The idea with the Portrait Project has always been to integrate liberal arts concepts to production courses. The original version brings some Art History into a studio lighting exercise. Assignments range from written descriptions of the formal elements of a painting to creating imaginary backstories . Examples are admittedly from the Western canon. This is because UNI Comm. Studies students have little if any exposure to fine art of any kind.
Another version of the Portrait Project emphasizes writing and the construction of identity. This iteration, like the original, starts as a lesson in lighting and then moves to properties of optics and selective focus. The most important elements though are the student's written descriptions which are not graded. We read them aloud in class though which encourages student care in proof-reading. The Fall, 2017 and the Spring 2019 collections of these short photo-essays are available on this website.
Related to the Portrait Project is a Family Photographs project that I've done with students in both production and non-production related classes. It involves collection of family snapshots and encourages reflection about family history and identity.
I was really close to my grandmother, her name was Nuzha, she was the person I would feel the most comfortable talking to her about anything, she was my secret keeper, and she was my best friend. The best activity that used to do with her was cooking, I remember that the only reason I went to Jerusalem was to visit her and cook with her because she made it a lot of fun.
The best memory I have of her, was on the day I got my tawjihi exam results, it was on the 19th of June. I remember back on that day, that I was really nervous, and I couldn't sleep the night before. She got me out of bed in the morning then brought me to the kitchen and let me make a chocolate cake and I forgot about my nerves or anything else.
After we baked it, we ate from it and I remember that we were just laughing, smiling and just happy. She decided to go with me to school instead of my mother, and that was a big deal for me. I was really happy that she would be the one that would share that moment with me. After we went to school got my results and my certificate, she gave me a golden bracelet and kissed me on my forehead and told me how much she was proud of me, and that was one of the best memories I have of her.
Dima Al Shareef