The Communications senior capstone project allows senior students to demonstrate what they have learned over the course of their time at St. Joseph’s University as a Communications major. The project challenges students to create a project that encapsulates different technological skills as well as build on different projects and interests.
For my senior capstone project, I will be creating a photo collection of 10 different local Philadelphia artists, in the format of a catalog.
Art serves as a creative medium for people to express their beliefs and sometimes even advocate for a greater good. My photo collection, paired with interviews of each of the artists, will serve as a way to highlight art as a form of advocacy.
In Spring 2023, I wrote an article for the Hawk Newspaper, “Hawk Spotlight on: Jazlyne Sabree.” When writing this article, I had the opportunity to interview Jazlyne Sabree, who at the time was getting her master’s degree in fine art at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA). Her art work was centered around the ongoing struggles Black people face in today’s society; using endangered animal prints to represent people of color being targeted. To this day, this is my favorite article I have written and it sparked my interest in covering more topics like this.
Aside from the artistry aspect of this project, it allows me to further explore photography as I will take photos of all of the artists in their working environment. I will then pair these photos with an accompanying biography, of a similar format from my published article (omitting the additional sources I included in that story). I will conduct an interview with the artist and incorporate this into the biography I write. This serves as a way to bring in my journalistic expertise, a field I have been passionate about for the past 3 years.
This project will ultimately pull on three different components and interests: photography, writing and visual design.
My project will be in the form of a tangible magazine/catalog, as well as a downloadable, pdf online version. I want to create a complete photo collection, paired with text that explains the life, reasoning and passions of the artist while also showcasing their work.
An additional component I am thinking of incorporating are little “business cards” for the artists. I would create a front and back to business cards, that the artists can then have printed if they so please. It will be a condensed version of the biographies I am including in the catalog, and it will only have one of my photographs on it, but it will serve as something tangible for the individual artists to have and present to others. This idea is not 100% set in stone and something I want to further explore.
In this photography booklet by Iman Akmal, I will take inspiration from his opening page. I like the way he incorporated an “about the creator” component, which is something I had not even thought about including until I saw this example. I also liked the platform this was uploaded to and the user friendly accessibility of it.
A second example is this catalog that does a nice job finding a balance between text and imagery, something I want to make clear throughout my final project.
Technology and Materials:
In terms of hardware, I will need different technology to help make this project a success. For starters, I need a Canon DSLR camera. This is the camera I feel the most comfortable using, as it is the one I have used in my previous photography and videography classes here at SJU. With the camera, I will need to verify there is a battery pack with it and fully charge it before I go do my photo shoots. I will also need two SD cards (an extra one for backup) so that my photos are actually stored somewhere. After that, I will use a SD card reader to upload all of these photos to my computer. I intend to download these photos to google drive so that I will be able to access them from other desktops as well, rather than just saving them solely to my laptop.
After my photos are all uploaded, I move onto the software aspect of my project. There are a few different resources I intend on using for completing this project. In terms of the photo collection, I will use InDesign, which I already have purchased on my laptop (as well as other Adobe products) to create a visual magazine for all of my photos and biographies.
The interviews that I conduct for the biographies will be recorded on an app called otter.ia, which allows users to record conversations and it then provides a transcript. I have been using this app for the past 2 years for various interviews. I will keep a google folder with all of these interviews and written out biographies.
Since I intended to have some other visual components throughout my project, I will most likely use canva to create some graphics and designs. Although there are no tentative visuals as of this moment, I am familiar with canva and creating designs so I think utilizing this app will be beneficial. I also have access to a premium account which will help elevate my designs.
Audience and Impact:
The primary audience is for people in the artistry community. It will provide further insight into artists and the reasoning behind their work. It will ultimately allow people to get an answer to the question “why?” when they look at an artist’s work. Since I will be focusing on artists whose work is centered around social justice advocacy, all of the pieces and artists I highlight will be able to provide an answer to the why, and I will be able to take that answer and share it with my audience.
A lot of people do not always understand the intention behind art, so for my secondary audience who may be people who are not necessarily art experts but are into social justice advocacy, they can see how the two can go hand in hand. My main intention behind this project is to highlight artists, give them another platform to share their work while also educating my audience.
Aside from the visual magazine I am creating, I also want to make individual biography cards for these ten artists. It will be the same information that I am including throughout my magazine, but it will allow the artists to have them accessible to give to their specific audience. It is another form of media to share this work.
As I have mentioned, one of the biggest components of my project will be the interview process. My experience with the Hawk Newspaper and knowing how to conduct interviews will help me tremendously when completing this project. My use of and familiarity with otter.ai will also allow me to save audio transcripts and refer back to them when writing out the biographies for each artist. My article, “Hawk Spotlight on: Jazlyne Sabree,” which I previously mentioned, provides a clear example of previous work I have done regarding this subject matter. I also took the photo used in this article (as well as multiple others that were not published in the article). While this a posed portrait, I am also hoping to get action shots of the artists as well.
