When Joanna Murray, a degree candidate in the BFA Photography Department, went looking for a volunteer opportunity at Manhattan’s Beth Israel Medical Center six months ago, she had no idea she would end up being known as The Camera Lady. But as she gets ready to graduate from SVA next week, that nickname from the center’s patients and staff is one of the things she’s most proud of. And now Murray’s efforts have started to attract notice from outside the College: Visura magazine has featured the project in its latest issue.
Murray’s interests in art therapy and psychology led her to start a weekly photography workshop for people living with HIV/AIDS who cannot live on their own. During the spring semester, she worked with several residents at the Robert Mapplethorpe Residential Treatment Facility, an affiliate of Beth Israel established by the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, to create individual visual diaries using point-and-shoot cameras. As the semester went on, Murray came to recognize residents’ works by their distinct styles. She eventually decided to organize “Snaps,” an exhibition that shared their work with the SVA community earlier this month at the Monkey Bar Lounge. “Being in art school and living in New York City, I’ve seen so many images, but these were really refreshing,” says Murray. The project earned her an Alumni Scholarship Award from the Alumni Society of SVA.