In approaching this assignment, I was drawn to the idea of creating space for reflection. In my own personal reflection on this course and the content I’ve produced, I’ve noticed recurring themes associated with the global pandemic. This pandemic, so deeply ingrained in our collective experiences, has produced such great loss that has been emphasized in so many different forms of expression, almost to an excessive extent. However, the pandemic’s pervasive nature keeps it a relevant and intrusive muse at every attempt of art I make, and often I don’t have the luxury of turning a blind eye.
In creating the physical space of the shoot, I included a speaker for music, Oreo cookies for incentive and a token of thanks, and index cards. On these index cards, I asked everyone to write a love letter to someone. I placed no bounds on who the recipient of the letter could be, I just wanted them to sit, reflect on their love for someone, and immortalize it on a colorful index card. Some wrote to their mothers, some wrote to their younger selves, some to their siblings, and some to seemingly random people who got them where they are today. A sentiment that has been circulating the internet right now is the idea that we are all just a collection of habits and quirks of all those we’ve surrounded ourselves with over the years. I wanted to capture the fleeting moments of recognition and appreciation for those people in our lives.
These images represent a piece of ourselves given to this school, this space, and this past year of triumphs and tribulations. To see yourself, and to love yourself is to see and love all of the people who have touched your life, and all of the lives you have touched. I am eternally grateful for the community created out of these trying times, and I hope to never forget the impact every single one of my friends, those pictured and those not, have had on my small life. You know who you are, this is my love letter to you. Thank you and I love you.
Photography, Video and Text by Aliana Ho, Copyright 2021
Unity at the Initiative
Friday March 12th, 2021, we piled into my car and set for Vine Street. Through social media postings and online publications, we had heard about the Asian Arts Initiative’s exhibit, Unity at the Initiative. Dedicated to providing spaces and greater representation for queer and trans bodies of color, this partnering of the the two collectives involves multiple visual exhibits,pop-up indoor skate park made accessible through a Covid-safe, reservation-only system.
Upon our arrival, we were greeted by the brilliant Philly sun as we waited for someone to come and unlock the door. Stepping inside, the cool air graced our skins as our eyes adjusted to the lighting. We gazed in excitement at the skate ramps and rails, at the posters covering the walls and their beautiful artwork created by beautiful queer artists of color. After spending about an hour and a half skating, admiring the artwork, and even putting up some of the extra posters with the wheat paste method, we were told to go check out the visual installation on the backside of the building.
We collected our boards, extra posters to take home, and other belongings and wandered down the back alley, and came across the window display of the installation. Inside the window were countless posters, cans of spray paint, zines, tapestries, and an assorted clutter of other visual art pieces, illuminated by a soft yellow glow. The surrounding walls had beautiful murals, one titled “Color Me Home”, made in collaboration between the Asian Arts Initiative and the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program.
The main focus of the Asian Arts Initiative is to “create community through the power of art”. For UNITY, an Oakland, CA based organization, they focus on dismantling white supremacy by pushing for representation for queer, trans, and disabled, bodies of color in spaces like are typically dominated by white cis-men, like the skating community. In merging these two organizations and creating representative art and spaces for QTBIPOC, this installation provided a brilliant example of making changes within smaller communities to make impacts on a larger scale. Despite all the media attention these issues have been getting, especially since the shooting in Atlanta, Georgia, which happened just four days after we visited the show, does not mean that these issues did not exist before people started paying attention to them. This exhibit proves to show that conversations around accessibility, inclusion, and creating safe spaces for the most marginalized communities has and will continue to be important to creating lasting change.
About The Author: Aliana Ho is an Anthropology major, Visual Studies & Health Studie Minor student at Haverford College, Haverford, Pa. Class of 2022. To see additional articles by Aliana, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/we-thrive/
Photography and Text by Sharon Wang, Copyright 2021
Love is a Decision
“Ah, Moon – and Star!
You are very far –
But were no one
Farther than you –
Do you think I’d stop
For a firmament
Or a Cubit – or so?”
The decision to love is never an easy one to make. It is a mutual commitment from each person that chooses to be in love. The story in this series exhibits a girl who is deeply in love. The setting is my room, where all my emotions are witnessed.
