My People: A Photo Essay

As a senior at the University of Michigan, my college career is quickly coming to a close.  I have had 4 incredible years in Ann Arbor, filled with some of the most memorable moments of my life.  I have met so many great people and made so many great friends.  For my photo essay, I wanted to capture people, places and things that have been such a great part of my Michigan experience.  I wanted to start big, using pictures that capture a huge group of people participating in something that I was also a part of.  As the photos progress, they essentially zoom in to more specific people that have been with me throughout the entirety of my college journey.  I have lived and breathed maize and blue for the last 4 years, so my photos try to envelope the love I have for this school and the people that have made it such a great place to have experienced my college years.

I begin big, and I mean 114,000 people big.  The first photo is one of the most memorable places I have gone to over the last 4 years, Michigan Stadium. Also known as the Big House, it is home to Michigan Football.  I have attended almost every home game while a student at Michigan and all of those who have joined me on those  fall saturdays are my people. They are fellow students, alumni and fans of Michigan and share the passion and enthusiasm I have for this school and one of the most prestigious football programs in the country.  I used a photo that captured the enormity of the stadium and the amount of people there.  You can see individuals who are close and dots of maize and blue in the distance representing so many other people. From the sky to the pompoms, everything in this photo besides the green turf is my school colors, maize and blue.

My next photo is from the Palace of Auburn Hills, another sporting venue where I went to see the Michigan basketball squad in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.  Since the game was in the state of Michigan, most fans in attendance were rooting for the Wolverines, and all those are also my people. I had seats higher up in the arena, and thus had a really good perspective and point of view for the shot.  I was able to capture the court and the teams on it, the fans below and some of the background features of the arena.  I think there is really great contrast in this photo, from the dark, outer edges of the stands to the brightness of the court.  The darkness in the stands also helps to bring out those people wearing maize attire and were rooting along with me for our Wolverines.

As a college student, there is a lot more than just going to class, doing homework and studying for tests.  I’ve had the chance to make tons of great friends and long lasting relationships during my time at Michigan because of the great social life that the school has.  My next picture was taken at the wonderful establishment known as Rick’s American Cafe.  It is a social scene that is always packed on the weekends.  So many of the people I have met and gotten to know over the past few years spend a night during the weekend here.  It’s a place me and my people can let loose and have fun.  As a dark place located in a basement, I thought this picture summed up the experience great.  It’s a dark picture but light enough to where you can make out the different heads and figures of the many people on the dance floor.  There are bright lights that help to set the mood and atmosphere, and I think the picture captures it all.

The Diag, the center of the Michigan campus.  It is a place that defines the University of Michigan.  From the bronze block M, to the Hatcher Library, to the many campus buildings that surround the area, it is the cross section of central campus.  It is constantly buzzing with students walk every which way and activities always occurring. On one of the relatively nice days we have had recently, I sat by the Diag, watching people and snapping pictures.  Of the many  I took, I liked this one the best. Many of my fellow students, my people, walking around the Diag in all different directions.  People close as well as far away, people’s faces and backpacks. Some are easy to make out, while others are just blurry figures in the distance.  There is also the person about to enter the photo, which is so intriguing.  With the various directions he or she may be going, there is no way to know at this moment which way he is headed. The Diag is such an important part of this campus and a place I have traversed so many times, that is why all those who also cross it are my people and share a common bond with me.

Thus far, most of the pictures have been of places that contain many people, most of whom share with me a similar passion for and bond to the University of Michigan, but now we begin to shrink the circle.  This photo is one I took at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta during the Final Four.  I sat in the student section, amongst many people with whom I know. The select few that joined me only yards off of the Final Four court had attended many Michigan basketball home games with me. There are several faces in this photo I know. The photo is a conglomeration of maize shirts supporting our beloved Michigan basketball team. All of these people wearing jerseys and Michigan clothing are my people.

These are two of my closest friends at Michigan, Matt and Adam. It began freshman year in Couzens Hall, where Adam lived in the dorm room directly across from me and Matt lived diagonally.  Since the first week of arriving in Ann Arbor, we have been together for a great ride, sharing memories and creating traditions. This picture was a few weeks ago when we spontaneously bought tickets to go to the Michigan basketball game, to close out our seniors year the right way by watching our team play in the NCAA tournament.  There is not that much unique about this picture, a portrait of the three of us, but the emotion on our faces, being there together and happy to witness the event and share the moment together.

My roommates, some of the best friends I’ve made while at Michigan.  These guys have been there for me and have shared some of the most memorable moments I’ve had during my last four years.  The two guys next to me and the one all the way on the right have been my roommates for 3 of the 4 years I’ve been at school and I couldn’t have asked for a group a better group of guys to spend 8 months with every year.  These are my guys, my buddies, my friends, and my people.

This is Lauren, one of the most important parts of my life.  We began dating sophomore year and have shared so many memories together while studying here together.  This is my favorite picture of us together, the lighting is great and the frame and focus is completely on us.  Most than just the technical photography elements is the expression and emotion it captures of the two of us.  She is definitely one of my people.

Family is so important to me and those closest to me have made my college journey so special.  I wouldn’t be where I am today or have had the opportunity to come to Michigan without my parents and my sister.  The picture captures all of us together, spending a day together before a football game.  I love the background of the picture, the perfect fall foliage enveloping the four of us.

Then there is me, I am part of my people because, in essence, I define my people.  Those who are like me, share the same interests as me, and love the University of Michigan as much as I do, make up my people.  It’s a great scenic area and I found a nice spot where I thought posing for a self portrait would be perfect. Of course wearing my Michigan gear, a white shirt pops out against the colorful foliage of the background.

I hope this photo essay conveys the same message I thought it does.  It begins wide in scope, capturing many people who have helped partake and share some of my fondest Michigan memories, and then steadily zooming in to the specific people who have been an integral part of my life over the last 4 years.  As I say goodbye to this wonderful University in a few weeks, I know there are many people I have no met nor that I know personally, but whom I have attended a Michigan sporting event or walked past on South U, in class, or on the Diag.  There are those who whom I’ve shared a seat or I’ve high fived in the student section of the football or basketball games that I have attended or said hello to on the sidewalk, in the library, or at the bar.  Then there are those whom I have lived with, in the same house, apartment or same dormitory, and those whom have spent an evening at a restaurant, enjoying meal with me. There is my family, close friends and loved ones, who have helped me become the person I am today and helped create some of the best memories and moments at Michigan.  And finally, there is me, myself, and I, the man who defines all those who are my people.

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Go Blue Gif

Go Blue Gif

To create this Gif, I used Photoshop.  I began with a blank slate and used the Custom Shape tool to create the arrows in each corner.  I then duplicated the layers, moved the arrows around so they would point towards the center of the image.  I did this twice.  For each layer, I used a layer color overlay, two were white and one navy blue.  I added an icon of the Michigan logo in the center. Originally I wanted to just make criss crossing arrows from corner to corner but I couldn’t line everything up correctly so I switched ideas.

To make the Gif, I followed this pretty straight forward youtube tutorial:

In this video you open the Timeline tool via Window>Timeline.  Then I dragged all of the separate layers onto one single layer leaving the background yellow color on its own layer.  Once done, I went to File>Save for Web, which is were the Gif format is located.  I used the Preview button in the bottom left to play around with the frame length until I was satisfied.