Community Engagement Photography and Videography

Lily Reese
Emphasis Area
Game Studies

Lily Reese utilized her experience in photography to intern as a teaching assistant, photographer, and documentarian for community based Applied Humanities projects.

How did you get your internship? 

My internship sort of landed on my doorstep about a week before the fall semester started, but was also a direct result of my previous work in another Applied Humanities class. I was contacted by my (now) mentor, Dr. Jacqueline Barrios, about applying for her LitLabs internship. I had been in her PAH 200 Introduction to Applied Humanities class last semester, which just so happened to be centered around photography as a tool for research. I have been a hobbyist photographer for the last few years, so that class really got my creative juices flowing again. I got to be a part of the ¡Fiesta Fotográfica! event that was hosted at the El Pueblo Neighborhood Center in the spring and got to showcase my photography to a wide range of people. That class and culminating event is what led to Dr. Barrios reaching out to me in hopes of working with me both as a Teaching Assistant and as a documentarian/photographer. 

What kind of work did you do throughout your internship experience? 

My role in this internship was twofold. Firstly, I was one of two Teaching Assistants for PAH 200 this semester. My primary goal was to act as an additional support for the students as they made their way through the class and created their final projects. My second role in this internship was as a documentarian/photographer. This semester, PAH 200 partnered with Contra Tiempo, an activist dance theater company, and worked closely with our guest artist Ruby Morales. She came into our class several times, two of which involved sessions in one of the dance studios on campus. These were what I photographed for PAH 200, focusing on the movement and energy. I took inspiration from Hazel Larsen Archer, who we studied last semester, and did nothing to crop or edit my images afterwards, a far departure from my usual style. Beyond PAH 200, I also attended and documented several events from the College of Humanities, primarily those featuring Favianna Rodriguez. These were exceptionally fun, especially as I got to make some really cool art beyond my photographs. 

What was your favorite or most satisfying part of your internship?

My favorite part of my internship was a bit of a surprise to me. As a part of my internship, I was required to present my work to the class. As an extension of this, I created an assignment for the class based around the concept of environmental justice, connecting it to Favianna Rodriguez’s “Desert Symphony” art installation at the University’s Poetry Center. I decided to design and lead a nature walk across campus, having students do a “scavenger hunt” of sorts to document the world around them. I did research on the Campus Arboretum website and mapped out a path from the Poetry Center to the President’s Pond, meandering around campus to a few other nature-centric locations on campus. In the end, the walk took almost 45 minutes, during which I acted as a bit of a tour guide and pointed out interesting plants and important locations throughout our walk. I was really unsure how this would go over with the students, especially as it was an 8AM class, but I found that everyone was really into it. While the entire class did not share their photographs, a lot of students did. I got to see how my photography influenced theirs, as well as get to share some of the students’ photos back to the class. In a bit of a full circle moment, one of the students credited my nature walk as being inspiration for part of her final project. 

What new skills did you develop in this internship? 

I think one of the biggest skills that I developed during this internship was time management. I had a lot to balance this semester, both in and out of school. In all honesty, it was probably more than I was really capable of balancing at once. I had to make some sacrifices, both in my work and in my personal life. It was strange having to prioritize things differently than I had before, but I feel like I did a good job doing what needed to get done. This semester really taught me the value of experiences over grades. As much as your GPA is important, networking and getting to develop your skills can be so much more valuable. 

How has your internship experience influenced your plans for your future? 

I have never had much of a solid idea of my future plans, but this internship has pushed me towards a few more solid ideas. Prior to the last semester, I had lost a lot of my creative spark for photography. Getting to work with the El Pueblo Neighborhood Center in both PAH 200 and my internship gave me something meaningful to work on and has pushed me towards pursuing photography further as a possible career. I have even declared my minor in Studio Art in order to further pursue photographic opportunities.