Summer 2024
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Capturing the Moment

A photography class project turned into an opportunity for generations to connect By Kimberly Felton

The camera 21-year-old Maddy Smith held in her hands was roughly the same age as the soft-skinned, smiling woman facing her. But Smith was more comfortable with the borrowed antique camera than with this stranger.

Smith, a senior at George Fox, and Michael Martin, a junior, were partners for this photography class project. It was OK, she supposed, that Martin was doing all the talking. She had one set of grandparents she seldom saw, so walking into the apartment of an older couple at Friendsview Retirement Community was a bit outside her comfort zone.

A year ago, photography professor Adam Long bought seven Minolta Autocord TLR (twin lens reflex) cameras. This year, he needed a project for the cameras – something that got the intermediate/advanced photography students used to hand-held light meters with cameras that were foreign to them. But he wanted even more out of the project: He hoped the students would connect with this older generation who agreed to engage with them.

Capturing portraits on the couch Mary plays the ukulele

The residents’ own apartments provided an industry-standard setting – one where the subject is most comfortable. The students were told to engage in conversation and take portraits that fit the person. Smith and Martin were paired with John Welander and Mary Malinski.

Smith glanced around the home of strangers. Three rolls of film, 12 exposures each. She and Martin needed to capture on film the essence of people they didn’t know.

Students talk with Friendsview residents Portrait of Friendsview resident

But Malinski has decades of practice at putting people at ease. Smith discovered a woman who had been a child familiar with hospitals, whose teddy bears from her own time in them became her tools for helping others heal when she became a nurse – each bear with a story.

“Mary is so quirky and passionate and warm,” Smith says. “She could be any age, just living her life.”

Before Martin and Smith left, the four were making plans to have coffee together.

Students with their portraits and Friendsview models

Students Michael Martin and Maddy Smith share their portraits with Friendsview residents John Welander and Mary Malinski.

A week later, the class gathered around their black and white portraits, mounted on 11x14 matte board and spread on a table. “The students talked about their experiences, not technical aspects,” Long says. “To critique it seemed superfluous – it was an opportunity and experience to connect.”

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Summer 2024 Journal Cover

Cover of Summer 2024 issue

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