Photography exhibit melds creative minds
Students in Andrew Ross' Digital Photography II class were recently challenged to search and sync with the imaginations of children.
Last semester, Radford University students partnered with elementary-aged students at the Radford Public Library to create posters based on their favorite books.
The young readers imagined what their lives might look like inside their cherished novels. The creative talents of the photography students transported them there.
The exhibit, titled "You Are Who You Read," is currently on display at the Radford Public Library, where it will hang for a year.
Ross, an assistant professor in the university's art department, envisioned the project as a path for students to follow "outside the invisible wall of campus."
"It is important for our students to connect with the community," Ross said. "What better way to reach young children than through the arts. There is a lot of imagination there."
When those young minds melded with the photography students', the magic began.
Each library visitor was paired with two photography students who brought his or her vision to life.
Senior Dylan Silliphant, a graphic design major, worked with Ty Lovik. They met at the library on two separate occasions to brainstorm.
During Silliphant's first visit with Ty, he learned of his love of a Pokémon character named Ash. Together, they used crayons to sketch what Ty might look like in Ash's fantastical world.
"He was really excited about it," Silliphant said. "I don't think he knew what to expect, so that made it even more exciting."
On the second visit, Silliphant used a green screen and took several pictures of Ty, who was dressed in character. The green screen would eventually enable Silliphant to digitally impose Ty into the poster.
During Thanksgiving break, Silliphant visited a national park near his Virginia Beach hometown. He took several pictures in the woods, then used Photoshop and other techniques to incorporate Ty's photo, standing in for his Pokémon idol Ash.
When Silliphant revealed the poster to Ty, "he was so happy," Silliphant said.
"It was really cool to impact these kids' lives through photography," he said. "As he grows up, he can always look at it [the poster]. The project was definitely just as much a learning experience for me as it was for Ty."
Ty's father, Radford University Director of Institutional Research Eric Lovik, said he was very impressed with the projects and the students' professionalism.
"It was exciting to see Professor Ross reach out to the local community," Lovik said.
In addition to Ty, Lovik's children Uela and Ellie also participated.
"They thoroughly enjoyed this experience and had fun interacting with the college students," he said.
Senior photography major Allecia Taylor partnered with Ellie Lovik, who chose the young-adult series "Maximum Ride." She was inspired by lead character "Max."
"It was interesting to see Ellie's vision and click with it," Taylor said. "We were always on the same page."
Taylor used Radford University's Preston Hall as the backdrop of her poster. She digitally imposed Ellie – dressed as Max – sitting on top of the building.
"She really liked it," Taylor said. "She hung it in her room."
Taylor said many college students don't often interact with children, especially in the middle of the semester. For some of the photography students, the age difference was a challenge. To all, it was a beneficial lesson in collaboration.
"It was a great experience to branch out," Taylor said. "Maybe this project will inspire some of these students to attend Radford University one day."
A gallery of the entire "You Are Who You Read" exhibit is available here.