Most know Camilla Lopez ’19 as the University’s official unofficial photographer. You can find her on Friday and Saturday nights snapping away at functions across campus, capturing photos of her friends, their friends, and people she’s just met to post and share with the world. Besides their sentimental value, her photos have allowed her to meet people from all over campus. The Argus sat down with Lopez to talk about her time at the University, her changing identity as a “Quiet Side Girl,” and her thoughts on Econ 101.
The Argus: So, Cam, why do you think you were nominated as a WesCeleb?
Camilla Lopez: I think I was nominated mainly for my photography. When I go out, I take photos with my film camera and take photos of friends I’m close with and also people I barely know. I post them online, and then people’s friends and their friends see them. So I think that’s what I’m known for on this campus, and I think I hop around lots of different friend groups.
A: As a senior, what are you reflecting on about the social life here?
CL: I love Wesleyan so much, and the social life has been so much fun the past four years. My favorite part about senior year has been seeing all the seniors coming together and friend groups that used to matter not mattering anymore, and everyone uniting and just trying to have the most fun and social time.
A: What do you think it is about senior year that makes this happen?
CL: I think when it’s senior year, we know all of each other’s faces now because we see everyone in Usdan, and now they’re a familiar face, compared to a thousand new underclassmen who have no idea who everyone is. So, I think now everyone’s more inclined to be like “Oh, whoa, I know your face. You were in my class freshman year.” So I think it’s funny to have those interactions.
A: So your pictures seem kind of like the quintessential college snapshots. What were your motivations behind starting to take them?
CL: Well, in high school I was always into photography. I was in yearbook, and I would take all these candids of my friends, but coming to college, I never liked taking photos on my phone because I feel that everyone always takes five photos, flash no flash, getting all the angles, and are so meticulous about getting a good photo. Sophomore year was when I started playing around with film for the first time, and what I appreciate about that is that it’s one shot, and then you’re done, and people aren’t going to ask you for five angles. And it’s really fun to send them out. It takes two weeks where I send them, and then I get them back, and all the pictures are just surprises. Like “Oh, I forgot I took that photo,” and they’re all candid. Being 35mm, they have really awesome colors and are kind of gritty. People seem to enjoy them and are, like, “These are the college photos I’m going to show to my kids.”
A: The official campus photographer.
CL: Exactly. But unofficially…
A: I know you’re from Texas. Can you tell me about growing up there?
CL: Yes! I’m from San Antonio, so it’s a big city. It wasn’t until I came to Wesleyan that I really started to appreciate it. When I was there, I was like “Oh, Texas sucks….It’s conservative, it’s this and that.” And then when I came here, and people were like, “Texas sucks,” and they weren’t from Texas, I had to defend my state. So now, I have a newfound Texas pride, and I think Texas is much more diverse than people here seem to believe it is. I love Texas, but I don’t see myself going back there after graduation.
A: How have you seen yourself change while at Wesleyan?
CL: I’ve changed so much over the past four years. I definitely grew into myself more. In high school, I cared a lot about what people thought of me and was more self-conscious and aware of how I presented myself. Being on this campus, I’ve become who I’m supposed to be, as corny as that sounds. And I’ve definitely found my academic passions. My high school was STEM-oriented, and the idea of success was being a doctor or engineer, and that’s what I thought I was going to do. Then I came here and didn’t want to do STEM classes ever again and found my passions for government and film. My political awareness has also changed so much. Being low income and Latinx, I’ve become more proud of those identities. In high school, it was definitely a stigma to be low income at an elite private school, but here, I find no shame in it.
A: I know you worked at PBS last summer. Could you tell me about that internship?
CL: I worked at POV American Documentary, which is a show that airs on PBS. So, it was like my two majors combined perfectly into one thing. I was doing education outreach for each of the films that were being produced by POV, so I would write and edit materials and call up organizations to get the word out on the films. It was lots of fun to be in New York and to have that job. I did the summer grant, so I got Wesleyan to pay for me to be in the city over the summer….A Wesleyan hack!
A: Coming back to Wesleyan, how has this experience shaped your senior year?
CL: Last summer was my first time really being away from home for that long doing a job, being fully independent, and paying my bills. I think that was scary the first two weeks. I was crying to my mom, asking her if I should be in New York, and then I figured out how to work the subway system and buses, and after that, it was a breeze. I think that solidified me wanting to go to New York after graduation and do something in media maybe. It definitely made me feel like an adult.
A: I know you’re a Questbridge Scholar. Could you tell me about that program?
CL: So, senior year of high school, I found out about Questbridge. It’s a partnership between 30 elite colleges, and it connects low-income and first-generation students to these elite schools. I discovered Questbridge and found out about Wesleyan through the program. I visited during the diversity weekend and fell in love with campus my first time here. I applied ED the next week. It was a great program to guide high-achieving students who usually wouldn’t be applying to these rigorous and exclusive schools because my high school counselor didn’t help me with anything because she didn’t know the resources available to low-income students. And there’s a good community on campus of students who are in the same boat.
A: What’s that community been like?
CL: I think especially freshman year, it was great to have a support system and to be with people who were going through similar things. We could, like, fill out FAFSA together. This campus is super inclusive, but a lot of the student body isn’t willing to talk about class. And I think so many kids want to talk about gender and race and identity, but students who are well-off would rather not talk about their economic privilege. That can be frustrating at times.
A: So, it’s WesFest. What would you tell first-gen, low-income students or Questbridge scholars who are visiting campus.
CL: I’d tell them not to be scared to ask questions to advisors, deans, and classmates. College is hard for everyone, but it’s especially hard without the background that many people have here. As a freshman, I definitely did not know the resources available on this campus, and I don’t think I’ve taken advantage of everything I could have. It’s definitely overwhelming to come here, and it’s a hard academic and social adjustment to make, but don’t let that scare you off because there are so many support systems for you.
A: You’re a self-described “Quiet Side Girl.” Could you describe what that means?
CL: I describe myself as the loudest girl on the quiet side. I think the two sides of Usdan are the craziest things ever, and I hate how the building’s built because it creates these super arbitrary social groups. Granted, I do sit on the quiet side, but this year, I’m trying to be on the loud side more and trying to bridge the gap. But definitely, find me in vegan line during lunch and then on the quiet side. I think I make fun of myself and my sort of friends, and it’s all about being able to laugh at yourself and not take yourself too seriously. Like, sophomore year, I would make memes like quiet side bingo with boxes like, “you’re in a film class” or “you have bleached hair.” I definitely check the bingo off all the time.
A: What do you think you’ll be thinking about the night before graduation?
CL: Well….that night, I’ll be screaming on Fountain and then sobbing on Foss Hill.
A: How do you think you did Wesleyan well, and how would you have done it differently?
CL: I think one of my favorite things I’ve done is make friends in different communities. Sophomore year, I made a resolution with myself that every plan I made at a party with someone I had just become friends with or knew from class I would follow up on those plans. People were always really surprised! I think people really appreciate you reaching out to them. I would tell my freshman year self not to be scared to reach out more. And, like, don’t take bad classes. So, basically, talk to people and make new friends, and don’t take Econ 101.
A: Is there else you want to say?
CL: Wescam me! firstname.lastname@example.org.
William Halliday can be reached at email@example.com.