The topic that I will be focusing on for my capstone project is school inequality. I am a political science minor who has been studying school inequality during the entirety of the minor and I would like to explore this in a deeper manner through looking at two schools that are very close to Saint Joseph’s University. Combining my skills in writing and research with my photography and editing expertise will allow me to create a project that helps individuals to understand the inequalities of these two schools. These two schools are Overbrook High School and Lower Merion High School. 4 miles apart, but exceptionally different in terms of access to resources and funding. I feel very passionately about this topic, because I believe that a child’s education is what sets them up for success throughout their entire lives. My freshman year of college, I was a teacher’s aid at Gompers University through my service learning class. In speaking with the faculty and developing a relationship with many of the students, I saw how desperately the school needed more funding. The students were reading textbooks that were out of date and falling apart, alongside school supplies that were few and far between. Many of the students at Gompers were coming from low income families, meaning they relied on the schools to provide them with the necessary learning materials. The schools being so underfunded themselves meant that the students couldn’t bring their own supplies or be provided for them through their education. My experience at Gompers propelled me into research about school inequality in Philadelphia, recognizing how severe this problem is in this city, and how many students are falling behind in a system that was not made for them.
Throughout my professional career, I plan to always involve myself in activist efforts even when they do not entirely relate to the profession I am a part of. Doing this capstone project will allow me to develop a deep understanding of school inequality in this district of Philadelphia, and open the eyes of those who do not understand how significant these differences truly are.
The form of this project is going to be a photo essay that is embedded into a pamphlet that will be printed out and able to be looked at by the viewer. Through this photo essay experience, I want the viewer to have a tangible experience of what the photos are communicating to them, without necessarily telling them upfront what those feelings should be. On the front of the pamphlet will be the title “4 miles” expressing how close together these schools are and then showing them through the photographs how different they are in spite of this closeness. Each page on the pamphlet/book will contain two photos of side by side differences between the two schools. The book will be 10 pages in length, meaning a total of 20 photographs will be featured in the pamphlet. There will then be a QR code linked on the back of the photo pamphlet which will take the viewer to a website containing a 5-10 minute video essay, done by me, expressing some of the issues described in the photo series. The video essay will be 5-10 minutes in length and I will go over some of my research for the project, as well as a history of school inequality in Philadelphia and some steps that are starting to be taken in this city to remedy some of these wrongs. The website will also contain the photo essay in sub category so that the photo essay will exist online as well as in print format.
This photo essay done by Annie Leibovitz is very similar to the feel and concept I am trying to articulate. Each page of this book contains photographs, but the photographs do not have any paragraph beside them telling the reader what to think. Instead, the reader sees the photograph and is able to determine their own thoughts on what they are seeing. Mine would be much shorter in length than this book but would have a similar feel.
This is obviously a Ted talk, which will not be what I am trying to accomplish but this is the best example of someone giving an educational talk about a topic in front of a camera. Unlike this one, mine will be me sitting in front of a camera, most likely somewhere on campus, talking directly to the camera about my project, and school inequality.
Audience and Impact:
The primary audience for this project is firstly, students at Saint Joseph’s University looking to gain a better understanding of the surrounding area of this school through the lens of school inequality. Many people that come to this school might lack an understanding of the surrounding neighborhoods and this project would aim to open their eyes to some of the community’s problems and some activism that goes along with it. The secondary audience to this project would be those interested in school inequality on a very local level. Many times, school inequality is talked about on a broader scale, referencing the entire United States of individual cities. For this project, it gives viewers the chance to understand school inequality on a very local level which may give a better understanding of how school inequality is handled in smaller areas. This also humanizes the individual situations more since the viewer can see how much these city and state wide policies around school funding have very dire consequences to the children involved. This project matters because of the exposure it will give to these two school districts that are so close together, yet miles apart in resources and funding. I want to use this platform as a communications student to shed light on an issue that I think to be incredibly important, and to humanize the experiences of these school districts by explaining that although one is different from the other, they both have incredible students yearning to learn inside their walls.
I have a multitude of experience working with the desired mediums I will be using. These mediums will include but will not be limited to, a professional digital camera, a professional video camera, sound recording devices and multiple different adobe products for editing purposes. All of these supplies will be directly from the COM department rental room, meaning I have had experience with every single item I will be using to complete my project. In digital field methods and digital filmmaking, I used a SONY HXR-NX100 to record multiple different projects and videos.
Here is one of these videos linked: https://youtu.be/JGItUzS0vH4 which uses the SONY camera and audio recording devices. When I record my research aspect of my project I will be using this camera and audio device to record myself speaking for 5-10 minutes about school inequality.
Featured here was some of my photography work for Communication Theory and Practice. The work was featured on HawkChill but it is not letting me link to my work here because it says the link is not available: http://www.hawkchill.com/.
I also took a photography class my senior year of high school that taught me in great depth how to use a camera correctly but unfortunately I do not have any of that work on hand. This project will both utilize some skills I have improved and learned in my other classes and challenge me by taking my work with these mediums and pushing it to a more professional level. I have not yet worked with a professional camera filming myself speaking, so that will be a new challenge for me to overcome. I have also not yet developed a pamphlet/book of a series of photos before so this project will challenge me to take something that I have used before and create it in a new and unique way.
