Students talk modeling for UMW branding materials3 min read
The University of Mary Washington hosted a student photoshoot on April 13 and 14 to take photos for new branding materials such as billboards, websites, print and online advertisements. While students now have the opportunity to sign up for the photoshoots, previous photos used for branding materials were taken less officially, and some students photographed this way say they were unaware their photos would be on branding materials before they were used.
Students were informed about the recent photoshoot through the weekly newsletter from the Office of Student Activities and Engagement.
“I knew right away that I wanted to take on this photoshoot because I’m very photogenic and I like being able to connect with faculty/staff better,” said freshman theatre major Giannii Marshall.
Photoshoots like this one have been offered in the past, one of which featured junior communication and digital studies major Eli Osborne.
“You’re a little bit of a celebrity,” said Osborne, who claims he has been approached 30–40 times about being “the website guy” after appearing on the UMW website.
Some student participants were excited at the prospect of being featured in promotional materials.
“I was most certainly told about where my pictures might be and the ones that really stuck to me were billboards and on the sides of buses,” said Marshall. “That had topped the cake for me!”
Though Executive Director of University Communications Amy Jessee said students are told that their photos may be used for promotional materials, marketing efforts and productions, some students say they were not told where or how their photos would be used in the past.
“The way they phrased it though was kind of weird,” said Osborne of the conversation during his shoot. “They just said it was ‘pictures we might use,’ or something like that, and they ended up very well using it.”
Osborne isn’t the only student who was surprised by how widely viewed his pictures were. Anaїs Malangu, an alumna from the class of 2022, become a recognizable face after allowing her picture to be taken in the fall of 2021. This situation was different than Osborne’s though, as Malangu described in an interview on the UMW NAACP’s WeUMW Instagram series. She said her pictures were taken while she was studying in the Hurley Convergence Center by a woman who approached her, asking to take her picture.
“Lady reaches out to me, she’s like, ‘Hey, I really like your shirt,’” Malangu said. “‘Can we take a few pictures of you?’ I was like, ‘Okay’ because in my head it’s like, ‘Okay, those pictures won’t go anywhere.’”
Several months after agreeing to pose for the pictures, Malangu started to get spotted. The first time she saw her picture was on the front page of the university website.
“I see my face and I literally just stopped, because, what’s going on?” Malangu said of her surprise.
In the following weeks, friends told her about her picture being up in Richmond International Airport and on a billboard off of Interstate 95.
“I think it’s really interesting just to see how marketing works, but for me it’s also, is this the face that sells?” said Malangu.
When initially referred to take part in the photoshoot, Osborne thought his abilities in photo and video editing were the reason he was suggested. That turned out not to be the case, however, as he was asked to pose as a student model instead. “I was a little peeved that my appearance is what was used,” he said. Both Osborne and Malangu are people of color.
“If a student no longer wants the University to use an image or series of images, the photos of the student are removed from the University Communications image library,” said Jessee. “If the photo is in current use, i.e. a publication or advertisement, it is removed in the next update or printing.”
Since students had to decide to opt-in and seek out this new photoshoot opportunity, some participants have thought about what results they hope to see in the coming weeks and months.
“Mary Washington is my home and I want to be able to show the support and engagement that I have here,” said Marshall.
For students interested in participating in future photoshoots, there are typically two per year: one in the fall and one in the spring. Tentatively, the next one is slated for October.