In The Mind of a Musician

At age three, i realized my intense passion for a melody. My breath continuously got stolen away by the gentle strumming of my father playing guitar. The classical sounds that echoed throughout my house sent me into a tizzy; giving me a safe haven to dream in. It was by the age of eight, after the horrific day known as 9/11, that I learned how expressing my thoughts through music meant so much more than any other activity I’d previously participated in.

Pencil to paper, fingers to frets, pick to steel; I didn’t know the impact these little motions would have on my entire being. I began crafting melodies in my head. The sound of a guitar radiated through each ear without any instrument even being played. I quickly delved into an array of dark topics as a songwriter, ranging from depression to anorexia, from a bitter divorce to the dangers of drunk driving. Each lyric I write has always been arranged in such a way to provoke thought in the listener.

More than 500 songs later, here I am. I am 21 years old, on the cusp of a regional winter tour, and working to change the face of the music industry. I hold onto each of my guitars with pride, with the full intention of continuing to create work that everyone can find a small piece of themselves in. Even if it’s just a single line. There’s something very valuable in having the ability to captivate an audience through the words you string together.

This collection of photos replicates what a looking glass would show you of my songwriting process. frustration, celebration, exhaustion. My cheeks get flushed red as I pour myself into every single second of a writing session, and I detach a piece of my heart to stick in the middle of each song. It’s therapeutic, but the final product is so much more than just a three minute representation of my emotions. This is merely but a glance into my creative and musical mind, but I hope that these photos give you an idea of how this process has given me the ultimate outlet to submerge myself in.


Influential Locations

Do you remember that one place you used to visit all the time? One that contains a lot of memories? Can you remember a place that had a heavy impact on your life? For me that place is Laurel Acres Park. I decided to do my project on Laurel Acres Park because it is a location I have held close to my heart for many years now. It has been a few years since I stepped foot in the park itself. This project is what caused me to return to the park from my childhood. The park had an overwhelming sense of nostalgia. Throughout our lives we visit a variety of places that we often forget shortly after we leave. However, with this project I wanted to express how some of these locations can impact us for the rest of our lives. Laurel Acres had a great impact on me when I was younger simply because the different atmosphere it offers compared to my usual surroundings.

In the project I aimed to take photos that made it seem like I was a kid again walking around Laurel Acres Park. I wanted to show the very images that impacted me as a child. The very views that actually influenced how I grew as a person. I often visit Laurel Acres park in my down time. There were a lot of moments that left impressions on me in that park. Half of my childhood memories are from that park. I wanted to capture the wonders of Laurel Acres with the camera I used. I wanted to capture the atmosphere and type of place Laurel Acres is with my photos. To me this park offers an escape from the ever growing civilization we now live in. Every time I go to this park I am reminded of what it is like to take a step outside of society and into nature. My photos are meant to express how a single location can impact or influence a persons thoughts by merely offering an amazing view.

Lights Out in Atlantic City: Only A Memory


I live in a beautiful beach town in New Jersey called Margate.  It is just 10 to 5 minutes away from Atlantic City.  I love Atlantic City and all of the fond memories I hold with it.  From work to play to family vacations I always love it and always created wonderful memories.  But, Atlantic City is not what it used to be anymore.  There are fewer tourists, fewer casinos, more unemployment, and more vacant buildings than ever before.  As I was driving through Atlantic City, I thought to myself, “How sad, people will never experience Atlantic City the way I experienced.”

I saw a sign that read, “Welcome to the World Famous Atlantic City Boardwalk” I looked around and saw no one, no tourist anywhere.  This leads me to the point of the photo essay. It is to show people what will happen and what is happening to the world famous Atlantic City.  The lights are dim, the buildings are losing its shine and the streets and boardwalk are empty. During the summer I worked in Atlantic City where many of my customers were very displeased by the surroundings in Atlantic City and said they did not know if they would be back.

I want people to understand that if everything keeps closing and shutting down, Atlantic City will become just a memory. I chose to make my photos look old to give them a vintage feel.  Making the photos look old will allow the audience to view them as if Atlantic City was just a memory. I hope these photos make people more aware of what can happen to Atlantic City if we do not support it.

The Broken Down and Forgotten


All across the nation, we are constantly faced with the fact that our economy is failing. This can be seen through the growing amount of lost businesses and homes. For this photo essay, I wanted to bring attention to what happens after these once booming businesses and occupied homes have been left behind. In order to do this, I have traveled to a variety of locations in South Jersey and captured photos of the different types of destruction these buildings now face.

