Austin Long, a senior in the Visual and Public Art Department, already has the sensitivity and worldliness of a great photographer. The son of an artist and a military officer, he spent half of his high school career in Bolivia, where he soaked up the culture and dabbled in photography.

But what was once a hobby is now his career focus. Last year, Long received recognition for his talents as a photographer, winning the first Roy De Carva/Carrie Mae Weems Photo Prize, a $1,000 scholarship awarded by CSUMB’s VPA program to outstanding student photographers.

“I’m more at home in the VPA program,” he said. “The program’s strength is teaching us how to think like artists, how to conceptualize our work, not just produce it.”

Long needed a compelling portfolio to receive the award, and he had one.

Two summers ago, while on a trip with his grandfather to the Dominican Republic, he documented daily life.

Cupping a 1987 Model Nikon N4004 camera in his hand and shooting with Velvia slide film, Long traversed the cities of Jaibon and Santo Domingo. The simple moments of children playing jump rope, elderly men relaxing in the afternoon, and teenagers chatting under a tree caught his eye.

Long plans to be a commercial photographer when he graduates this spring while continuing to pursue his art.

“Everyone here actually has an art career, on top of teaching,” he said. “It is cool to be able to talk to people who are working artists.”