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Photos courtesy of LaGuardia Community College

BY ANTHONY O’REILLY

The diversity of Astoria is the focus of a new photography exhibit that kicked off at LaGuardia Community College.

“The Astoria Project,” a collection of photographs snapped and curated by students of LaGuardia enrolled in photography classes, focuses on how people of different backgrounds interact within the neighborhood.

The idea for the exhibit came when Scott Sternbach, director of photography at LaGuardia Community College, and Dr. Anna Cieslik of the Max Planck Institute of Religious and Ethnic Diversity teamed up.

Yet both Cieslik and Sternbach said they found taking photos in the street more difficult than they anticipated. Sternbach then came up with the idea to have the college students take over the project as a learning experience.

“It’s an opportunity to hone their skills,” said Sternbach. “A lot of the students are shy and in order to do this you have to be brave, you have to be fearless.”

At the exhibit’s grand opening on April 11, students spoke of their experiences walking on the streets trying to find their subjects.

Eddie Santillan explained how he had to sit down and talk with one subject, an Italian man named Casper, before he was able to photograph him.

“I had to know the guy first,” said Santillan. “It was cool to get to know him for a bit.”

Alvaro Imbrett shared his similar experience while running the track around Astoria Park.

“There’s always hesitancy,” he said about the subjects he photographs, “but the photographer has to sell himself. You have to reassure the subject of what you’re doing.”

In addition to showing off the diversity of Astoria, Imbrett wanted to reflect himself in his photographs.

“I want them to see me,” he said. “I think every photographer’s work should resemble themselves.”

The exhibit will run until June in LaGuardia’s photo gallery. It will then make its way around the world, being displayed in Singapore, Johannesburg and Germany.

“I don’t think it’s hit me yet,” said Santillan of his work travelling around the world. “I don’t think it’ll ever hit me.”

 

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