The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Saturday February 4th

Column: Campus through a camera lens


Aisha Anwar

As graduation approaches, campus becomes a massive studio, and every photographer knows you will have to move fast and be patient. Avoid capturing other passersby in the background of your photos. Remember angled shots and close-ups can help with that one. Be prepared to get on the ground. But at the Old Well and South Building, your best bet is to grab a 50 mm lens to increase the bokeh or blur the background. Just look for trees, and stick to green backdrops.

Sit. Stand. Shoulders back. Even out your stole. Cross your arms. Look at me. Smile.

This was my third year taking senior portraits, and as I moved about campus, peering through my lens, I couldn’t help but notice that something had changed — broken, actually.

The charm of an old college town was gone. Too much has happened this year for me to see my campus the way I used to.

This year forced me to zoom out and adapt my lens to be more nuanced and perceptive.

Where an old photograph of Franklin Street reveals an anti-war march from the 1960s, I see the overlay of an image of our most recent marchers in solidarity with Baltimore. New people, same purpose.

The University has undergone a reclaiming of sorts. UNC students have yoked symbolism and solidarity in a series of protests across campus.

As I zoomed in on my friends’ faces and let the green backdrop of Polk Place fall away, the steps of Wilson Library beckoned me. I remembered the last day of classes, when students celebrated a year of activism by dancing, performing spoken word poetry and calling for solidarity. As I looked around the Old Well, I recalled the images of my campus that flickered across the screen at the viewing of "The Hunting Ground."

How could my campus be marred by such pain and rage? I suppose it always has been.

April heard our anger as over 200 students marched a mile around campus for the “Walk a Mile” to spark conversations about sexual assault.

The Pit, too, was the site of great resistance. Silence itself became palpable when students shared their testimonies of sexual assault in March. When the crowd stood with candles at the vigil, I wondered how long the wax would stain the bricks. A wall of protestors lined the Pit for four and a half hours, shouting the names of black victims of police brutality.

Movements were born out of late night conversations. From shutting our dorm room doors and fuming to calling for spaces of healing, we asked, “What is it that we want? How much noise will we have to make to get it?” All year students have been moving and shaking, forcing the thick air to part and make room to breathe. Never has the pulse of UNC throbbed so loudly. This year our campus has trembled.


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