SUNY Plattsburgh student Maria Tibold tackled her new personal portrait photo project with one mission in mind—showing those who are underrepresented on campus that it’s OK to be different.

“The Portrait Project” is a project created by junior Tibold, a digital media production and fine arts major with a concentration in graphic design and photography. The project was compressed into a day with two subjects in mind Oct. 26.

For subjects Le Peng Tee and graphic design major Kelsey Rambach, the project was a fun experience that made them face their own fears and insecurities first hand.

“It’s more of a personal journey rather than having an impact on others,” Tee said. “At the same time, it’s confronting your own fear.”

Born with a deaf imparity in both ears, Tee felt the need to finally talk about his own insecurities. At a young age, he received a cochlear implant in one of his ears.

A cochlear implant is a small electronic device consisting of an external portion that sits behind the ear and a second portion surgically placed under the skin. This tool helps provide a sense of sound to a person lacking hearing and has helped Tee be able to hear.

He’s never been able to see what he looks like with his hearing aid first hand, Tee said.

“The thing that has disturbed me is this device,” Tee said, hand grazing over the black piece. “And now I feel like it can not disturb me anymore.”

Facing her own disturbances like Tee, Rambach was intrigued to be apart of the short series after receiving an email sent out through the student digest to all students on campus. The email read: “Are you a weirdo? Do you feel under represented?”

“I liked the line, ‘Are you a weirdo?,’” Rambach said. “I was like yes, we are definitely going to sign up for this.”

Enthusiastically engaged, the students were photographed on a white background in the Myers Fine Arts building photography studio. The images focused on their insecurities or what made them stand out among their peers.

“It was wonderful to meet the models and hear their stories,” Tibold said. “It’s not something I had to do but I chose to and to make it my own.”

The project originated from Tibold’s Photography 3 class, after  watching a Ted Talk on an artist named JR. He is a travel photographer who takes portraits of people in different countries and blows them up, later putting them on the sides of buildings for onlookers to see.

Her specific assignment was doing the same, going up to strangers and asking for their picture in some way. Soon enough, she found her niche.

“The project is not independent,” Tibold said. “However, to reach out to and ask students who feel marginalized, was my idea.”

The main goal of “The Portrait Project” was to show to students that it‘s OK to be different, and it’s OK to show themselves in a raw way they haven’t been able to. The 50 unplanned pictures taken are a confidence booster, Rambach said.

“I could tell that Maria was going to take time to make sure they came out really well,” Rambach said. “We’d think on the spot and think, ‘Oh we’re gonna do this!’ They came out really nice.”

Tibold was praised from both Rambach and Tee on her vigilant efforts to make the environment comfortable and fun. His experience was good and she was really friendly, Tee said.

A class project turned into their own personal fight with insecurities, these students have now been able to come to terms with their own unique attributes.

“Seek out different groups that you feel connected to,” Rambach said. “People are going to be more accepting than you think.”

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