October 27, 2010

Pinckneyville class, SIUC create photo project

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A collaboration that started with a tour of Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Department of Cinema and Photography is paving the way for local high school students to learn more about photography as well as their community.

Antonio Martinez, an assistant professor in cinema and photography, is working with 16 Pinckneyville Community High School students in a “Meet the Faces of Pinckneyville Project.” The students, in art instructor Sandy Stevens’ digital photography class, are photographing and interviewing residents for the project.

Earlier this month, Martinez and the students interviewed and photographed 40 townspeople ranging in age from 3 to 95 years old. Another photo shoot is set for Thursday, Oct. 28, and will focus on capturing Pinckneyville’s youth, Stevens said. The students will then come to SIUC the next day for a three-hour workshop on editing techniques. An opening reception with photos and an edited copy of the interviews is set for 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Dec. 10, at Luke’s Shade Tree Café, 314 W. Water St., Pinckneyville.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to attend the photo shoot from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 28, at Pinckneyville Community High School, and the editing class from 9 to noon, Friday, Oct. 29, in SIUC’s Communications Building Room 9B. For more information on the events contact Sandy Stevens at Pinckneyville Community High School at 618/357-5013, or Antonio Martinez in SIUC’s Department of Cinema and Photography at 618/453-2365 or by email at antoniam@siu.edu.

“These kinds of projects are great ways to reach out to the community, to showcase our talented faculty and students, and to build those bridges of regional service that are a hallmark of this University,” said Gary P. Kolb, dean of the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts. “Antonio Martinez is the kind of faculty member who goes above and beyond his regular duties to reach out to others and find ways to creatively engage their goals.”

Martinez said the association started when Stevens asked last spring if any faculty were willing to give a tour of the department’s facilities to her class. Martinez said he became interested because of Stevens’ digital photography class, noting that not many high schools have the resources to teach digital photography.

This is the first year the digital photography class has done this type of project, said Stevens, who came up with the idea after learning about the Mayors’ Challenge Cultural Grant through Carbondale Community Arts. The grant-sponsored event needed to be open to the public, and Stevens said she wanted “the event to be something interactive that would resonate with people and actually connect our school with the larger community.” The photo shoot is in the same spirit as The Oxford Project, where nearly all 673 residents of Oxford, Iowa, had their portrait shot in 1984, and again in 2005.

The goal is to capture the “full spectrum of people who make a community and its town history worth recognizing and celebrating,” Stevens said.

A glimpse into the project is available at www.pchsart.com/ under the “Meet the Faces of Pinckneyville” tab.

About a month ago, approximately nine of Stevens’ students came to SIUC for a hands-on workshop on photography lighting, Martinez said. Martinez uses his own lighting equipment for the project, and said the students are eager to learn and all are involved.

“This is a team effort. Everyone had a critical job in order for this to be successful,” he said.

Stevens said students are learning skills that include conducting, recording, transcribing and editing interviews, lighting techniques for portrait photography and image editing with Adobe Lightroom.

But there is more, she said. From gathering stories of the Korean War to town politics, ideas on what it takes to maintain a successful business, and favorite childhood memories, the students are taking “a strong interest in their neighbors’ and leaders’ stories,” Stevens said.

“I believe that the more students learn about others in their community, the more they will understand themselves, their roots and origins, and have a more clear idea of where they would like to go.”

Stevens said she is grateful to Martinez for his work and appreciates the support from the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts.

Martinez is excited about the project. He said he would like to see it develop into a tradition that includes other communities. A benefit is showing high school students the various arts offered at SIUC, including photographic art, Martinez said.

“When you carve out time and work with people in the community who are enthusiastic about the arts, or your specialty, that energizes you,” he said. “It is work, but I don’t consider it work because I enjoy it.”

Photographs are a “great record of who we are” and celebrate the human spirit, he said.

Martinez said he hopes to bring an appreciation for the photographic arts, along with an appreciation for Pinckneyville’s history.

“This is a great chance for the students to understand their own history,” he said.