Just by looking at the Polaroids on the wall saturates the room with the smell of sweets, the sound of laughter and the sensation of rising adrenaline. Love offers us the highest highs and it is the energy that gets people through the tedious work. It is the happy annoyance of choosing what to wear for a date. However, love is also a poison.
There is no way for two individuals to share the completely same emotions, and that is when miscommunication and disconnection comes into play. The sadness and disappointment that accompanies the fact that some of our love is not being echoed compels the individual to do silly things — like talking to stuffed animals, wondering what they are thinking, or using substances. Love sometimes loops us into despair. However, the only antidote of love is love itself. It is a touch, a kiss and being in the vicinity of the person on your mind.
After all, love is a decision that we make. It is a fancy trap that lures everyone that falls for it to enter the swirl of every possible feeling, but hey, it is love.
“But, Moon, and Star,
Though you’re very far –
There is one – farther than you –
He – is more than firmament – from Me –
So I can never go!”
— Poem by Emily Dickson, #240
About The Author: Sharon Wang is a sophomore enrolled at Haverford College, Haverford, Pa.
We are one year into a devastating pandemic in this country, and everything is changing. Instead of doing my own recap I decided to start promoting women empowerment. Not meaning being a feminist; In waking up to your true potential and building together. When we collaborate, anything is possible.
We have a woman vice president! Your opinion if she should be there is irrelevant. The drive, determination, and hustle were there. No one can deny her of that! The day of the mean girl, and attacking others you are jealous of; is over. I cannot tell you how unattractive and embarrassing that is to watch. If you are that girl work out your insecurities and stop worrying about everyone else. Trust me, you just might start to like yourself.
More and more I am noticing the rise in female entrepreneurs who are going away from the traditional 9-5, or even dating for that matter. Prioritizing themselves over just claiming ownership of their partners/previous employers’ status.
Social media has become a place to network and build your community. It is where I have found many of the interesting people I have interviewed. Instagram, Tik Tok, and Club House are all excellent avenues in the day of distance.
This time I happened to come across a woman named Riza Oliva. She is a highly creative photographer and brings whatever concept she comes up with to life. Not only does she manage being a woman in business, but she is also a mother & partner as well.Riza seems to be balancing it all while never giving up on her dreams!
You can have it all when you structure your life for your goals.
The photo that caught my attention was Alice in Wonderland themed. If you know me, it is my thing.That landed me on her Instagram page only to find photo after photo of fierce women in well thought out outfits with themed back drops.
Riza’s range is why I see her being able to scale the way she is with multiple studios. From glamour maternity, baby’s first birthday, couples, erotic, music video recording/editing, and gorgeous women of color.
She just so happened to have one of her studios in my parent’s area in Delaware County, and soon to be a second in Ohio.
Before I messaged Riza I watched her stories to see what she was putting out there. I noticed she was posting a lot of things about women supporting women, and that is what sparked me to ask for the interview.
Building a community of likeminded woman hustlers doing alternative things.
There are many empowering women groups in the area. They can be great, but a lot of them that are your cookie cutter wellness based, or self-improvement sort of talks. I want to see the women going against the grain. Break the cycle of thinking you belong in one category and take it all on. Riza does that in almost everything she does.
I hope some of her life will inspire more females to take on their dreams despite other opinions.
Name: Riza Oliva
Industry name: Riza
Hometown: Cebu, Philippines
Current city: Philadelphia, PA
KK– Were your career choices accepted as you got older having an alternative to a 9-5?
RO– No, unfortunately not. Not too many people were supportive when I decided to get into modeling. It was outside of the “norm” for my family and it went against my family values.
KK– Has that been easy to overcome?
RO– It was hard at first. When you do not have many people supporting your goals and ambitions, it almost makes you feel alone in the journey. It made me stronger as a person and the value of believing in yourself.
KK– Are you single or involved? Is your partner supportive of your lifestyle if so?
RO– I am involved, my partner is a photographer, so he is incredibly supportive in everything that I do. He has taught me many things in the photography world and we both have grown together in our careers.
KK– Do you have children?
OR– Yes, I have one son.
KK– Were you ever judged for working a lot and being a mother?
OR– Yes, I had my son during the end of my senior year of high school. I walked at my graduation ceremony just a week after giving birth. Growing up with a child and trying to find yourself at the same time was very hard. I worked a lot but also was lost at times trying to figure out who I was as a person. Itried my best to be the greatest mother I could be. People who did not understand judged me a lot. I think people did not understand until they had to grow up and go through the situations I went through.
