April 22, 2011

Photo project benefits students, three counties

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Sometimes the treasures found in Southern Illinois are easily recognizable, while at times, it takes a keen eye to ferret them out.

For a second year, students in two Southern Illinois University Carbondale classes are working to preserve not only the region’s well-known features, but also preserve images that highlight Southern Illinois’ rich history.

In what he describes as an “ambitious” undertaking, Daniel Overturf, a professor in the Department of Cinema and Photography, plans an exhibition that showcases students’ work featuring cultural and natural sites in Alexander, Johnson and Pulaski counties.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to attend the exhibitions. SIUC cinema and photography students participating in the class will be available for interviews. For more information contact the Department of Cinema and Photography at 618/453-2365 or Professor Daniel Overturf by email at dvo0201@siu.edu.

Sixteen students in Overturf’s Applied Photography II and Senior Portfolio classes have been shooting images since last month. The students are divided into three groups, one for each county, and each student will shoot three exhibition-quality prints that will be framed and available for sale. Proceeds will go to community-related projects in each of the three counties.

In addition, each student will also supply another 20 digital photographs for various website and tourism needs for the three counties. Students in Overturf’s classes in spring 2010 did a similar project involving Cairo.

The exhibition, “Land Between the Rivers,” is Saturday, April 30. Times and locations for the three separate exhibitions are 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Thebes Courthouse in Thebes; noon to 3 p.m. at the Grand Chain Lodge in Grand Chain; and 2 to 5 p.m. at the Shawnee Winery in Vienna.

Admission to all of the exhibitions is free, and the public is invited.

The project not only benefits the three counties but also students who learn more about the region and become involved in community outreach, Overturf said. Students will also use their work to build their individual portfolios and resumes, along with learning about working in a photographer-client relationship, he said.

“This is volunteerism of a very specific and skilled kind,” Overturf said. “This is a way you start showing students how to do various volunteer activities and lending an expert hand with their craft.”

Students may shoot whatever they find interesting, but each of the agencies involved came up with a list of places significant to their individual counties for a “starting point,” Overturf said.

Overturf anticipates a mix of “recognizable and private discoveries” in the exhibition.

“The classroom is great but it’s when they have a chance to have inter-relationships of any kind, whether it’s to have their portfolios looked at off-campus, have a guest speaker come in and look at their work, or do some type of community outreach like this that it expands what happens in the classroom,” Overturf said. “It takes it from the theoretical into the practical.”

The students’ digital photography will be used in marketing, public relations, community needs, and on a website, www.landbetweentherivers.org. The website, which launches June 1, will showcase tourism, and community and economic development within the three counties.

The project is a “great example of a public-private partnership,” that encompasses several areas, said Amy Cox, executive director of the Southernmost Illinois Delta Empowerment Zone (SIDEZ).

Having SIUC students involved is a “great benefit” for the organization, Cox said. The students’ work means the website, which will promote tourism and business opportunities within the three counties, will not have to rely upon a limited number of stock photos, Cox said.

And monies from the sale of the exhibition prints will go to historic preservation projects in the three counties, Cox said.

“This is a great innovative idea and a way for us to get what we need and also provide students with an opportunity as well,” she said.

The funds generated from the sale of the exhibition prints in Alexander County go to Alexander County Tourism and Thebes Historical Society and Thebes Courthouse for county promotion and restoration and upkeep of the historic Thebes Courthouse. In Pulaski County, the funds go to the Grand Chain Development Association for work to expand the Tunnel Hill Bike Trail from Karnak to Grand Chain, along with arts and related activities in Grand Chain. In Johnson County, the funds will go to the Johnson County Redevelopment Association for efforts that include revitalization of the theater on the square in Vienna.

Traveling to all three exhibitions sites will be a daunting task, but Overturf anticipates a rewarding experience for the students. The Southern Most Area Rural Transit (S.M.A.R.T.) is donating a bus to take students to the various exhibitions, Overturf said. As with the Cairo exhibition of a year ago, students can expect to learn more about the region from visitors who stop in to view their work, Overturf said.

“ Each photograph becomes a prospective talking point for conversations they are going to have with people who probably know considerably more about the area than they do,” Overturf said. “It’s the kind of experience they will hold with them forever.”

Several groups, organizations, and businesses are involved with the project. That includes Canon USA, which through efforts of SIUC Cinema and Photography alumnus Brian Matsumoto, a Canon technical representative, is donating printing paper and ink.

Matsumoto, a 1981 graduate, said Canon “has a wonderful program that donates photographic equipment to colleges and universities across the country.” Canon has donated cameras, lenses, and printers to both the cinema and photography department and the School of Journalism for its photojournalism work. In addition, Canon also provides support for student-related projects and exhibitions, including recent weekend shooting events in Murphysboro and Cobden and Alto Pass.

“Canon understands that the students are the future of the industry,” Matsumoto said.

Others involved with the project include the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts, the Department of Cinema and Photography, Alexander County Tourism, Grand Chain Development Association, Johnson County Redevelopment Association, Pulaski County Development Association, the Southernmost Illinois Delta Empowerment Zone (SIDEZ), Southern Most Area Rural Transit (S.M.A.R.T.) and the Thebes Historical Society.