Students perform using various photos

Students make various poses to experiment in changing sequence, using the "Hamburgers" photo as their guide. (Photo: Jamie Sapp)
Students make various poses to experiment in changing sequence, using the “Hamburgers” photo as their guide. (Photo: Jamie Sapp)

By Jamie Sapp ׀ Staff Writer

Lights are on, the stage is organized and students are ready to perform with just some photos to get them started. As a fun, learning performance activity, students and professors joined together behind the stage of the Grover C. Maxwell Performing Arts Theatre on Mar. 18 for the “Performing Photos: A Performance Workshop in Image Making” to create stories and acts using various photos.

Augusta University students of various backgrounds and experiences were able to use various skills, tools and some guidance into making acting performances in some of the photos provided in the workshop.

Associate Professor in communication studies Ruth Bowman of Louisiana State University, along with communications assistant professor of AU Melanie O’Meara, taught the students how to perform using photos. They also taught the importance of time, place, channeling and sequence in the photos.

Some of the photos included a couple on a park bench, old hands, a swirling dress and a portrait of a blonde.

Sophomore communications major Benjamin Evans said the friendliness is what made the workshop stand out to him. He also said the previous workshops that he had attended seemed to be professional, yet strict.

“Not that this one was unprofessional, it was just a very relaxed setting,” he said. “The professor (Bowman) leading the workshop seemed really interested with the students and seemed to really interact. She seemed like she was having fun with the students. And, that was something and really nice.”

Although different workshops, Evans said the workshops that he has done never interacted with students before.

“The professor, or teacher, would separate themselves from the group, teach it almost like a class,” he said.

After working with students on a photo about a person’s old hands during the workshop, Professor Bowman said to the group that they are taking a single object in a photo to get its meaning.

Students prepare in making poses for various photos in the workshop at the Maxwell Theatre. (Photo: Jamie Sapp)
Students prepare in making poses for various photos in the workshop at the Maxwell Theatre. (Photo: Jamie Sapp)

When a student asked a question about body movement in relation to the “old hands” photo, Bowman said the focus is all on the hands, which is the source of the photo.

Not only do the students make poses, sounds and other acts, but they also figure out the meaning and message of each photo they perform in.

For the “Hamburgers” photo set in the 1940s or 1950s, which includes a large group of women eating and having a fun time in a restaurant, Bowman spoke to the students about using sequence or order to perform in the photo.

“I want you to think beyond just people,” she said. “What we’re going to do is we’re going to put together this photograph piece by piece by piece. .. we got an empty crane, and we’re going to bring in all the pieces that we feel are important one at a time, get them established, and slowly build this photograph.”

Bowman said the point is that people can know how to build photographs by adding pieces and know how building can impact the meaning of the photographs.

In the “Hamburgers” photograph, there are signs of food and prices, six people doing various activities and other objects in the photograph. The students used sequence to lead them into posing as either people or objects in the image. The students created various sounds to make a live performance, changing the photo’s sequence in order to change its meaning or story.

As a result of teamwork and creativity, the group was able to reproduce the classic photo successfully.

Benjamin Evans said there was one photo that captured his eye.

“It was a hamburger shop with a lot of women at a table together and they all had kind of different expressions on their faces,” he said. “So yeah. That one was probably my favorite.”

Professor Bowman said it is really interesting to think about the common occurring selfies that people tend to read on the surface. When asked about reading modern selfies or photographs, Bowman said it is not easy to understand.

“Identities are hidden,” she said. “We can never assume that we have figured out an identity. We can speculate, we can do research…but no. A photograph is basically ambiguous.”

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