Third year of college was a very impulsive time for me. Old enough to know the ropes, know the people to collaborate with, and shed my underclassman inferiority, but not yet old enough that the crushing weight of the impending “Real world” scared me into complacency.

Emboldened by my willing friends and probably a healthy dose of hubris, I launched “CVille Snapshots.” It was an (admittedly short-lived) disposable camera project that I had really no particular reason for other than it seemed like a fun idea. Like I’ve said before, I am often in the habit of having ridiculous and silly ideas, and I was especially prone to acting on the silliest of them while I was in college. I even wrote and won a grant for the project from the Student Arts Committee.

Here’s my 100 word grant application description the project:

CVille Snapshots is a year­long photography project in the UVa and Charlottesville communities. Disposable cameras will be left in various places around grounds and parts of Charlottesville frequented by students for a few hours, with instructions to snap a photo of anything­­ — yourself, your friends, the buildings around you –­­ and then leave the camera for the next person. Photos will be placed on a blog with public access, and at the end of the year, the best prints will be exhibited. Because photography increasingly stands in for or augments our memories of events and places, this project attempts to create a collective memory, private perspectives of a public event compiled to form a snapshot of our lives.

With my grant money, I bought a bulk order of 10 Fujifilm disposable cameras and some neon label stickers. I left cameras around UVa’s Lawn during the massively popular Trick or Treat on the Lawn and Lighting of the Lawn events. I left cameras on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall during the whirlwind Virginia Film Festival. Each time I went to CVS to get my film developed, I posted the results on this blog.

Going through the results was more fantastic than I could ever have imagined. I saw the faces of complete strangers and stories about them flashed across my mind. I saw faces of people I knew, who had no idea I was behind these anonymous cameras. I even saw the same faces on multiple different cameras. As platitudinous as my grant proposal felt at the time, it was in many ways becoming true!

By far, the most exciting moment happened months after the first trial run during Trick or Treat on the Lawn. My friend Anna and I had left 4 cameras around the Lawn. Some were in very obvious spots and therefore easy to keep track of. Others kept getting moved and by the end of the night, we only retrieved 3 cameras. A few weeks later after class, casually discussing the project and what events we could leave our cameras at next, a classmate overheard. “Wait, that’s you guys?! I found one of those during Trick or Treat on the Lawn! I didn’t know what to do with it so I took it home.”

The next week, she brought it to class. I really felt like something had come full circle. The three cameras we had already developed from that night had revealed some truly incredible pictures. But having a camera returned to us after so many weeks was like finding the Easter egg that was so well hidden, even the hider forgot where it was. It was like discovering a Christmas gift in March that you had forgotten to open in December.

After that, Anna graduated, I became busier, I ran out of grant money to continue buying and developing film. But I still have a few of those cameras. And I’ve been working to finish the exposures so I can finally get to see what treasures are waiting for me!! ❂

Here are a few of my favorite photos from our initial run:



Slice of Life is a daily writing challenge during the month of March hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Visit their blog for more information about the challenge and for advice and ideas about how to participate.

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