Paula Burch-Celentano has photographed the faces and places of Tulane University since 1999. During the 2017 Unified Commencement Ceremony, Burch-Celentano will step from behind the camera for a day to receive a master’s degree from the Tulane School of Social Work.
“While shooting, I’ve always noticed the older female graduates and thought, ‘If they can get out of their comfort zones, I can do the same,’” said Burch-Celentano, who ironically prefers to avoid having her photo taken.
And she did.
“While shooting, I’ve always noticed the older female graduates and thought, ‘If they can get out of their comfort zones, I can do the same.’”
For the past two years, in addition to her full-time job as senior university photographer, Burch-Celentano attended classes, completed projects and worked an internship on weekends with the goal of accomplishing a task that was both out of her comfort zone and far from easy. The biggest leap, however, was leaving her family behind to study abroad in northern India, a trip she documented with a series of photographs and a short essay.
In addition to her son, Wyatt, 15, and husband, Donald, serving as her inspiration to follow through, Burch-Celentano said she was inspired by alumna Jane Wolfe—the subject of a photo she shot for a 2012 graduate profile. Wolfe, a then 47-year-old grandmother of two was featured in New Wave for earning degrees in religious studies and history.
After her degree is conferred on May 20, Burch-Celentano said she plans to continue working as a Tulane photographer. Ultimately she hopes to use photography as a tool to create awareness of social issues.
The commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 20, will be streamed live online. Follow Commencement 2017 on social media at #tulane17.
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