While I am taking inspiration from this article and premise behind it, it is not going to be entirely the same. Specifically looking at the format of the written composition, I am not going to use three sources per artist. I want to highlight and emphasize the artist’s voice, and while insight from others who know the artist adds another angle to the story, I am not looking to write an article in addition to the photos. Instead, I am writing biographies which include insight from the artist’s voice. This will allow me to expand on my writing style as well, as this type of composition is a little different from the forms I am commonly writing in for my journalism class. It gives me the opportunity to expand on all the knowledge from my writing classes while also learning how to write precisely (keeping the profiles straight to the point.)
In terms of visual design, I have a lot of experience with InDesign. For the newspaper, each Monday production night we are in the office laying out templates in InDesign. I also created a Design Book in InDesign back in 2022. So I am familiar with this software but I am also hoping to incorporate more visual designs and graphics that can contribute to the overall presentation of the photo collection.
Throughout my four years as a communications major and my three years with a journalism minor, I have had the opportunity to take many different classes in both departments. I am able to incorporate a few of these classes directly into my capstone project.
During my sophomore year I took photojournalism where I learned all about the art of storytelling through a camera lens. In this class, I learned all about the different aspects and intentions that go into capturing the perfect picture. We talked about framing, the importance of having people and faces in a photo, making sure the light is coming from behind you (the photographer) so it is not over exposed, and the difference between things like a wide shot versus a close up. I eventually composed a photo essay of “The Story,” a coffee shop in Ardmore, which I put together in a slideshow presentation. This started my love for photography and since then I have had some photos also published in the Hawk (seen below).
Also during my sophomore year, I took a news reporting class that sparked my interest in journalism. Since then, I have become the features editor for the Hawk Newspaper where I write a different article each, as well as copy edit my section. My work for the Hawk can be found here.
My communication visual design class also was the first time I experimented with InDesign and allowed me to create a Design Book for our final project using that software. While some of the components of this design book are not my favorite, looking back on it, it allows me to know visually what I do and do not like. Specifically looking at this book, I love the layout I had on page 14-15 where the photograph takes up ¾ of both pages, and the interview is on the right side. I will take inspiration from this with my capstone project.
Lastly, my time as a Beautiful Social Fellow has allowed me to learn how to collaborate well with different community partners. Since my project relies heavily on others in terms of reaching out to artists and conducting interviews, I will need these skills to ensure communication is transparent and everything is done in a timely manner. Throughout my projects, I have been tasked with creating different content calendars and managing my small group. This has strengthened my time management and organizational skills which I will carry with me during the duration of this project.
The first step to this project is finding 10 artists. I have reached out to Jazlyne Sabree, who sparked/inspired the idea of this project and asked her for any sources she may know. I also wrote an article in Fall 2023, “Nonprofit empowers historically marginalized communities,” where a lot of different local Philadelphia artists were on display at the Maguire Museum on campus. I intend to reach out to Veronica Farr from the museum to know if she knows of other artists whose work is centered around social justice advocacy. I can also talk to my former photojournalism professor, to see if he has additional sources.
My experience with journalism has helped me familiarize myself with reaching out to new sources and finding ways to get in contact with different people to write articles. Although it is sometimes difficult to get responses, I think looking to others for insight will go a long way in helping me find sources.
Once I do have all of my sources, the interview is the bulk of the information I will be gaining. I will have about 5-6 questions written out before conducting the interview (and then most likely have a natural flowing conversation) with the artists to gain further insight into their work and projects. This will help when it comes time to write their biographies. In addition, I will also do research about the artist before the day of our actual interview so I go into it with knowledge.
Obstacles and Resources:
While finding 10 artists may take some time in the early stages, I think my biggest challenge will be scheduling time with each of the artists and working out both of our schedules. I will need to make sure I contact my artists well in advance and put together a calendar so that I set up the photo shoots and interviews in a timely manner. My journalism experience has helped me learn to manage these types of obstacles, but nonetheless I want to make sure I stay on top of this right off the bat and schedule my interviews early in advance.
Another challenge is making sure the artists I am talking to provide me with enough information. The point of the interview is to get good, usable quotes. I need to make sure the artists I reach out to are willing to participate in the project as a whole, which includes allowing me to take their photo with their work as well as partaking in a meaningful interview.
Also getting a hold of a canon DSLR camera throughout the semester may be a bit of a challenge, but manageable. The communication department allows students to check out gear, so I do have access to a camera (as well as having my own SD cards), but I will need to make sure I rent out a camera, charge the battery before my shoots and make sure all of the functions are working before I go out. I will also need to use an SD card reader to upload all of my photos to my laptop when the time comes.
Below is a general timeline and outline for each week and what I hope to have accomplished each week.
Week 4: Outreach to 10 different artists in the Philadelphia area
Week 5: Finalizing my list of artists and scheduling interviews and shoots
Weeks 6-10: Conduct interviews and photoshoots; after each interview and photoshoot immediately upload the photos to google drive and copy transcripts. Over the span of 4 weeks to give myself time for the different interviews and time to collect everything.
Weeks 11-12: Write up and finalize all biographies. I will write the biographies as I go along, but these 2 weeks will be dedicated towards finalizing, editing and making sure they are ready for publication.
Weeks 13-15: Putting together the InDesign file and creating the photo collection catalog. During this time, I will see what additional graphics feel fit and create those as well.