Sarah Cham­pion’s port­fo­lio for her fi­nal pro­ject of her Bach­e­lor of Ap­plied Vis­ual Imag­ing left lec­tur­ers amazed. Kaye Davis, Sarah’s sup­porter and lec­turer, dis­cusses the rea­sons why this port­fo­lio left such an im­pres­sion on its view­ers

The Shed - - Column - Kaye Davis

What I love about my job is the amaz­ing peo­ple I get to meet, and, this is­sue, I’d like to share an ex­pe­ri­ence that has come from my day job as a pho­tog­ra­phy teacher and the story be­hind the work of a very in­spi­ra­tional stu­dent.

For the last three years, I have worked along­side and sup­ported this pretty amaz­ing stu­dent as she paved her way through her pho­to­graphic stud­ies. Her name is Sarah Cham­pion. Some may have al­ready heard of her, as she won the Stu­dent Pho­tog­ra­pher of the Year at the 2015 Epson/ NZIPP Iris Pro­fes­sional Pho­tog­ra­phy Awards.

As part of the fi­nal year of the Uni­ver­sal Col­lege of Learn­ing (UCOL) Bach­e­lor of Ap­plied Vis­ual Imag­ing course, stu­dents are re­quired to gen­er­ate their own brief and come up with a com­plete pack­aged body of work — es­sen­tially a port­fo­lio piece that show­cases the skills and knowl­edge that they have gained through­out their study and the di­rec­tion that they aim to take on leav­ing the course.

Sarah’s goal was to pro­duce a port­fo­lio piece in the form of a book that high­lighted her love of child pho­tog­ra­phy — a genre that she wants to step into as she pur­sues a ca­reer as a pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­pher. Her heart and soul were poured into the pro­duc­tion of her work and this truly showed in the fi­nal prod­uct.

Now, we all know that pho­tog­ra­phy is an in­cred­i­bly pow­er­ful medium, but I can’t re­mem­ber a time, in my 19-plus years of teach­ing pho­tog­ra­phy, that a stu­dent’s work has moved the lec­tur­ers so much. Be­ing a mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary pro­gramme, and this be­ing the fi­nal pa­per, five lec­tur­ers in­di­vid­u­ally marked each of the stu­dents’ work. In this in­stance, we en­cour­aged ev­ery lec­turer on the pro­gramme to view her work, and not one came away with dry eyes (and I have to add here that I am the only fe­male on the lec­tur­ing staff).

Sarah had set her­self the chal­lenge of cre­at­ing a book that cel­e­brated the lives of chil­dren who were bat­tling, or were sur­vivors of, can­cer. It was a book aimed at cel­e­brat­ing the “hope and courage of the chil­dren” rather than the neg­a­tive aspects of the dis­ease pre­sented — in­flu­enced by New Zealand pho­tog­ra­pher Rachel Cal­lan­der’s Su­per Power Baby Pro­ject book — and, to this end, Sarah’s work was in­cred­i­bly suc­cess­ful.

Sarah’s process first in­volved es­tab­lish­ing her pro­ject and its pa­ram­e­ters, li­ais­ing with com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions, con­tact­ing fam­i­lies seek­ing their in­ter­est and per­mis­sion, trav­el­ling to nu­mer­ous lo­ca­tions, in­ter­view­ing par­ents, spend­ing time with the chil­dren, then pho­tograph­ing them. Fol­low­ing this came the edit­ing, de­sign, and lay­out of the work and, fi­nally, the li­ai­son with the print­ing com­pany. All of this was doc­u­mented through a num­ber of pre­cise vis­ual di­aries that re­counted the pro­ject’s jour­ney.

You are prob­a­bly won­der­ing what makes this work so spe­cial. Well, some­times it is the story be­hind the im­age(s) that add fur­ther mean­ing and power. With this book, the in­tro­duc­tion is a bit of a give­away, as Sarah writes, “Can­cer is not a jour­ney you face on your own. It is one where you take your fam­ily and friends along with you. They too en­dure the good news and the bad, the most re­cent scan or blood-test re­sults, and the threads of hope you are given along the way. Amongst it all there is hope, strength, courage, and pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ences. Ev­ery child who faces can­cer has a story which is im­por­tant to tell. They and their fam­i­lies also have joy, laugh­ter, and the cre­ation of mem­o­ries along the way. Ev­ery fam­ily who goes through this kind of jour­ney re-eval­u­ates what the im­por­tant things in life are. With­out ex­cep­tion each fam­ily will tell you it’s the lit­tle things that count. The things that cost noth­ing, the ex­pe­ri­ences they share, and the se­cond chance to have more time. This pho­to­graphic art book cap­tures those mo­ments … to pro­vide an in­sight into each child’s jour­ney, and to set in time the emo­tion, de­light, and the things that mat­ter in the end … the lit­tle things.”

It was the ‘know­ing’ and the em­pa­thy that Sarah brought to the pro­ject her­self that has made this work and the way she has cap­tured each child so spe­cial. Ev­ery page and im­age is a re­flec­tion of its pho­tog­ra­pher, and the jour­ney she her­self has been through. As the great pho­tog­ra­pher Ansel Adams once said, “There are al­ways two peo­ple in ev­ery pic­ture: the pho­tog­ra­pher and the viewer.”

Ad­di­tion­ally in­spir­ing is that, through­out the pro­ject, Sarah showed in­cred­i­ble pro­fes­sion­al­ism, for­ti­tude, and de­ter­mi­na­tion, while silently be­ing con­fronted again with the chal­lenges of fur­ther per­sonal hur­dles. Sarah, her work, and her story have cer­tainly en­riched the lives of my fel­low col­leagues and my­self; how­ever, in the end, the work speaks for it­self, and it was an hon­our to be able to mark it. As an aside, Sarah re­ceived 100 per cent from each of the lec­tur­ers mark­ing her work, demon­strat­ing that she is more than ready to es­tab­lish her­self in the pro­fes­sional por­trait mar­ket.

You can fol­low Sarah Cham­pion by con­nect­ing with her on Face­book: search for ‘Pa­per Crane Pho­tog­ra­phy’.

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