Posted on Jun 24, 2015 in Alumni News and News
For someone who has never taken a photography course—let alone used a single-lens reflex camera or a tripod—Rachael Perry has certainly put her stamp on the arts scene in Lawrence. She’s the artist behind hundreds of large-scale, black and white photographs scattered throughout town, collectively known as the Lawrence Inside Out project.
The effort is part of the global Inside Out campaign, which was created by a street artist in France who encouraged people around the world to have their portrait taken to support a common theme. Perry, c’10, who envisioned photographing local artists, supporters of the arts and even children who create, saw the project as a perfect fit for her hometown.
“I wanted to show the world that Lawrence has this beautiful, vibrant art community,” she says.
Perry applied for a grant from the Lawrence Cultural Arts Commission and received $1,200 to bring the project to life.
Wasting no time, she got to work and created a website where people could sign up to have their portrait taken. She also established a social media presence for the project.
“I did a lot of online outreach,” she says. “Social media was a really great tool for this project, especially Facebook. It really changed the way I work.”
The interest was almost immediate, and Perry soon found herself hosting portrait sessions to reach more people in one sitting. She devoted about 15 minutes to everyone she photographed and asked questions to understand how art played a role in each person’s life. Their quotes would eventually accompany the portraits to help viewers feel more connected to each individual.
“I learned really quickly how to get people loosened up and comfortable,” Perry says. “I would try to distract most people by talking to them. That’s what I did a lot of times, and I would shoot them while I was doing it.”
Within a year, Perry had 650 photographs in her portfolio. She only had enough money left from the grant to print 40 images but received assistance from the global Inside Out project to print another 200. The rest she printed at no cost with the help of local Lawrence businesses. Two weeks later, the photographs were gracing storefront windows and gallery walls throughout town.
“To see the pieces in place and then immediately see the reactions from passersby was crazy,” she says. “Even now, when I’m walking downtown, I catch people looking at them. Everyone loves to go and find people they know.”
Although the exhibition has gradually starting coming down, portraits can still be found in certain locations around town, including the Lawrence Public Library, where an entire wall is dedicated to housing smaller printouts of all 650 photographs. The portraits also will be collected in a book, created by local designer Deb Stavin, f’84, scheduled for release this summer.
This week, art lovers can catch a slideshow of the portraits on the north wall of Weaver’s Department Store as part of Lawrence’s Free State Festival, a weeklong celebration of music, art and film. The images will be projected from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Wednesday through Friday.
Photos by Dan Storey