By Sydney Collins, ‘20 

As an artist scholar, Cristina Peters, ‘18, has found value in creative expression through all modes of craftsmanship at Richmond. Pursuing a dual degree in visual arts and business administration, with a concentration in marketing, as well as a minor in dance, Peters said that her experience within the arts community at the University of Richmond has aided her ability to think creatively.

One of the best exhibitions of Peters’ creativity is her photography, some of which will be presented in the Student Symposium this April. For this year’s Symposium, she will present an underwater photography display inspired by her research of ocean preservation and humans’ impact on the environment. Peters knew that she wanted her project to be ocean-related because she claims she has always been an “ocean-child,” and wanted to capture her affection for the ocean through her camera.

“A lot of my art has to do with the ocean and ocean life because I’m just fascinated by octopi and jellyfish and creatures like that,” Peters said. “People talk about ‘going green’ like reducing your carbon footprint and global warming, but a lot of people don’t realize that our oceans are really in trouble. So when I was trying to decide what I wanted to work on, I thought why not make it something that I’m really interested in and something that’s important.”   

Peters spent half of her research period in Spain and took pictures in the water surrounding the island of Majorca. She said that Majorca was the perfect place for photography because the clearness of the water allowed for minimal editing. Each photograph that Peters took is meant to represent a damaging act that humans commit.

“But instead of using the subject as ocean life, I used a human,” she said. “It’s supposed to kind of shock the viewer into realizing the harm that they are inflicting.” 

Peters intends for her audience to view the pictures in a way that will lead to internal reflection about their own acts that affect the ocean. She believes that her photos accurately convey her message and she is especially pleased with her decision to use children as models. 

“I think that was really effective because when you put a child in front of a camera they’re going to be way less likely to make sure that they look good in the photograph,” she said. “They’re going to give you raw emotion, they’re going to be squinting their eyes or making a funny face when underwater. That ended up being really successful.”

As a part of her research, Peters visited a pearl factory to see how they make synthetic pearls. Due to the shortage of pearls in the ocean, this production is seen as a useful way to help preserve pearls in oysters. Peters said that she initially did not realize how much research her project would involve, but the investigation helped reinforce the reasoning behind her project.

As Peters has participated in the Student Symposium before with a choreographed dance routine, she understands the amount of time and effort that goes into creating a project. She said she enjoys participating in the Symposium because she gets to see how other students undertake challenging tasks and witness the end-result. Even though many of the projects presented are science-based, Peters feels it’s valuable to see the creative processes that are involved for every interest in a variety of fields. 

“I think that it’s so important that students aren’t just awarded and recognized for assignments that they are specifically told to do for a class or their major,” she said. “It’s also important that students are excited to research things that they’re actually interested in and that they feel has some type of value and provides their life with some type of meaning.”