KK– How can we change that zone of heavy judgment?
OR– I think people need to be more open minded. Women are expected to do a lot, become providers while being a mom along with going through life’s challenges. It is hard and I believe people are judgmental because they have never gone through it. We must stop judging one another and instead, praise one another for what we have accomplished.
KK– What are your hobbies outside of your job?
OR- I enjoy playing flag football, watching movies/shows, and traveling. My work feels like a hobby at times
KK– Did you attend college?
OR– Yes, I graduated from Temple University.
KK– What was your degree in?
OR– I have a Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management.
KK– Do you have any other certifications, or academic achievements that helped you along the way?
KK– How old were you when you discovered your talent for photography and editing?
OR– I grew up in the AIM/AOL era. I would say around 13 years old. I loved being on my computer 24/7 and would use photoshop to edit background/templates for personal pages and other people’s pages. My dad is really into technology and he purchased this Sony camera which I started borrowing. I would take pictures of myself, my family members and then my friends. They wanted photos for their myspace profiles so they would ask me to take them. I ended up purchasing my own camera and would bring it everywhere. I would be the “event” photographer to many of my family events. I still have these photos uploaded on my Facebook and I believe I still have my first camera that I owned somewhere at home.
KK– When did you decide you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
OR– I have always enjoyed learning and using my skills and what I have learned to create and perfect. I used to create and sell many things like cakes, gift baskets, t-shirts, etc. I didn’t apply my knowledge and my love to create until I started modeling. I realized as a model that I could help grow other businesses including my own. There’s such an importance of being an “influencer” in today’s market and there’s so much potential in helping not just my own brand but other businesses/brands around me. I think I was blessed to meet many people who were on the same path as me in the business aspect who have taught me their world and they really believed in my worth.
KK– What were some of the obstacles you had to overcome to achieve that being a woman in business?
OR– They have that saying that it is a man’s world, well, I grew up always being around men. I was taught that I could not do things my boy cousins were doing because I was a woman, so it has always stuck to me to “prove them wrong”. I did not understand why there were boundaries between me and my cousin, so I made sure to be the over achiever.I never noticed that I was always the “only female” in the group so growing up, I had to make sure the men around me took me seriously. I had to prove my worth as a business woman and make sure my work spoke for itself. Many of my close friends are men and they respect me a lot.
KK– What current Business/ businesses are you involved with?
OR– I currently co-own a studio in Drexel Hill, PA called Lokahi Photography studio and we just opened a 2nd studio in Columbus, OH called Hustle House Studio.
KK– Being in the entertainment industry; what is it like working with mostly men?
OR– Being in the entertainment industry with mostly men means that you have to make sure you set boundaries. You must make sure that they understand that it is all business and not pleasure. I made sure to not work with people who I believe may take advantage of me.
KK– The pressure to be pretty in that world is heavy. Have you had any plastic surgeries and are you happy with them?
OR– Yes, only one but I had it prior to modeling. Yes, I think it gave me some self-confidence.
KK– How can we normalize accepting women’s choices that do so?
OR– I think with this day and age, plastic surgery has become so much more common, in both men and women. It is more accepting and almost normal.
KK– Do you find respect is an easy thing to achieve in your area(s) of work?
OR– No, I think respect always has to be earned no matter what industry you are in.
KK– What do you do to overcome stress?
OR– I usually travel to overcome stress. I call it my refresh button. It helps me reflect outside of my surroundings and gives me a clearer mind.
KK– Do you have a wellness routine?
OR– Yes, I usually go to the gym and drink a lot of water.
KK– Your photos are so creative, how do you come up with concepts for shoots?
OR– I watch a lot of movies, shows and go to museums. Once I think of the idea, I find images and put together a mood board.
KK– Best and worst filming/shooting moments?
OR– My worst moment would be having someone smack my butt. I never worked with the photographer again. I have so many great moments that I don’t think I could choose which one is my best.
KK– What camera and editing programs are you currently using?
OR– I am currently a Canon user and mostly use photoshop for editing.
KK– Are you currently happy with your endeavors?
OR– Yes, but there is always room to grow and achieve other goals.
