Carroll, Henry counties provide canvas for photography student’s thesis

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By Kristin Beck

The Carroll-Henry county area recently became the inspiration and blank canvas for a student’s senior thesis photography project.


Lauren DiFulvio, a senior at College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati, Ohio, photographed a series of portraits and environmental shots in Port Royal, English, Turners Station and Carrollton for her thesis project.

Her work will be displayed at the Studio San Giuseppe, a nonprofit art gallery located in the Dorothy Meyer Ziv Art Building on Mount St. Joseph’s campus. An opening night reception will be held on Friday, April 29 from 6-9 p.m. The pieces will remain there until just after graduation, which is May 7, DiFulvio said.

Before embarking on this project, DiFulvio was only vaguely familiar with the area. Her boyfriend of one-and-a-half years owns Wolf Tree Farms in Turners Station; however she said she had not made much of an effort to familiarize herself with his farm or its surroundings.

When it came time to begin her senior thesis, DiFulvio, a fine arts major with a concentration in photography, initially struggled getting started. A professional photographer—DBD Photography, specializing in maternity, children, seniors, engagements, weddings and events—she became frustrated when her ideas for using photos from her business where turned down by her professor for being too commercial.
Looking for a new project idea, DiFulvio decided to make a trip to her boyfriend’s farm. In her thesis, she explains that on the way, she decided to take her camera and explore and document the area.

Her first stop was Hawkins Farm Center in Port Royal, a regular eatery for her boyfriend. There she photographed owner Darlene Hawkins Tipton, who also helped connect her with other people in town.

DiFulvio said, at first, she felt awkward about the entire situation and did not know what to say when she went up to people to ask if she could photograph them. Many refused, so she spent most of the day shooting landscapes.

Before her next outing, she talked to Tipton again, who introduced her to Kentucky author, activist and Henry County native Wendell Berry. DiFulvio photographed and interviewed him in his home. At the time, she said she did not know of Berry. After the session, she researched and read some of his writings. One quote in particular stuck out to her, and she decided to use it as the introduction to her thesis:

“There are, it seems, two muses: the Muse of Inspiration, who gives us
inarticulate visions and desires, and the Muse of Realization, who
returns again and again to say ‘It is yet more difficult than you
thought.’ This is the muse of form. It may be then that form serves us 
best when it works as an obstruction, to baffle us and deflect our
intended course. It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we
have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go;
 we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not
 employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

DiFulvio’s luck on day two continued, as she photographed the rest of her portraits. Included in the project are Carrollton’s Tara McArter, Gene McMurry and Gene Vanarsdall and Port Royal’s Franklin “Hoss” Sanders and Tom Sanker.

DiFulvio said she was amazed at how willing people were to open up to her, a stranger.

“What started off as me feeling as though I was taking from them, ended up to be them giving to me more than I ever expected,” she wrote in her thesis. “The honor and respect I felt was my motivation to tell you their story.”

DiFulvio said she enjoyed spending time with people she never would have met otherwise. “It turned out to be a really great experience, and I met some really cool people.”

DiFulvio’s project is 7-feet-by-7-feet and is separated into nine different-sized pieces screwed into a piece of sheet metal from an old barn on her boyfriend’s property. In addition to the portraits and landscapes, she also included map of the area and quotes from those photographed.

At the end of the gallery showing, her art piece will be displayed at Hawkins Farm Center for an undetermined amount of time, she said. Afterwards, DiFulvio said she will give part of her project to Hawkins, as well as send copies of the portraits to her willing participants.
In the end, DiFulvio said the project gave her more confidence because so many people were willing to help her, and she is excited to display the pictures and give back to those who helped her.

The rest of day one was spent walking around Port Royal and downtown Carrollton, looking for people to photograph and talk to.