LOVELAND, Colo. — Giving students two years to shoot a dozen photos seems curious in our fast-paced digital world.
Not for artist-in-residence Robert Campagna and his 13 students whose goal was to shoot 200 photos using an old-fashioned 4x5 monorail view camera.
Campagna, a photographer who teaches photography classes at Bill Reed Middle School, asked students to create their version of Ansel Adams' pre-war mural project, using the same kind of camera he did.
"This is walking backwards in the materials and process ... catching the early photography of the masters," Campagna said.
Campagna explained his project idea recently at a student panel discussion in which student photographers answered questions from Campagna, the audience and each other.
In 1941, the secretary of the interior commissioned Adams to photograph national parks and other areas for inclusion in a mural project to decorate the hallways of the Department of Interior. But after Adams had taken slightly more than 200 photos, the project was stopped in 1942 because of World War II.
Campagna's students photographed black-and-white images of Loveland, chronicling well-known spots, people working at their jobs or out on the streets, and the exteriors and interiors of buildings from businesses to abandoned buildings. The students imagined what people of the future would want to learn about the city's history.
"The whole idea of the project is we're preserving history. We're making our own history," said Sydney Buchheister, a ninth-grader at Rocky Mountain High School who attended Irwin Middle School. "It's been a project that's bigger than us."
Each student chose three photos to enlarge to be part of "The Mural Project: A Portrait of Loveland through Young Eyes," an exhibit at the Loveland Museum/Gallery that will run through Sunday, Feb. 3.
"These pictures are printed full-frame. You're seeing what they saw," Campagna said. "It represents their artistic eye, confidence and vision."
The student photographers discussed the inspirations and challenges they encountered using a 4x5 camera to document Loveland. The camera projects images on the screen that are upside down and reversed, and it requires a drop cloth, tripod and sheet film. The sheet film, which consists of one negative per sheet, is 20 times the size of a negative for a 35-millimeter camera.
"It really teaches you patience. It really takes a long time to develop what you want," said Caden Denton, an eighth-grader at Bill Reed.
"You had to know what you wanted in the picture."