Photo Expression

Preparing for City & Lake during a pandemic has involved all sorts of contingency planning. We knew that we had to be prepared at any moment for school to shut down completely, and we wanted to make sure that we would be able to pursue a final art project if that happened. We needed a project that would be collective, but could be completed off-site and independently if needed. There would be no big projection art events, no murals, and no large-scale collective paintings this time around, but there would still be art. Taking advantage of the fact that nearly everyone walks around with a powerful camera in the pocket, we leaned on local commercial and fine art photographer and friend of the program, Homer Horowitz. Homer introduced us to some of the finer points of photography, equipping us with skills to up our photo games, helping us to think more deeply about composition, technique, and story telling in our pictures.

While trying to figure how to put our newfound photography skills on display, we found inspiration in a common low budget, pre-internet self publishing phenomenon, zines. Zines are small Xeroxed “magazines” that were the mainstays of many counter and sub culture groups in the 1980s and 90s. While blogging may have put an end to most zine production, people are beginning to rediscover the format as a cost effective way to promote ideas and art in the physical realm – something you can hold and flip through and leave on your coffee table. Something you can feel. Using color printing and glossy paper stock, we brought our zines into the 21st century and produced some pretty fine looking artifacts if we do say so ourselves.

Some students worked independently, some worked in groups, but they all produced beautiful work highlighting their experiences and learning over the past two months.

Homer met with us several times, earlier in the program, to introduce key elements of composition, and to give students “photography challenges” where they could practice their new skills. 
Students who were working in groups on their zines had the added challenge of collaboration in the design and layout process. 

How this project relates to thriving is that in order to thrive you will need the work of a team and everyone will need to do their part. I was responsible for giving others pictures of everything needed but also needed to add pictures from BCL to add to the zines, so we had to work together. This really helped me build team management skills. It also taught me how to be good with time management because we had a certain time to finish the zines.


Personally, I prefer this kind of creative project because it allows me to express my individuality, and most of my ideas are reflected in the final product. Working with a group did prove to be harder than I thought it would be, just because there were so many different ideas and not everything could be included. However make no mistake, our finished product still has a little bit of each of us in it. As I’m a quiet voice, and I fear rejection, I learned that a lot of my ideas were accepted and welcomed, some were even praised. This will probably affect the next time I work in a group project because I will be less timid, and feel more comfortable in expressing my opinions. 


In order to thrive in a community you need to have a lot of teamwork, and during the zine project my group experienced a lot of that. We each had our own set of goals that all came together in the end. I believe we do need more art because without art life would be ugly, we see art everywhere whether it’s in nature or in a gallery downtown. I would rather sacrifice my soul then live in a world without art.

Ha Nhi
Along the way, Homer was an inspiration, a guide, and a helpful critic.

I loved this artistic process. Making these zines was everything creativity should be; messy, on the fly, and full of collaboration. This project was at times stressful because it pushed me into previously unknown territory. I had never done photography before, and going up to random people on church street and asking to take their picture terrified me a lot at first. This project also taught me a lot about my personal capacity for sharing. We matched words with images, and some of the little poems were bits of my songs. I hardly ever let anyone hear my songs, they are deeply personal and I am extremely self conscious about what I write. It was a serious exercise in trust to share even a few of these with my group, BCL, and whoever happens to see the zines. 


I’m really proud of the work we’ve done, and quite honestly, even if they aren’t perfect, it will feel like a wonderful accomplishment. I learned that I am capable of more than I usually assume. I have the capacity for a higher level of quality and dedication than I had ever seen before. I also learned that I need to take a step back sometimes and learn to delegate when times are stressful. 

Some students used their journals as a design source.
Others mixed handmade, analog processes with digital media.
Everyone learned that curation and layout are a huge part of the design process. 

People learn in different ways, just like people think in different ways.  Some people are visual learners, some people are auditory learners. Everyone’s mind works differently. That’s how equity works. We need to offer people different tools to help them get better instead of giving everyone the same tools. With art, you can shape something into anything to express yourself… If we all understand each other we can thrive.


The art-making process was so much harder than I anticipated. I used a completely different medium and style…[mixing]photography and pen and paper. It was hard to really narrow down what would make the message or idea stand out without overwhelming the viewer. I had to pick and choose what to include and what not to. The product was an almost uncanny resemblance to the ways I see myself, my body, my brain, my friends, and was vulnerable in that exact way. 


For me, this project felt very reflective of the past year, and made me really think about how I thrived this year. I started choosing pictures that were reflective of mostly negative situations, but realized within those moments there were so many positives. it made me realize the times that we took for granted, both pre COVID-19, and honestly pre being hyper aware of the world around us. In this way, this art felt a little restorative to me, and made me think about the connections that I have fostered over the past year, and how I have been able to overcome circumstances that were really difficult in the moment. 

Pride at the final product!

In order to thrive, you need a strong sense of community and sense of place. In just an hour downtown, we saw music, laughter, and love as well as just raw emotion. Art is a powerful way to capture these feelings. In our zine, we used both photography and poetry to preserve what we had witnessed. In such dire times, there is a lot of negative media, which can lead to emotions like sadness and depression. It’s important to shed light and use art to counteract this. 


Being able to get an actual zine in my hands after working on it is incredible. The product itself I really love, I don’t know why but I feel more excited about seeing the finished project than any essay written. I learned that I like being creative, being in control, and this art project didn’t feel like work at all. 


As far as our broader community goes, there is always room for more art. Whether that’s a zine on some table in a coffee shop, or a mural on the side of a building, art adds value to the community. This is because art shows that people are working hard, and value their community, and the more people value the community, the more the community thrives.

Group zine, An Hour Downtown, focusing on the people and places of downtown Burlington.
Independent zine, So Far, looks back on one student’s 2020 to date.
Two students explore blackness in Burlington in Splash of Color.
Group zine, The Story of BCL5, takes a look back at our time together.
Street Art takes a look at Burlington’s people and landscape through one student’s eyes.
Peace, Love, and Zines.

Please visit our Instagram account for even more pics of our zines!

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