Social distancing guidelines due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) offer students the hope of safety and protection during a global pandemic; however, many student organizations on campus are struggling to get new members and provide existing members with the social interaction they desire.
Rebekah Alpert, president of the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Photography Society said the one thing COVID-19 has changed is the “people; we don’t have that many people.” The organization in years past has had about 10 to 15 active members, but this year they only have five – just enough to keep the organization running. Alpert said that advertising their club virtually has been a major challenge for the organization and has not drawn in many new members. The UNH Photography Society meets over Zoom now, so people do not get the chance to see their meetings take place in the Memorial Union Building (MUB) and ask about what they do and how to join.
The UNH Photography Society was started in 2017 by a group of friends. This group of friends slowly let the club dissolve and were using it more as a time to see each other rather than an organization focusing on photography. Alpert took on the role as president during the spring semester of 2020 with a goal of being more inclusive and providing members with the resources and activities they want.
Members do not need to know how to take photos or even own a camera to join; phone cameras are allowed for the projects the organization works on. Existing members will help educate a new member on how to use a camera and take a photo, if needed or wanted.
Prior to COVID-19, members would attend a meeting each week. They would learn about a topic or theme of photography and then they would take photos displaying the technique learned. The meetings were from 3 to 4 p.m. in the MUB, so many lessons revolved around indoor photography and lighting.
Now, the organization meets virtually on Friday’s at 3 p.m. on a bi-weekly basis. One week consists of a virtual meeting talking about a theme or topic of photography and then the members practice this theme or skill during their “off week” by taking a photo walk. The photo walk allows the member to practice this skill and later share their work at a virtual meeting. This cycle then repeats itself. Due to the pandemic, Alpert said the few members that remain typically do the photo walk alone, but they do have the opportunity to attend a scheduled socially distanced photo walk. The scheduled photo walk takes place on the Saturday in between the bi-weekly virtual meeting at 3 p.m.; however, members typically go out on their own.
Another difference Alpert has noticed is that the members seem to practice taking photos of the theme/skill before it is discussed. This is the opposite of how previous semesters were run.
“I think it gives more of an inclination for people to learn the skill on their own, instead of it being more lesson based,” said Alpert. “To me it seems like more of a way to have fun with photos versus last semester where it was more of a lesson and then take photos based on that lesson.”
COVID-19 is affecting all student organizations in a different way, for the UNH Photography Society, the five members are hoping to continue to grow and expand their organization. To keep up with some of their work or get in contact with the group, follow @unhphotography society on Instagram or reach out to Alpert via their Wildcat Link page.
Photo courtesy of @UNHphotography.