Throughout this essay, you will see a once booming Friendly’s restaurant located in Turnersville, New Jersey; an old computer repair shop located in Blackwood, New Jersey; and an old WaWa located in Sicklerville, New Jersey, after they were each closed down. Photos of the buildings truly crumbling in on themselves from the lack of upkeep, signs covered in vines after being left on the ground, and torn apart gates protecting back entrances are just a few examples of the photos that can be found within to show just how run-down these businesses are now.

In regards to the abandoned homes, I have captured a variety of photos from two locations; one of which is in Winslow, New Jersey, and the other in Blackwood, New Jersey. Through these photos, you will be able to see exactly what has happened to the overall structure of these buildings that used to be considered a home to a variety of people. Images of broken windows, fire damage, graffiti tags, and knocked down mailboxes are just a few representations of this ruin.

As you, the audience, look through this photo essay, I hope that you are hit with a new appreciation for what happens to businesses and homes such as these after they have closed down or been foreclosed on.

Down the Rabbit Hole

By: Denia R Martinez


Gambling. Some people see it as a fun way to pass the time while on vacation, others as a profession; but there are those few…million people who do become addicted to gambling. Gambling addiction is one of the hardest addictions to overcome with the highest suicides rates because it is completely mental. It is literally mind over matter.

But whose fault is it that people get addicted? Is it in someone’s genetic make-up to become addicted to the slots, or doubling down on blackjack or playing the ponies? How are casinos making it so that people will come in and put down their hard-earned money and waste it away on the chance, the very slight chance that they might make it big? People have tunnel vision when it comes to gambling. It’s all about the next big score or they just need to get their luck back. And if they lose their money, well they can just acquire more in order to “win their money back.” (If I had a dollar for every time I heard that I wouldn’t have student loans.)

Casinos… with their bright lights, free drinks (if you are playing on the slots or tables), easy access to your cash (for a fee) and their incentives to go from a red label card (no perks, only comp dollars) to the black label card (free parking, shorter lines, exclusive lounge) to the titanium card (free parking, an even more exclusive  & upscale lounge, and higher level room accommodations) that would have most people be all about getting to the next level.

Casinos do make it as easy as possible for people to be able to access their money from ATMs, to check cashing, and cash advance (all three for a fee) or depending on certain criteria they can apply for a credit line that is connected to their personal checking account (no fees). And once you see how it is to borrow money, you keep doing it. And if you run out, then you ask for a little more, then a little more until you increase your line so high and lose so much money that you go bankrupt. In the 6 years that I have worked at Borgata, I have seen it happen countless of times.


Kelci and Conner Throughout the Years

I had a very difficult time coming up with a subject for this photo essay that would have a deep meaning. I wanted to invest myself in a topic I was passionate about and a point I would like to share with my class. I am fascinated with people and emotions, and one subject kept coming back into my head. I wanted to explore the relationship between my younger brother and I. My parents divorced and my father remarried when I was almost two. He and his new wife gained custody of me and even though she was not the woman who gave birth to me, she became my mom. When I was four years old my parents asked me what I wanted more than anything in the whole world. I told them a bike. About 7 months later, I still didn’t have a new bike, but I had a new baby brother. I was so in love with my baby brother, wanting to be with him every minute, to watch over him and keep him safe. My little brother, Conner, is now 17 and even though he towers over me I can still say the same thing is true. Conner is truly my best friend in the entire world and that is what I wanted to portray through my photo essay. My goal is to show in the 17 years that have passed and been captured on film, together Conner and I have experienced countless heartbreaks, accomplishments, tragedies, and celebrations. However, through it all nothing in our relationship has changed- it has only been made stronger. My intent was to put the pictures from the past, next to my remade photographs of Conner and I in order to show the passing of time. I wanted to show that although time passes in the blink of an eye, it is wonderful to be able to look back at old photographs and reminisce.

Nature Vs. The Human Footprint: Photo Essay


The goal of my photo essay is to demonstrate how something as beautiful as nature is being impacted by the human footprint. Many of us overlook the beautiful sunrise that occurs in the early morning, and turn a cold shoulder to the countless amount of trees being cut down to build yet another building complex. We are loosing sight of the beauty that we are stealing from our world just for the sake of our wants. I want to show how if we continue on in this manner how it will be ultimately devastating for our future generations. What beauty will they look forward to seeing if there is no natural beauty left?

Something many of us forget is how untouched nature actually appears in its pure state. By this I mean I was to show trees, a sun rise, and things that have yet to be impacted by the human footprint.  Some may have never seen an area such as one I am describing. They may have simply witnesses what I am showing as the contrast between nature and human impact. For example I may take a picture of a sunset with a sign for a business in the background. I want it to ultimately show the turn in how our world is interpreting and interacting with nature. Are they seeing it with no interference or are they viewing that sunset with a large sign standing in their way?

-Ashley DeBella-McNemer