Alexis Fairbanks Student, photographer, explorer

Alexis Fairbanks is a junior mathematics and photojournalism double major, and she has been a photography assistant of the Communications and Creative Services department at the Carolina Union for three semesters.

As a part of the CCS team, Alexis uses photography to capture life in and around the Carolina Union. Outside of her time at work, she enjoys photographing others and the world around her. She explored her passion for photography this past summer by documenting a 40-day road trip across the U.S. to 10 National Parks. Seven of which are featured in the exhibit titled, "National Parks Exhibition Project," in the Carolina Union Art Gallery.

Photograph taken in Zion National Park By Alexis Fairbanks

When did you go on your National Parks road trip, and how long was it?

"We left July 1st and got back [Aug. 9.] It was 40 days from start to finish.”

Who else did you travel with?

"Adam Fairbanks." He is her older brother, who studies at N.C. State University.

What was your inspiration for this photography series? Why did you do it?

"The previous summer – the summer after my freshman year – I did an internship with 3000 miles to a cure, which is an organization that raises money for brain cancer research through Race across America, which is a 3000-mile non-stop cycling race cross-country. So I spent 3 weeks with them, we drove across the country twice. It was really fast-paced. I was seeing parts of the country that I’d never seen before. It was beautiful, and I loved waking up in a new place every day. I was like, this is what I want to do – this is what I want to do with my life. Ever since I picked up photography in 8th grade, I really loved shooting landscapes and nature. I’m very much like an outside kid. When I thought of the project originally, I went to my advisor and was like, 'hey I just want to spend 6 week traveling to national parks,' and she was like, 'that sounds cool but you need to have a purpose for it.' I saw that it was the National Parks Centennial, it was an election year, so climate change was a big topic. Climate change is something I really believe in and am very passionate about. My brother, who is a creative writing major at NC State, we decided to go to these National Parks and look at how climate change was affecting them. So I did all the photography, and he did all the writing."

Photograph taken in Redwood National Park By Alexis Fairbanks

What role did you have for this project, and what role did your brother have?

"While we were traveling, he wrote all my Instagram captions for me. I have a specific photography Instagram that I was running during this summer. He didn’t write every single one – you can tell the ones he wrote and the ones I wrote because the ones I wrote were like, 'This is a picture of a rock,' and the ones he wrote were very informational. We also kept up a blog on my website, and he wrote about a 2-page thing on each park we visited."

What was your favorite part of the trip?

"I think it’s really important to take a minute and step back and realize how small you are compared to this world and this universe. We get so wrapped up in our everyday routines, and it was really incredible to spend six weeks – not necessarily off-the-grid (definitely not off-the-grid) – but outside of my routine, seeing all these incredible places. It really puts things in perspective and makes you think about your everyday actions and what you’re doing with your life. In short, a sense of perspective."

If you had to pick your favorite photograph, which one would it be?

"There’s that one vertical of the deer. There’s that one, and there’s another photo – really wide shot – like mountains, there’s a small really blue lake in the middle, and my brother is standing on a rock, and he looks this big (small). Those would be my two favorites, I couldn’t choose. The deer was in Yosemite, and the one of my brother is in Olympic."

Photograph taken in Yosemite National Park By Alexis Fairbanks

What was your favorite park?

"Probably Olympic. I was looking forward to all the parks, but on my list of parks that I was excited about, Olympic wasn’t super high up, and it was just so different than what I expected it to be. Really really awesome."

Photograph taken in Olympic National Park By Alexis Fairbanks

What was your biggest takeaway from this experience?

"Personally, I think my biggest takeaway was this is exactly what I want to be doing with my life. It’s really given my photography direction. Prior to this trip – I mean I still do everything – I still do portraits, I still do headshots, I still do fashion, I do nature, but – for god’s sake I have a tattoo from this trip. I really would encourage people to go see these places before they’re gone because I think that’s a real possibility."

What do you want your viewers to takeaway from your photography work?

"I would want them to go see it for themselves. Our NP are really accessible – it depends on where you live – but in terms of getting there and staying there, it can be really inexpensive. You can get a national parks pass for a year for all the parks for $80, and that gets in everybody in your car. I think they work really hard to try and get people to come out and see these beautiful things. I think it’s really important to have an appreciation for the natural world around us and everything that it gives us. It’s so easy to look at everything on your phone, but it’s really different when you’re living it."

Photograph taken in Yellowstone National Park By Alexis Fairbanks

What is your favorite memory at Carolina?

"My second day here of my freshman year, my friends and I were just walking around campus like trying to figure out where everything was. It was so hot, and we walked into the football and stadium, and we were just like wow. They had the giant sprinklers on, and we were like, “Let’s go run through the sprinklers.” So we were running around on the field like idiots, and some maintenance guy comes up – he’s like, 'Y’all aren’t in trouble or anything, but I just wanted to let you know that this is reclaimed water.' It’s really gross water; it hasn’t been treated."

"Sometimes there are just days where I’m walking around in the afternoon and its golden hour, and it’s usually when I’m walking past South building I’m looking out towards Wilson, and I’m just like, 'This campus is beautiful.' I just feel so lucky to have wound up here. My college decision process wasn’t straight-forward. This is exactly where I’m supposed to be."

Recommend a music album and a movie for us.

"A/B by Kaleo. Emperor’s New Groove."

If you had to choose one food to eat for the rest of your life, what would you pick?

"Chicken nuggets. Is that even a question."

Alexis, you are unbelievably talented. We hope to continue supporting your work and growth as a photographer. Thanks for all that you do, from your Carolina Union family.

Created By
Christine Bang


Alexis Fairbanks

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