KK– What are your goals for the future?
OR– To be happy, and to hopefully open more businesses so I can quit my day job.I also want to retire young.
KK– Do you invest in the stock market, crypto, or real estate?
OR– Yes, I recently started investing in stocks during covid.
KK– What tips would you give women just starting on their road to entrepreneurship?
OR- You can achieve whatever your heart desires. I always believe that you are your biggest obstacle so do not ever be afraid to take the leap. Also, you are your biggest motivation and support so do not look to other people for this or you will give up easily. If you believe in yourself and what you are doing, you can go far in life. Also, always plan, brainstorm, and continue learning.
KK– Lastly, how can we spread positivity and support to other women trying to rise-up as well?
OR– I believe we must be there for one another and be able to give advice when we can. Knowledge is power, so helping others grow is always the key. We also have to learn to be happy for each other’s achievements instead of hating on them.
Riza is in the process of acclimating to her Ohio studio, Hustle House. This was something she had not intended to do. One of the investors backed out and Riza saw an opportunity to expand what she was already doing herein a different state and dove right in.
When I sent Riza this long E- mail of questions; I did so because they are the questions holding most women back from starting. I did not expect her answers to be like how I started writing a year and a half ago. Modeling for Tony has led me on my own journey of self-discovery in a world that typically has judged women since the beginning of time. No negative opinions have stopped me. I started here, and now it is taking me places that I was hoping for. Meeting likeminded individuals that want to create and grow together.Until you start talking to new groups of people and understanding them; your circle and life is not going to grow outside of your comfort zone.
Ladies let’s start stepping outside of the box together!
Katie Kerl was raised in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania. She is currently living in Northern Liberties, Philadelphia. Katie has a background in Psychology from Drexel University. She is a manager in the commercial/residential design field . Katie can be reached on Instagram @kerlupwithkate
Photography, Video and Text by Tatiana Lathion, Copyright 2020
The Man, The Basement
In this series, the artist chose to shoot in a basement. Why a basement? Well, in many ways, the basement symbolizes a sort of dark unfinished place, a place where our emotions dwell, where we experience the raw affect of feeling. In reality, many use the basement to store unwanted or unneeded items. It is often a place in a house that remains in a constant need of repair and disorder or casual place of gathering. It is never the first room to be shown to guests and is often times never shown to guests. In horror movies, it is the place where a character meets their death and is often associated with uneasy feelings. A finished basement is never the norm and is often met with surprise as people expect its rough edges. In this series, it symbolizes the place where we hide away our emotions. It represents the darkest and innermost sense of self, where we are allowed to express ourselves.
The subject of this series is a young black male, dressed in all black clothing. In this series of images, he expresses four emotions: sadness, despair, happiness, and love. In the hyper masculine society that we dwell within, there exists a societal standard that inhibits a free, uncritical expression of emotion from the male population. In many ways this is only intensified by the subjects blackness. In our society, the black population in the United States cannot afford to express emotions freely for being fearful of being viewed as weak, irrational, or unhinged by the ruling state. Instead, a burden is enforced in many minority households of this population to uphold and withhold their emotional state from others. Emotional expression is thus rejected two-fold for the subject of this series. However, in this darkened place, the subject is encouraged to express an emotional state. This symbolizes the inner emotional conflict of the subject, which is often never revealed to the general public.
In short, this series of images constitutes a small glimpse into the soul of the subject. It symbolizes the raw emotional state of the self and the continuous growth of human emotion. The subject and the setting are juxtaposed against shinny silver garland that is hung on the exposed pipes of the basement. For me, the reflective material represents an attempt to dress the dark unfinished parts of the human soul. It reflects the light and seems unnatural in the space and yet it adds to a concept of improving the self and allowing for emotional expression. I feel as though self-care and self-love has become this very surface level movement that attempts to improve years of trauma and emotional suppression with a face mask or some trivial material fix. However, to really heal and fix the human soul, it takes work and emotional upheaval of that suppression.
This series, attempts to create a visual representation of an abstracted construction of the holding place for the subjects emotions. It touches on the suppression of emotion by the subject and an expanded identity as well as attempts to reconstruct the artificial attempts to heal emotional trauma.
About The Author: Tatiana Lathion is a senior enrolled at Haverford College majoring in Political Science and Government.