Photography seniors take over social media

This image from Jacob Medley was among others shared to the photography seniors’ Instagram account. His work is inspired by his queer identity. Photo courtesy of Jacob Medley

Aaron Royce, Contributing Writer

This spring, the VCUarts Photography and Film seniors’ Instagram account was taken over by the students in the program in an effort to share student work online and promote an upcoming group exhibition.

Each student photographer posted work to the account’s feed, sharing their techniques, thesis and chosen pieces to the account’s “story.” So far, 10 seniors have taken over the account for the project.

“We all just knew as a class that it would be a great way for each of us to share our finished thesis work, and hopefully get people excited to come to our show,” said Jacob Medley, whose photography is inspired by his queer identity and social interactions.

Medley said the endeavor was “super fun to do” amid the stress of senior year. But it was harder than he anticipated.

“It’s unexpectedly tiring, and [I] have so much more respect for Instagram influencers because it’s hard,” Medley said. “It sounds so dumb to say that, but just try it and you’ll understand.”

Medley said the process provides followers a look into his artistic visions. In general, he said, Instagram makes art more accessible and forces an artist to think about its effectiveness, although some of a piece’s nuance is lost when viewing work through a phone screen.

“This’ll sound insanely corny, but I think that the takeovers are an opportunity to immerse viewers into the artist’s world and to introduce people to your vision,” Medley said. “Personally, my takeover forced me to distill the insane amount of thoughts swimming around in my head as briefly and effectively as possible.”

Dominic Hernandez shared this image during his takeover of the Instagram account. He said running the page for two days was a good opportunity to preview the senior photo show. Photo courtesy of Dominic Hernandez

When choosing photos to showcase during takeovers, many students chose from their current portfolios to show their artistic trajectory.

Photography social media director Adriana DeRosa chose to share her pieces with background and context, similar to a “behind the scenes” look at her work.

“My main focus was not just showing all of my finished work, but to give people an idea of who I am, what I make and how. I wanted to show that human touch from my processes and personal history,” she said. “At the end of the day, you can see the finished work in person. But you won’t necessarily get to see how it’s made or what I researched to get there.”

DeRosa said nowadays, many people tend to view art digitally rather than in person.

“The takeover, it provides a semi-exclusive opportunity to view your work without just sharing it 24/7 for the world to see,” DeRosa said. “You can either play into it and share your work online, or say screw that and do your own thing.”

One of the largest benefits for seniors was using the platform to promote works that will be shown at the senior exhibition.

“Takeovers are a really good way to give people a taste of what’s going to be in our senior photo show, like an hors d’oeuvre,” Dominic Hernandez said. “It’s cool to see everyone share their works with the public so people can have a better understanding of it when they see the show.”

The exclusivity of takeovers through Instagram stories, as well as students’ promotion of their physical work, allows the project to expand beyond the digital realm.

Paul Thulin, graduate director of the Department of Photography and Film, said these takeovers will continue next semester.

It is not about getting ‘likes’ or ‘hearts,’” Thulin said, “but rather gaining a sense that one’s studio practice is a journey that should be celebrated and shared.”

The VCUarts Photography and Film senior group exhibition will open May 10.

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