May 05, 2016 2:15PM
For the past two years, Amy Li has been working on a project that has not only helped her develop her academic skills, but has allowed her to get to know her fellow Pittsburg State University students in ways she could never have imagined when she began.
Li first came to PSU as an exchange student from Taiwan in 2012.
“I took a photojournalism class and fell in love with taking pictures,” Li said.
Li returned to Taiwan to finish her bachelor’s degree, but came back to PSU in 2014 to begin working on a master’s degree in communication.
“As soon as I came back, I bought my first digital camera and started learning photography,” Li said.
In photo classes taught by award-winning photographer Mike Gullett, Li eagerly absorbed all she could about lighting, composition and other aspects of visual communication. Outside of the classroom, she took advantage of every opportunity to practice her craft, including working for the Collegio and Kanza, the campus student publications, and interning on weekends under professional photographers like Sam Clausen. She also shot photos and videos for the Family Life Assembly of God Church, in Pittsburg.
At the same time, Li began working on her idea for a graduation project inspired by Brandon Stanton’s “Humans of New York,” a photography project that began in 2010 with the goal of photographing 10,000 New Yorkers on the street.”
For her “Humans of PSU,” Li selected 40 persons. She chose 20 international students and 20 Americans, most of whom were students, to include in her self-published book.
Li asked each of her subjects the same six questions. Beyond the basics about hometowns, majors and reasons for coming to PSU, the questions also asked respondents about their dreams for the future and what they do in their leisure time. The photos she took reflect not only the students’ history and culture, but the things they’re passionate about.
Li said she found both wide diversity and striking similarities across the campus.
Li photographed and interviewed students from Burkina Faso, Laos, India, China, France and several other countries as well as Americans from small towns like Girard, Holton, Baxter Springs and Mound City. They were studying everything from graphic design, construction and nursing, to music, engineering technology and business.
For fun, the students said, they played sports, read, played musical instruments, exercised, and spent time with friends.
Li put the results of her work into a 48-page, color book that she had printed on campus. It was something that was rewarding both academically and personally, Li said.
“Through this project, I not only improved my lighting, posing, Photoshop and layout design skills,” Li said. “I also made new friends and learned more about these people. I was able to talk with them and learn about their personal, inspiring stories and dreams.”
Li said that if there was a common theme running throughout the stories, it’s how much her subjects love the university.
“When I asked them what they loved about PSU, most of them said, ‘the people,’” Li said. “And I totally agree.”
In her book, the last student Li features, is herself.
“The members of the Pittsburg State Community have made a lasting impact on me and I hope that this projects creates the same effect for them, as well,” Li said.
After graduation, Li plans on working as a photographer for the Heartland Summer Camp. She’s also pursuing full-time employment that will allow her to continue using her photography skills.