Balancing College Life


Doug Hastings
Digital Documentary Photography
December 2008

For my project, I wanted to capture the struggle that college students go through to balance rigorous academics with everything else in their life. I documented the life of my girlfriend, a junior at Wake Forest University, as she attempts to find time for academics, athletics, and social life. I think that my girlfriend, Melissa, makes a good subject for two reasons. First, she has a very interesting story, as she was an exceptional high school athlete, but has almost totally given up sports in favor of studying. She is currently in the process of trying to make rigorous exercise a part of her life again, and I thought that it would be very interesting to photograph this transformation. At the same time that Melissa is trying to balance working out and studying, she must also make time for friends, relaxation, and, of course, a relationship. I try to document all of these aspects of her life in my project. The second reason that Melissa was a great subject for this project is that she was very accessible. Since I see her frequently, I was able to shoot photographs on many different occasions, and in situations that I might not have been able to observe with a stranger or even a friend.

I took photographs of Melissa on 20-30 separate occasions, and I saved 768 images to my computer. I probably took over 1000 pictures total, but deleted some of them straight off of my camera. I greatly enjoyed taking the pictures for this project, especially the pictures of Melissa exercising in which I experimented with slow shutter speeds and blurring of both the subject and the background. My biggest challenge in the project was documenting Melissa’s social life. I choose to stay away from photographing parties, both because this is not a large part of Melissa’s life and because I found that many college partygoers are uncomfortable being photographed for a project that will go on the Internet. I therefore focused on depicting her everyday interactions with friends, and attempted to depict her relationship without simply taking pictures of myself.

Overall, I am very satisfied with the way that my project turned out. I think that an audio/visual slide show is a very interesting medium for presenting a documentary, and I enjoyed having a chance to narrate and fit music to my photographs. I think that I learned a lot about how to bring together a coherent documentary from an extremely large number of pictures, and both my photography and photo editing skills improved over the course of the project.