Film project by Nova Stoller, '21, documents portraits of graduating students via Instagram. Participants tell a story of a good time, hard time and growing time during their four years at Lehigh. (Courtesy of @theseniorportraitproject on

Senior Portrait Project highlights the highs and lows of student life

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The Senior Portrait Project, created by Nova Stoller, ‘21, is a digital take on a class of 2021 yearbook, allowing seniors to share the good times, the bad times and the growing times throughout their time at Lehigh. 

The project began as part of Stoller’s senior capstone project, through which her professor instructed students to explore something at Lehigh that they didn’t get the chance to pursue academically. 

So I’ve always had a super big passion for photography, especially film photography, and I always love taking pictures of my friends,” Stoller said. “But again, I’ve never really had an outlet at Lehigh to work with it. So I thought it was kind of a great opportunity to involve photography in this capstone and something else.”

As of May 2, 69 seniors have been highlighted thus far. However, Stoller said she has taken over 300 photos in the past two weeks. To highlight these seniors, Stoller posts on an Instagram page, @theseniorportaitproject, where she posts three photos a day. 

Stoller said she sees her page as a reflective project. 

“I think that it highlights just the general feeling of not being so alone during this time and that everyone’s had similar yet wildly different experiences at Lehigh,” Stoller said. “And I think that as seniors, it’s very sentimental and it’s a bittersweet ending for everyone, but to be able to look back and reflect on not only your time, but maybe your closest friends’ times or growth times.” 

Vaneck Kounga, ‘21, and Romy Finkel, ‘21, are two students that were featured on Stoller’s Instagram page. They both expressed their interest in the project and their desire to take part in it. 

“I think there are so many faces that I’ve seen here for the last four years, but I don’t really know anything about them,” Finkel said. “So I think it’s a cool way to get to know the people that I’ll be graduating with and the people that I spent the last four years in classes with. I just think it brings the community together.”

Kounga said he wanted to share his thoughts on his past years at Lehigh. While reflecting on his time here, Kounga said he will most fondly remember the people he met. 

“I think that the people that I’ve met here, and we’ll hopefully be in touch with the rest of my life, definitely shaped me a lot,” Kounga said. “And I hope that I shape them just as much as they did for me.” 

Finkel also said the most memorable aspect of her time at Lehigh was the different people she’s met through various outlets. She said there are many areas within Lehigh where you can make friends and learn from different people.

In regards to the biggest lessons Finkel learned as a Lehigh student, she said the most important were staying present, focusing on today as opposed to the future and not taking time for granted. 

For Kounga, he said his biggest lesson was to not take everything so seriously and to be more lighthearted. He explained it’s important to relax a little bit, have a good time and enjoy your experience as a student because it goes by quickly.

“We’re still kids, you know, we’re growing up,” Kounga said.

When speaking on the importance of Stoller’s project, Finkel said students often try to remain positive and are afraid to be vulnerable. Because of this, there are many things we don’t know about one another. She said the account shows others that it’s okay to have a hard time and a good time simultaneously, and it’s okay to take the time to grow. 

“I think that it’s an important time to stop and remember that everyone’s going through their own things and everyone’s consistently working on themselves,” Stoller said. “And it’s just a reminder that everyone has their own thing going on. It’s a reminder to check in with people. It’s a reminder to praise people. It’s just a reminder to be there for each other, I think.” 

 

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