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Digital Photography class supports small businesses downtown with photo campaign story by aliyah pratomo

East Lansing High School’s Digital Photography class, taught by Jacqui Carroll, developed and launched ELHS Family Strong Photo Campaign to support small businesses in downtown East Lansing joined by students and teachers. Because of COVID-19 causing small businesses to struggle to survive, the class was motivated to support the community in downtown East Lansing during their time of financial hardship. Participants aimed to spread hope along with a sense of togetherness within students and the larger community by hanging up portraits around the businesses to encourage people to go inside and support them fiscally.

Starting back in Oct. 2020, students in the class along with Carroll went through many layers of brainstorming during class.

“Once we landed on a general idea, David Fort (10), Alle Bazela (10), Nevaeh Gooding (10) and I met for a few more after-school meetings,” Carroll said in an email. “The idea came from the students! They are the masterminds.”

The class made a separate Google Classroom where any students and teachers can join to participate in the campaign. Participants were expected to do an assignment where they fill in the prompt, “while we are apart, I am focusing on [blank] to keep me strong. ELHS family strong.” Then, they attached a portrait of themselves that relates to the prompt they had written. Then, the students made the posters and Carroll sent the files to the Visual Resource Lab on MSU’s campus to be printed there.

However, the project faced challenges. According to Carroll, the biggest obstacle students faced was hearing that they had “room to grow” and that they had an obligation to their school and larger community to do so. Sub-par photographs would not cut it for this assignment.

“Many of the students who made this campaign happen were first-time art students,” Carrol said. “This meant that some of them never experienced any kind of art critique in a classroom setting.”

They also faced several challenges when hanging the pieces. According to Carroll, the main challenge was not knowing what kind of surface or space to expect in each business.

“We bought multiple kinds of tape and command strips with the hope that we’d be prepared for all situations,” Carroll said. “But we ended up also buying the downtown EL CVS and Walgreens out of their command strips too.”

Digital Photography teacher Jacqui Carroll hanging up posters on the wall of Crunchy’s at 254 W. Grand River Ave. From left: Evan Simpkins (10), Fadio Diawara (10), history teacher Jillee Horn, Ahmad Kareem (12), Madison Jimenez (11) and a poster containing information about the photo campaign. Photo courtesy of Jacqui Carroll.

After receiving the stack of prints from the Visual Resource Lab on MSU’s campus, Carroll organized them into 25 piles—one for each business. However, many challenges came up when the pieces were being hung up at the businesses.

“Our team met at our first location, Foster Coffee, at 10 a.m. and we were not finished hanging until about 4 p.m.,” Carroll said. “We even “divided and conquered” and it still took this long.”

After weeks of working since Oct. 2020—preparing for printing, re-working and double checking, struggling with technology and sending photo files to the Visual Resource Lab on MSU’s campus to be printed—the team finally launched the ELHS Family Strong Photo Campaign. It will be displayed at 15 host businesses in downtown East Lansing from Jan. 18 through Feb. 26. On Feb. 27, the posters will be moved into the lower level of the M.A.C. parking garage (connected to the Marriott Hotel) and their work will be replaced with pieces from elementary and middle school students in the East Lansing area.

Here are the ELHS Family Strong Photo Campaign exhibitions displayed at eight out of the 15 host businesses in downtown East Lansing.

Beggar's Banquet

Beggar's Banquet at 218 Abbot Road on Jan. 24. Beggar’s Banquet is one out of 15 host businesses in downtown East Lansing to display the "ELHS Family Strong" Photo Campaign exhibit. Despite being on the weekend, Beggar’s Banquet didn’t have many customers due to COVID-19. However, an employee said that a few people visited to check out the portraits. Photo by Aliyah Pratomo.
Six portraits are displayed by the window of Beggar's Banquet. From left: Sophia Strasburg (12), Reanna Holloway (10), Tzimari Moore (10), Grant Pennock (9), Jafar Al-Zuhairi (10), Javon Thomas (9). Photo by Aliyah Pratomo.

Foster Coffee

Foster Coffee at 196 Albert Ave. on Jan. 24. Foster Coffee is one out of 15 host businesses in downtown East Lansing to display the “ELHS Family Strong'' photo exhibit. The inside is quiet and almost empty despite being on a Sunday. Similar to Beggar’s Banquet, Foster Coffee didn’t receive many customers due to COVID-19. Photo by Aliyah Pratomo.
Six portraits are displayed on the wall of Foster Coffee with one poster containing information about the campaign in the middle. From left: Brevin Jackson (11), Emma Larson (11), Principal Andrew Wells, Information poster, Fanceta Brown (11), Austin Garrett (10), Aldo Bonito (11). Photo by Aliyah Pratomo.

Principal Andrew Wells participated in the ELHS Family Strong Photo Campaign. His portrait can be found at Foster Coffee at 196 Albert Ave.

"I was motivated by the need to support our ELHS Family, East Lansing businesses and community at large," Wells said in an email. "It’s a powerful campaign that helps bring our community together."

Wells hopes that this campaign could share love for one another by encouraging EL folks to support downtown businesses and to continue to be EL Family strong in the midst of this challenging time.

Photo by Aliyah Pratomo

Pitaya

Pitaya at 213 E. Grand River Ave. in downtown East Lansing on Jan. 24. Pitaya is one of the host businesses in downtown East Lansing to display ELHS Family Strong Photo Exhibit. Due to COVID-19, there aren’t many people who come and shop at Pitaya. Photo by Aliyah Pratomo.
ELHS Family Strong Photo Campaign exhibit on the wall of Pitaya. Five portraits and one poster containing information about the campaign are displayed. Top row: Information poster, Nathan Hertel (10), Nevaeh Gooding (10). Bottom row: Liam Cowan (10), Lauren Garrett (9), Imran Kareem (10). Photo by Aliyah Pratomo.

