Student Resilience in the Time of COVID-19

Published: October 07, 2020 | Author: Ashley H Pollock | Read Time: 3 minutes

SUU, along with other universities across the nation, was not immune to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. While classes quickly had to move online this past spring and into summer, educators made plans to safely reopen in the fall. Students and educators alike had to adapt to this new way of learning online, where normally most classes would be taught in person. One student, T. Callister, went above and beyond in his photography class, showing the resilience of students at Southern Utah University during times of crisis.

Rheana Gardner-Reeves, associate professor of photography, taught Art 1050: Intro to Photography over the summer. Usually, the class focuses on portraiture, but mid-pandemic Professor Gardner-Reeves felt like it would be unsafe for her to encourage her students to interact closely with people while the nation was taking extra precautions. Professor Gardner-Reeves decided to transition the course to focus more on landscape photography, with an emphasis on taking a new approach to the subject matter.A tent camera made by T. Callister

Even with the challenges of adjusting to learning online and the changes to the class curriculum, Callister fully embraced Professor Gardner-Reeves’ assignment. Inspired by the work of Abelardo Morell, the pioneer of camera obscura landscape photography, decided to build a tent camera obscura. Professor Gardner-Reeves said, “A camera obscura is an empty room or box without light but for a small pinhole in one side. The light that comes through that pinhole projects a scene from outside on the opposite wall. Because of the nature of optics, this scene is always upside down, but nevertheless, it provides an accurate picture of whatever the camera obscura sees. Callister then positioned his digital camera inside his hand-made tent camera obscura and using a long exposure captured the following images on campus.”

Callister said the biggest challenge of his project was making the portable “tent camera”, since there are no instructions on how to do so. He stated, “I drew up my own plans to create one [tent camera obscura] using cardboard, duct tape, a mirror, black trash bags, and a camera/mirror mount that I 3D printed. It was amazing to see the images come to life when I got it all together. I actually went through three versions of the ‘tent camera’ before settling on a design that worked best.”Final Image by T. Callister

His final project images were shots of Fish Lake, Utah, Thunderbird Gardens, and SUU’s Campus. This is just one story of the resilience SUU students have shown during COVID-19 with all the changes and regulations occurring in order to keep each other safe. Professor Gardner-Reeves states, “In times of isolation and uncertainty, creativity flourishes in very beautiful ways.” With examples like this, we are very excited to see what students make out of the fall semester here at SUU.

About the College of Performing and Visual Arts

The College of Performing and Visual Arts (CPVA) at Southern Utah University comprises 26 academic programs including liberal arts (BA/BS) and professional (BFA, BM, BMEd) degrees in art, design, dance, music and theatre. It includes graduate programs in the fields of arts administration (MFA, MA), music education (MME), and music technology (MM). More than 60 full-time faculty and staff are engaged in teaching and mentoring over 700 majors in the College. CPVA presents over 100 performances, lectures, presentations, and exhibitions each year and is affiliated with the Southern Utah Museum of Art (SUMA), Utah Shakespeare Festival, and the Center for Shakespeare Studies. Southern Utah University is an accredited member of the National Association of Schools of Art & Design (NASAD), National Association of Schools of Dance (NASD), and the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM). For more information about the College of Performing and Visual Arts, visit

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