I feel as though activism through communications has been a strong part of my time in the communications major as we learned about many of the tools communications has to fuel non profit work, activism campaigns, social media campaigns, and the ethical role of companies in doing communicative work. All of these teachings and lessons have propelled me to try and use the work and strategies I’ve learned to make a project that is important and meaningful in the sphere of activism. For example, in Dave Perry’s Civic Media class we spent so much time during the course discussing the ethical implications of different types of communicative work such as photo essays, documentaries and social media campaigns. Learning what I did in his class, I am more ready to be aware of some of the ethical considerations of my work during this process so that I am able to ensure that my work is shedding a negative light on the schools involved in my project. I know that I will need to highlight these ethical considerations many times during my entire project and consult with my professor many times to ensure my process is respectful to the people and places involved in my project. Through this class I was also presented with the idea of what a photo essay is and how it can be used in multiple different mediums, which inspired me to do a photo essay for this senior capstone.
My experience with multiple different mediums to create projects has been presented in many of my other COM classes such as digital field methods, civic media, digital filmmaking, non profit communications, and visual design. Through all of these classes I have learned the importance of storytelling and using your medium as a way to aid your process of storytelling. I will incorporate these storytelling techniques into my photo essay by ensuring I am providing information that accurately represents the story I am telling and making sure my audience knows that I am an outsider to the story I am telling and cannot truly understand the depth that those I am discussing might feel in this situation.
This project is going to take a significant amount of research since I will be stepping foot into an issue that is extremely complex and has a lot of different variables surrounding it. The issue of school inequality is one that is discussed quite frequently and has become a hot topic politically, meaning that my research will have to develop those components into it whether I wanted it to or not. I will need to do academic research which will primarily use library databases to analyze and develop multiple different academic sources into the content of my video. My research will primarily be based on the Philadelphia area so that I do not get overwhelmed trying to handle the enormous amounts of information out there about school inequality. Focusing my research about school inequality to the Philadelphia area will still be a very extensive amount of information, but will help me to narrow down the topic into its most important parts. Since this project will be based around advocacy, I want to make sure I include resources for those looking to become more involved with this issue such as various bills that are being discussed politically or organizations people can get involved with if they would like to become more involved. Adding these sources into my work will be another layer of research that I will want to thoroughly invest myself into during the research process.
As for the equipment I will be using, everything that I will be doing will pretty much be stuff that I am very comfortable with. The technology required to do this project is all equipment that I understand how to use and anything that I am doing will only require brief refreshers into using the technology again. I will do some research prior to shooting the photos and prior to using the camera just to make sure I am completely ready before I actually go out to take photos or film. The only thing that will be completely new to me is this concept of printing a pamphlet, I have never done anything like that before so it will definitely be a process for me to figure out how I am going to use that.
Obstacles and Resources:
The biggest potential roadblocks I see to completing this project would definitely be my accessibility to the schools themselves, for example if the schools tell me they are not comfortable with me shooting pictures of the buildings. Another obstacle will be my time management with this project. I am extremely busy this semester and I do not want to get burned out so it will be very important to manage my time properly and ensure that I split up the work so it does not get overwhelming all at once. Hopefully there are no financial roadblocks in the completion of this project since we were told at the beginning of the semester that there was funding available for us to complete the capstone. Otherwise, I could see that being a potential issue for me going into this. There is always the possibility that technology could break or something could go wrong during filming, editing etc. but I want to give myself enough time to break up these situations in case something goes wrong. Making this project manageable and exciting for me will be very important because it is something that I am passionate about and care a great deal about.
Reach out to both schools via email and discuss availability to come to the schools and take photos
Research where the website will be (which platform)
Figure out what will be used to print the images into a pamphlet
Go to both schools and take all necessary photos
Take more photos then will be needed in project
Begin editing all of the photos using the same preset in Adobe lightroom
Feb. 26th- Mar. 4th
Continue editing photos and deciding which ones will be used in the project
Pick 20 photos total and place them into a folder on your computer that can be easily accessed
Mar. 5th- March 11th
Begin research process for 10 minute video
Find multiple articles, essays, and scholars regarding school inequality and use these resources to develop your outline for the video
Keep a running list of all sources used to be placed in the video at the end
Mar. 12th- Mar. 18th
Using the outline for the video, begin to come up with some sort of script to be used in the video making process
Continue researching the problem and developing a better understanding of the situation at hand
Mar. 19th – Mar. 25th
Using whatever platform I find in previous weeks, begin putting the photographs into the pamphlet that will be printed out
Design the website I want to use and put the photos up on the website that I choose
Mar. 26th- April 1st
Continue designing the website and inserting pictures onto the page
Making the website more complex and centered towards my personality and vibe I want the website to give off
Finish script and research for 10 min video
April 2nd- April 8th
Film entire video using the scripts and research that I have completed
This will probably take multiple sessions using the camera, make sure you have enough time allotted this week to do so
April 9th- April 15th
Edit video through adobe premiere pro, insert stock footage and potentially photographs from your photo essay to break up the footage of just your face talking
April 16th- April 22nd
Continue editing video
Finalize photo essay pictures and begin to get ready to print out the actual book
Start putting together capstone presentation
April 23rd- April 29th
Insert video onto the website by posting it on youtube first and put it into pamphlet using a qr code
Finalize photo essay book and print it out (whatever that might mean)
Finalize all the little details
April 30th – May 6th
Presentations this week! Make sure everything is exactly how you want
Finalize everything 🙂
Pat yourself on the back.