Thomas Nelson Photography Students Connect with Elders for Unique Exhibit

Published: October 27, 2006

Fourteen Thomas Nelson Community College photography students will showcase their works on Friday, November 3 in a unique exhibit at a Newport News retirement community, Assisted Living at Warwick Forest. Scheduled for 6:00 to 8:30 p.m. at the 866 Denbigh Blvd. facility, the exhibit is free and open to the public.

The exhibit coincides with an Alzheimer’s benefit to support the Alzheimer’s Association and all donations will be welcomed during the event, according to Derek Eley, a Thomas Nelson Photography Instructor and project coordinator. Eley is collaborating on this project with Warwick Forest Activity Coordinator Regina Morris.  The photo array entitled, “Picture This,” features portraits of Warwick Forest residents who posed for students as clients.

Eley and Morris explained that the project provides a cross-generational exchange between Thomas Nelson students and Warwick Forest residents. Through this service-learning activity students meet with their clients several times at Warwick Forest to establish rapport and map out and complete photography sessions.

“We have been doing this project for a number of years with Thomas Nelson and I view it as a perfect opportunity for young and old to come together and build relationships,” said Morris. “This experience expands the younger generation’s understanding of elders while also dispelling the myth that young and old cannot share each others’ worlds. By entering into our residents’ homes when they visit, students are actually getting to enter these individuals’ lives; their world. The students make as many visits as it takes and I’ve seen the development of some real friendships over the years.”

In addition to gaining priceless one-on-one time with individuals of another generation, students get an opportunity to experience professional photography firsthand. “I want the students, many of which in this group are aspiring professional photographers, to gain a sense of work ethic; the ability to work outside of their comfort zones and gain a sense of professionalism. Many of my students are used to working with friends and family so this is an opportunity to for them to experience what portrait photography is truly about,” Eley noted.

The project coordinators said another benefit of the project is that students are providing a “wonderful” service to their clients’ families by creating a quality portrait of a cherished loved one that might not otherwise be captured.

Eley pointed out that community service-oriented activities such as this are a valuable complement to traditional instruction. “As a first-year teacher, I am adapting to different teaching styles and I am a big proponent of applied knowledge. You can lecture in the classroom all day and a lot of what you impart to students may not be retained. I believe allowing students to apply knowledge in a real world setting greatly enhances learning,” he said.

For more details about the exhibit and Alzheimer’s Benefit, please call Thomas Nelson Photography Department Head and Cultural Affairs Chair Shar Wolff at 825-2775.

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