"my reaction to a new form of technology"

Gigapan: Gracie

Wide Angle Youth Media (WAYM) is a 501c3 non-profit that provides Baltimore youth with media education to tell their own stories and become engaged in their communities. Through after school programs, public events, its annual Youth Media Festival, and its youth-run television show, Wide Angle strives to make media make a difference.

As graduate students in the MA in Community Arts program at the Maryland Institute College of Art we develop our own artistic voice while investigating the relationship of the citizen artists, art, and community building. My fellow classmate, Lindsey Bailey, was a resident artist at WAYM and the two of us developed a method for how to collaborate with its young members using the Gigapan.

Resident Artist, Natalie Tranelli introducing the project and brainstorming with WAYM youth

Science and the visual arts have a long intertwining history. Digital photography and the world wide web are redefining this relationship. Locally and globally, scientists are partnering with visual communicators in innovative ways to share knowledge and ideas for sustainable solutions to the environmental challenges communities are facing. These partnerships are opening unique dialogues about what communities know, what they want and what is possible. These partnerships are leading to solutions that are not only scientifically-informed, but societally accepted.

Working with Lindsey, the youth are exploring themes of identity, representation, and creativity - in the process of learning how to produce their annual Who Are You? Youth Media Festival - a citywide event highlighting the stories of Baltimore youth. We decided to experiment with the gigapan in creating self-portraits that could be exhibited at the Youth Media Festival.

Mike and Donasiah presenting at the 2010 Who Are You Youth Media Festival.
Photo: John Davis

The students first wrote a poem entitled Where I'm From. The poem was a departure point to share what was most important to their identity and where they come from. Students then chose a word that described them and would inform how we took their portrait, for example "creative". As co-collaborators in this image making, Lindsey and I each worked with a student one-on-one using the gigapan. Once the student would determine their vision, we would set up the gigapan and help direct their movements to achieve their final photograph.

Gracie working on her "Where I'm From" poetry piece

As co-directors in the process we were working in the moment to guide the students while the gigapan camera snapped away. Reversely, students were darting back and forth, jumping, climbing stairs whatever was necessary for the shot. While we had a plan going in we never quite knew what the final photograph would look like. This complimented the nature of the collaboration; focus on one's identity with room for spontaneity and surprises.

Lindsey Bailey collaborating with Jeffrey and Doug to create a gigapan in the elevator

The final photograph and poetry were paired together to create a final piece expressing each student's identity. As a closing to the project we projected each student's image and discussed our intent, our process and our outcomes. Once artists have an opportunity to experiment with a new art making tool reflection is important to really absorb what you have learned and what you have created. Student Gracie Harrington discovered "if I had the chance to create another image in the future I would like to focus on body shapes to convey an even stronger message." Further pumping some energy into the artwork each student took the opportunity to perform his or her poetry piece to the class.

Quindell performs his "Where I'm From" poetry piece

At the end of the project students were asked to describe the Gigapan Workshop in 3 words:

  • Quindell interesting, 'capture-vating'
  • James physical, creative, fun
  • Douglas engaging, hot, entertaining
  • Brielle fun, different, busy
  • Jake Different, stiff, uncomfortable
  • Jeffrey fun, hip, 'physicality'
  • Halle fun, creative interesting
  • Donasiah creative, different, eye-opening
Donasiah's handwritten poetry piece
Guest Editor:

Natalie Tranelli is a community based artist and educator. She studied photography at Pennsylvania State University and received her BFA in 2005. Tranelli began her career working as a teaching artist at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her work has now expanded internationally, having collaborated with communities in Brazil, Nicaragua and most recently N'Djamena, Chad, teaching with National Geographic Photo Camp. In 2010 Tranelli co-founded The Baltimore United Viewfinders, a spirited group of eight East Baltimore youth who tell their personal and community stories through photography and video. Tranelli utilizes her passionate energy as she continues to work on art-based projects grounded in the principles of social justice.

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