Photojournalism Course Documenting COVID-19

Media Arts and Design

At the end of the semester, SMAD’s photojournalism course usually culminates with each student producing a final portfolio that covers a range of assignments that they would encounter as professional journalists, from sports, to public meetings to portrait shots. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic JMU’s classes moved online and all of the assigned events the students were scheduled to photograph were canceled.

As a way to adapt and change the curriculum for the online environment SMAD’s photojournalism students were tasked with the project of producing a photo essay documenting some aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the cancellation of in-person classes the students have been working on their photo essays while quarantined at home with family or roommates.

A photo essay addresses a topic or story through photographs where a viewer sees how a photojournalist conveys a message. Typically, these stories focus on the lives of others, but under stay-at-home orders and to prevent any unnecessary health risks, students were permitted to document their own experiences.

Each student submitted six photos along with a layout of their photo essay in a newspaper page format. A short paragraph helps to set the scene for the viewer and captions provide further detail for each photo. From photographing self-isolation within off-campus housing to documenting the changing landscapes of hometowns to taking a look into why students decided to stay in Harrisonburg, yielding a range of topics both unique and insightful.

These photos and stories will become a visual record of this global pandemic and give viewers a chance to see how a group of JMU juniors and seniors have adapted, adjusted and achieved a meaningful end to a surreal semester.

See student work listed below:

Alexis Caravas

Caroline Plashal

Celina Wickham 

Cole Richardson

Dylan Bernetich

Eleftheria Giannopoulos

Hayley Peterson

Jordan Vonderharr

Kalin Morris Cartagena 

Kendall Herlica

Lauren Deroco

Mason Turner

Natalia Seth

Robert Grady

Ryan Rush

Tanya Faktes

Tristan Lorei


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Published: Monday, May 11, 2020

Last Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2023

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