I never thought the day would actually come, college graduation. I’ve always pictured myself walking across the stage, shaking someone’s hand, and later receiving my piece of paper. My experience was far from that typical college ending. My journey started back in August of 2012. I still remember my first day at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh. It was very different for me. I came from a small town called Mountain Top in Pennsylvania. I always dreamed of getting out of my little town, but after a while I realized that was my home. Although I was not crazy about the city, I embraced it, and pushed myself. During my college career at AIP, I met great friends, was inspired by amazing teachers, and found a lot of new adventures. Not to mention, it’s when I met my wonderful fiancé. On September 17, 2015 my life completely changed for the best. It was officially my last day of college and I gained my Bachelor of Science Degree in Photography.
The Art Institute of Pittsburgh holds a portfolio show every quarter for all of the graduates from every major. At the portfolio show, the students showcase their best work for the faculty, professors, friends, family, and anyone else who happened to walk through the doors at Heinz Field. In order to graduate at AIP, students had to have a display at portfolio show. The displays have to include: a final portfolio of work, a resume, a website, promotional pieces, and, of course, yourself. For my display I decided to go a little out of the box, but I was smart. Our teachers looked out for us, telling us to not spend too much money on our physical display, so I followed their advice.
For my display, I decided to incorporate my nature photography into it. I drew out a sketch of what I wanted, showed it to my fiancé, and we got started. I got a piece of plywood, four feet by six feet, and stained it a dark brown color to match my logo. Around the edges I stapled some leaf garland to give it more of that nature feel and to drive people in. To make it nice I added some flowers that were placed in mason jars and screwed them to my display. I also decided to hang some images that I didn’t have in my portfolio. The rest just fell in suit.
The details of my display are what made it all though. My personal favorite was my promotional pieces. For my promotional pieces I wanted to really stand out. I wanted to have something that no one has ever used. What better could I have picked than a dreamcatcher? I knew a lady that I could get a hold of, who sold dreamcatchers hand made by the Navajo Indians. I contacted her and bought 30 dreamcatchers from her, 20 of them with blue beads that matched my logo and the other 10 had gold and black beads. To the dreamcatchers I attached, with twine, a small business card that had one of my photos on it and my information on the back (courtesy of Moo) and a piece of paper explaining the history of the dreamcatcher. These were such a huge hit that I sold out of every dreamcatcher I had. Why is that so amazing? Our teachers only told us to get 20 promotional pieces, but I had a feeling mine would be an eye catcher, since no other AIP student had used dreamcatchers before. Turns out, I was the first student in my program to completely sell out of my promo pieces.
Next to my promotional pieces were my business cards and my thesis book, which I was very happy with. My business cards were also printed through Moo, but my logo and card design were both created by my amazing graphic designer, Erica Matay. When I contacted Erica, I had a bit of a challenge for her. I told her exactly what I wanted and it took a couple of tries, but she made my logo the most memorable thing for me to start off my business. I loved how my logo came out and when I asked her to do my business cards she amazed me once more, just by simply adding feathers to the back with my information; that tied it all together. My thesis book, Escape Into Nature, was a project I had done for my thesis class a couple quarters back. For my project, I decided to document the importance of State Parks. In the book, I showcase all the different seasons nature offers along with the five different State Parks I had adventured to. If anyone is interested, my book is for sale. See more information under my Shop tab.
Two of my biggest factors into my display were my sign and my portfolio book. Both of these items were made by the talented Alyssa Emigh. I met Alyssa at AIP and worked with her with designing my sign and book. For my sign I just wanted my logo on it. Alyssa cut the acrylic herself and hand painted my colors. For my 11x17 book she cut and prepared the wood by hand. With just a couple of screws and binding, my beautiful wooden portfolio book came to life. I was stunned with the outcome. Better yet, Alyssa and I were placed next to each other at our portfolio show, making it great to introduce people to each other, showcasing our work.
Some last little touches to my display were my little terrarium with a squirrel’s skull, yes even though I’m a nature photographer I enjoy both beauty of the living and the dead, a dreamcatcher decal my wonderful brother gave me as a gift for my laptop, some mints for people to take, and a Dum Dum bush that I found on Pinterest, which was very hard to make look nice! These little details complimented my whole table.
Another huge part of my display to close it all off was a contest I was holding. Whoever came by my table got to fill out a little piece of paper with their name, contact info, and what image from my portfolio they loved. Whoever was chosen afterwards won a free 8x10 signed picture from me. Allison Little was the winner of the contest and had chosen my image Wasp Hive. She was thrilled to be the winner and happily accepted her printed and framed image.
I still can’t believe three years has flown by. It feels like just yesterday I opened that acceptance letter and started my photography career. These past three years have been inspiring, adventurous, heart wrenching, and hard working. Now, I’m just one more graduate who is on their way.
I hope everyone enjoyed my little blog about my graduation journey. Don’t forget to check out my work and please give a look at my dear friends who helped me achieve my portfolio show display!