By Ritika Jain
For students all around the world, their academic future has been plunged into uncertainty since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Students have had to complete the remainder of the spring semester online over Zoom and forgo their graduation, prom and other celebratory events. The longevity of the pandemic is constantly in question and often underestimated. As an incoming college senior, my wishful thinking left me hopeful I would return for the fall semester and experience all the senior festivities. However, many colleges including my own have arrived at the long awaited decision to conduct most classes remotely, as housing thousands of students at once poses a great risk.
The past months have challenged the world in a number of ways and tested our ability to continue with our life, jobs and classes virtually. Art and fashion students are especially impacted by this shift, as they typically rely on campus resources and guidance from professors to complete their projects. Art students all over the world have faced varied difficulties, including the loss of studio space and collaboration with their peers and the outside world.
Myles Loftin is a photography student who studied abroad in London for a year. He tells The New York Times that he was focusing on Black queer communites for his thesis project, which was deterred by the sudden lockdown. He then started to explore self-portraiture and found new ways to sustain his work.
Sam V. K., who studies fashion photography in London, turned to her family history for inspiration during lockdown. She said she misses collaborating with stylists and directors and finding inspiration from the world around her.
“Right now, we have the opportunity to look at the people closest to us and find out more about them, even if that's picking up a camera and documenting them cooking food or capturing what's happening in the moment, unfiltered,” she told The New York Times.
Fashion photography entails a lot of travel and exploration, and it’s more challenging for students to find inspiration in the confines of their own home. A number of incoming college freshmen are also wary about starting their college careers and continuing to practice their forms of expression.
Natalie Aronno, a recent high school graduate in dance, is attending UC Irvine this fall and tells the Los Angeles Times she is dismayed to be dancing in her living room, sacrificing the art of performing in front of a crowd. Avalon Lafosse decided to defer her admission in the Rhode Island School of Design, saying virtual classes won’t help her discover what she truly loves to do.
With the lack of resources such as camera equipment, garments and sewing machines, fashion students have found innovative ways to create digitally. They’ve completed final assignments on their phones and even ordered equipment online. However, a lot of low-income students don’t have the flexibility to make room for expensive equipment in their budget. Fashion schools including FIT are working to adapt to digital learning and introduce new technology that makes it possible for students to create digital designs.
Students in the arts have felt defeated and disheartened by these circumstances and not being able to receive the experience they had hoped for. As for me, although I’m not in a practical field of study which banks on in-person learning, I draw considerably from the world around me. As a journalism major and a campus reporter, a large part of my career is networking, exposing myself to new and different opinions and capturing what I see in-person and online. I was looking forward to living with my friends in one of the nicest on campus apartments and enjoying the last of football games, eventful nights out and interacting with my peers and professors. As someone who feeds off the energy of those around her, it’s hard to accept the reality of being a student at home without a student life. I’ve seen students across the board express similar sentiments as we’re all learning to adjust to the reformatting of our lives.
However, I am able to continue writing and reporting about pressing issues and topics I am passionate about with the gift of social media and the Internet. Those in the arts such as fashion and fashion photography don’t have the privilege of continuing their education and craft as normal, but have been creative in using the minimal space they are given. One thing we can hope to result from isolation is to become stronger in what we do and how we express ourselves.
Ritika Jain is an editorial writer who focuses on all things fashion, pop culture, and important social events. Follow her on Instagram.