Collective Compositions Take Photography to a New Level

“We help students produce compositions by taking them out on photo shoots,” says Cheyenne Mikailli, president of the USV Collective.

As simple as that sounds, club leaders and newbies alike find new challenges at every turn. Says club treasurer Hannah Gonzalez, “We didn’t choose a name like USV Photography club because that is too niche for what we wanted to do. We chose ‘collective’ because we include all sorts of artists: makeup artists, cinematographers, editors, project managers, and models.”

#HappilyEver from the USV Collective’s Instagram feed

Their work, particularly their Instagram feed, speaks for itself. The locations, lighting, costumes, and makeup have all been meticulously planned in ways that enable many student photographers to explore new ways of seeing and of being.

“Once you understand what it takes, what goes into productions like those we take on, you can’t look at anything the same way again,” says Hannah. “At this point in my life, I think about even simple things in new ways.”

“I found myself creating Excel spreadsheets to manage photo shoots,” said club project manager Cindy Chiu. “It’s the fun part for me, apart from taking the actual photos. I enjoy getting together with everyone, figuring out what we have to do and then visualizing all the information in one giant sheet so everyone understands what is going on helps us know who will be attending a shoot, what makeup artists, wardrobe, models, and materials do we need at that time.” Setting the group’s schedules for a shoot, and figuring out who is shooting with whom at what time makes it easier for everyone to focus on what they want to accomplish. Club historian Danielle Dennard chimes in, “As students, we already have so much going right now. It’s easier when the planning is done, to have this part of our lives organized so well.”

A Behind the Scenes look at the creative process produced by the USV Collective 

When the Collective goes into the field, they might take weeks scouting locations, identifying the right time of day for lighting in a given season, before developing concepts for the kind of productions they might go for and what ends up going into the schedule. Even carpool assignments are designated in advance. One can only imagine dozens of Usvians descending on a location in order to catch the morning sun breaking through misty vapors that rise from wet grasses and deep forests.

“At this point in my life, I think about even simple things in new ways.”

Beyond exercising their compositional skills, members of the Collective bring their unique interests to the group. Says, social media embassador Paola Valenzuela, “As a photographer, I’ve been trying to create a brand for myself using social media. I’m trying to do the same thing for the Collective.” Makeup artist Ney Haoto speaks enthusiastically about his role as a makeup artist. “The club is very inviting. In terms of artistry, it really helps as a makeup artist to get shots for your portfolio. Good makeup not only helps in lighting a composition but also helps photographers edit less in post-production.” Freshman Angel Ramirez is impressed the experience and talent he is surrounded by, “It’s challenging to see their skills and to realize it definitely takes time to improve. I am finding I can plan ahead and I can ask for help from more senior photographers, I can ask what they would do.” As a model, Wayne Moodie has watched the club evolve, “I haven’t really been in the club but I just kind of pop in from time to time. It’s kind of cool because I saw them from day one when they were wondering if anyone would join. It’s really cool to see the progression they have made so far.”

Audio effects for the following video was composed and produced by alum Daniel Semon, a member of MVMNT, and current student Austin Sybouts.

Members describe the activities of the USV Collective, including their approach to photography, shoots and coordinating their activities.
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