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Photography is very important to Kevin Lopez. He has been taking photos since he was a child. When he joined LaGuardia, he was excited to pursue his passion and find some solidarity. 

But there was no structured group that catered exclusively to his lifelong love.  

 “It was a good idea to start a Photography Club at LaGuardia,” Lopez said.  He put his heart into building a community of art lovers.

Lopez knew the many benefits of such a group. There were the obvious emotional benefits of having comradery.  There was also a more practical, larger value, he explained. 

“Part of making it in this world is networking, especially if you want to make it in the world of photography,” he added. 

Yet his sentiments were not shared by his peers. Lopez described the many challenges and disappointments he encountered. When going through the process of forming the club he had difficulty even finding enough members to allow him to use his name on the club’s application. Other people were nervous even to give out their student identification numbers and email addresses, Lopez shared.

With help from the Photography Program’s professors, he was finally able to get the signatures he needed. Then an even bigger problem arose finding people to take official positions within the club. He had a President and Vice President, but he needed a secretary and treasurer. People finally let him put their names on the form for these positions, but they never did what they needed to do. The bulk of the club’s responsibilities fell to him, he said. He got some help and encouragement from the Photography Program’s faculty. They were able to help him finish the club’s clerical work.

Despite the challenges, Lopez kept reminding himself of the communal benefits, saying, “it would be a great way to bring students together and give them a feeling of connection in a time when there is so much distance between everyone.”

Lopez said he believed he had amazing and exciting ideas. He thought it would be fun to work together on group photo projects virtually. He created a photo chat room on Instagram and planned to have students engage with each other by “having a project students can work on each week like shooting photos of trees one week,” then having everyone share their work in the Instagram chat where they can talk about it.

“It is also important to get advice and tips from your fellow students on each other’s work,” he added. 

He blames the lack of student participation in the club on “people’s paranoia with the pandemic and students’ schedules at school.”

Despite the lack of interest, there are many clubs that are still trying to stay proactive. 

Paul Williams is the current president of the Film Club at LaGuardia. Williams has only been president since they first enrolled at the school, which was last September. At that point, students were already coming back to classes in person. Therefore, they don’t have any reference for how things happened during the height of the pandemic.

They say even with being back in person now, it is just as difficult as it was for Lopez to find club members. Williams had the few members of the club put up fliers and spread word around school. Even through these efforts, they only managed to currently have a total of five active members. William said, “people got used to being at home on zoom.” In addition, he reported that “it’s hard to get people to come back in general,” in part because “there is fear and anxiety, there are all these internal stresses” related to Covid-19.

Jeffrey Batts from the Student Life Office said that interest in clubs was dwindling even before the pandemic. Batts believes part of the reason is because over the years school attendance has been in continuous decline. He says students who are enrolled can’t easily see the benefits of being in a club anymore because of the internet. Most of the things they would be doing in a club they can do in the comfort of their own bedrooms.

Batts said there are many benefits to joining school clubs, though, including “comradery, focus, strong networks for the future.” Friends from clubs can “be a support network as you get older.”