The 100-Picture Project

Students in Art 1192 look at life through a camera lens

By Kenna Caprio

Using the hashtag #art1192, students taking a digital photography course at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Metropolitan Campus are posting their work on Instagram.

The semester-long assignment, called the 100-Picture Project, allows students to jump in and start taking photos immediately. They need to “get some miles” on the camera and “shoot for content and composition” right away, says adjunct professor Scott Barnes. He developed the project and runs it each semester, this time giving students the option to post on Webcampus, the online forum for the class, or to use Instagram, a popular social media platform. The students opted for Instagram and say it’s really added value to the class.

“I like being able to see my work in the order that Instagram lays it out,” says junior communication major Maya Page. “In the beginning, I was just taking pictures of anything. Now, I’ve been taking a moment to get in position and get good lighting. It’s also a good way to stay connected with the class,” she says, since everyone can easily scroll through the profiles and photos and leave likes and comments.

Initially, senior Mailen Domecq Chantry felt hesitant about the Instagram aspect of the assignment, because she sees technology and social media as stripping away “our basic human need of being happy in the moment.” She decided to go with it anyway to explore the concept that “people think too much and feel too little” in her work.

At first, Barnes provides the students with categories or themes to guide their photography — “lines,” “scale” or “portraits” — but by about three-quarters of the way through the semester, he “turns them loose” to develop their style and sensibility.

Most students take photos for the class on their phones, but a few have their own cameras. Some borrow cameras from Barnes. He teaches them the basics of working with an SLR [a standard single-lens reflex] camera, and even has a model come pose at the studio for portrait practice. Over the course of the class, student photographers also learn Photoshop techniques. But, he cautions, “If the picture doesn’t look good from the beginning, all the technical acumen in the world isn’t going to fix it.” That’s why they practice with the 100-Picture Project.

Occasionally, Barnes will pull up Instagram for a class discussion. “What worked?” he’ll ask. “What can be improved? What’s the line? How does that go across the visual plane?”

At the end of the semester, students submit a “mini portfolio” of 10 photos, which can include images from the Instagram project. Domecq Chantry, a communication major, wants to showcase daily happiness in her final project. “We are so caught up in routine and capitalism that we are missing all the beauty of this life. Now I have the tools to show the world amazing moments, people and places that I could not before.” The class and the project, she says, have made her more aware of the positive impact of digital photography.

“My hope for the class is that they learn to understand what we see around us, how we frame that and how applying that to visual media takes a lot of effort,” says Barnes. “I’m trying to bring these cognitive abilities and recognition — why is something appealing and how do we see it — to the surface.” Looking at the world through a camera lens, he says, “makes for faster decision-making and makes people more observant.”

Page plans to continue posting to her new Instagram account after the class ends. “I like expressing myself and stories through pictures.” She’s now considering how photojournalism could fit into her future.

“Sometimes, I’ll be walking somewhere and taking so many pictures. Maybe people around me think I’m not enjoying the moment, but that’s not true. I’m capturing the moments that I think are important and beautiful,” she says. “When you look through the lens, you’re seeing every detail in something. I can see the lines and the cracks and which angle and lighting make it look best. You can find the beauty in things that you never noticed before.”