Nevaeh Gooding (10) is one of the students who is involved in making this photo campaign possible. Her poster can be found at Pitaya on 213 E. Grand River Ave.

“While [the photo campaign] was extremely stressful, it was very rewarding,” Gooding said. “Working hard to see it all coming together was amazing and seeing the impact on the community that it has was cool too.”

Gooding believes that her peers tried very hard on the project.

“David [Fort] and Alle [Bazela] put so much time and effort into this project and without them it wouldn’t have been accomplished,” Gooding said. “And to the students who took the pictures, Mrs. Carroll made sure that everyone took good quality photos so props to them for pushing through and taking the time to take those photos!”

On her poster, she had a picture of herself holding a basketball with a description: “while we are apart, I am focusing on basketball to stay strong.”

“My hope for the campaign is that when people see their families, friends and themselves in the downtown restaurants, coffee shops and other stores, they’ll be encouraged to go in and support the small businesses,” Gooding said. “Whether that is buying a coffee or going out to lunch with family, supporting the small businesses through seeing our photos in our East Lansing gear and showing how we’re a family will hopefully encourage people to go into the businesses.”

Photo by Aliyah Pratomo

BAPS

BAPS at 340 Albert Ave in downtown East Lansing on Jan. 24. Six portraits are displayed on the front window of BAPS. From left: Alexandra Bazela (10), Ashish Koduri (Class of 2020), Aaliyah Morehouse (10), Adam Shetiah (11), Amya Porter (11), America Benitez (10). Photo by Aliyah Pratomo.

Along with Gooding and David Fort (10), Alle Bazela (10) is also one of the students who made this campaign possible. Her poster can be found at BAPS on 340 Albert Ave. On her poster, she had a picture of herself holding a Monopoly board game with a description: “while we are apart, I am focusing on board games to stay strong.” Photo by Aliyah Pratomo.

Other than Gooding, Fort and Bazela, America Benitez (10) is another student who participated in the ELHS Family Strong Photo Campaign.

“I joined the campaign because it was a major grade and I had to do it,” Benitez said. “But I also think the campaign is a good idea because it shares what students at the high school are focusing on and it can motivate others to do so.”

On her poster, she had a picture of herself holding a laptop with google classroom displayed on the screen along with a description: “While we are apart, I am focusing on my education to stay strong.”

“My hope [for the campaign] is to motivate other students to get a motivation to focus on,” Benitez said.

Photo by Aliyah Pratomo

Sundance Jewelers

Sundance Jewelers at 330 Albert Ave. in downtown East Lansing on Jan. 24. Sundance Jewelers is one of the 15 host businesses to display ELHS Family Strong Photo exhibit. Photo by Aliyah Pratomo.
Five portraits and one poster containing campaign information are displayed on the front window of Sundance Jewelers. Top row: Dawson Jones (10), Garrett Scott (10). Second row: Information poster, Aiden Bieber (11). Bottom row: Marshall Kambasha (11), Jessica Frederick (11). Photo by Aliyah Pratomo.

The Peanut Barrel

The Peanut Barrel at 521 E. Grand River Ave. in downtown East Lansing on Jan. 24. The Peanut Barrel is one of the 15 host businesses to display ELHS Family Strong Photo exhibit. Photo by Aliyah Pratomo.
Six portraits are displayed at the front window of The Peanut Barrel. From left: Austin Duma (11), Tessa Wheeler (11), Paige Dewey (11), math teacher Nate Feldpausch and special education teacher Emily Feldpausch, Olivia Perry (11), Xander Mielock (10). On the top of them, a poster containing information about the photo campaign is displayed. Photo by Aliyah Pratomo.

Curious Book Shop

Curious Book Shop at 307 E. Grand River Ave. Five posters are displayed on the side of two bookshelves along with a poster containing information about the campaign. Left shelf, from top: Anna Delgado (10), Information poster, Brandon Culberson (10). Right shelf, from top: Larissa Lira (10), Jeremy Powers (12), Maria Piloto (10). Photo courtesy of Jacqui Carroll.

Campbell's Market Basket

Campbell’s Market Basket at 547 E. Grand River Ave. in downtown East Lansing on Jan. 24. Campbell’s Market Basket is one of the 15 host businesses to display ELHS Family Strong Photo Campaign exhibit. Photo by Aliyah Pratomo.
Five portraits are displayed on the wall upon entry at Campbell’s Market Basket. From left: Digital Photography teacher Jacqui Carroll, Dorijan Jackson (10), Noman Sumbal (12), Luka Eisenlohr (10), Ben Anderson (10). Photo by Aliyah Pratomo.

Carroll is satisfied with the outcome of the campaign.

“I am beyond proud of my students for what they have accomplished,” Carrol said.

Carroll’s portrait can be found at Campbell’s Market Basket at 547 E. Grand River Ave. On her poster, there is a portrait of herself walking her son who is on a stroller with a description: “while we are apart, I am focusing on walks with my son to stay strong.”

“I hope this campaign lends some strength to our community [and] I hope this campaign brings community members downtown and reminds them to financially support our hurting businesses,” Carroll said. “I hope this campaign reminds my students that they are capable of achieving amazing things, grand things, when they work hard and they work together.”

Photo by Aliyah Pratomo

More locations:

Graphic of a list of the 15 host businesses in downtown East Lansing that display ELHS Family Strong Photo Campaign exhibit and a map showing their locations. It also includes detailed background information about the campaign. Graphic by City of East Lansing.