, and have to produce at least one written essay or an audiovisual material about any of the aspects included in the syllabus. Course includes artists and intellectuals as guest lecturers.


Program Dates

Spring 2021

Student Arrival: Sunday, January 24, 2021
Student Departure: Saturday, May 8, 2021

Arrival and departure dates are subject to change.


Prerequisites: Photography I or equivalent experience. Please note: one college-level Spanish class is highly recommended in advance of the semester

Please note: Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months past the end of the program at the time of your application. There are no exceptions.

Spring 2021

Application Deadline: EXTENDED to Friday, September 25, 2020 at 5 p.m. ET

For more information please view our Admissions Calendar.

Application: Please read the following admissions information before starting your application.


  • Academic Year 2020-2021 Full-time Tuition, 12-18 unit flat rate per term: $28,802

Additional Fees Include:

  • Nonrefundable Registration and Services Fee: $1,338
  • Program Fee: $675
  • Media & Production Fee (Photography): $430
  • NYU Housing (doubles, includes 2 meals per day): $6,815
  • Required group flight to/from Havana from New York:
    Approx. $750 (Tickets from group flight are non-refundable and non-transferable.)
  • Meals: $1,500-$3,000
  • CSI Insurance $155 

Please review the Tisch Special Programs cancellation policy.

Visit the NYU Office of the Bursar for more information on tuition and fees.

Scholarships and Financial Aid

There are opportunities for financial assistance to study abroad.
Please review the Scholarships and Financial Aid for Study Abroad page for more information.

Food in Cuba

Meat and carbohydrates are staples in the Cuban diet. While fruit is plentiful, and it is possible to get vegetables at certain food markets,  it is easier for students to purchase fruit than vegetables but both come at a higher cost as they are not readily available as they are in New York. If you are a vegetarian, vegan, or have special dietary restrictions, please contact Tisch Special Programs to discuss food options.


You will be housed in the Vedado district of Havana in home-stays (casas particulares). Students are provided with breakfast and dinner at their casas.

  • Double bedroom
  • Breakfast and dinner included in program costs
  • Limited laundry facilities on-site
  • No internet available in residence*
  • Rooms furnished with linens and towels included
  • No overnight guests allowed

*Internet access is unreliable across Cuba. There is no internet available in the casas particulares; intermittent wifi connection is available nearby for an additional cost.