Stripes on the GO with Gracie O'Neill '24: "The Camera Captures the Truth"

Senior Gracie O'Neill has been fascinated with photography for as long as she can remember. "When I was little, I took photos when I traveled and of my friends and family," she explained. "However, it became more concrete my freshman year when I took Foundations of Art and had a portion of that class with Ms. Ellen Erikson in photography. I have taken a photography class every semester of high school since."

Fast-forward four years, and Gracie now proudly stands before 25 images on display in the Crawford Campus Center Gallery as the Jazz Band serenades students, faculty, and staff stopping by her gallery reception.

"My love for sports photography lies in its authenticity," reflects Gracie in her Artist Statement. "Sports photography allows me to capture and freeze in time moments of pure athleticism, raw emotion, and heart-pounding action. The camera captures the truth."

Her exhibit, Stripes on the GO, is the culmination of many months of work and her Lilley Advanced Independent Study.

"I chose that title because I tried to demonstrate EA sports through the athletes Living the Stripes. 'On the GO' is because of my name Gracie O'Neill," smiled Gracie.

"It is truly special to see Gracie’s development as a person and artist culminate in this independent study. She has been a student of mine every semester I have been a teacher here," shared Photography Teacher Ellen Erikson. "Gracie took her interest and immersed herself in it. What I love even more, is that she took a little assignment from her Photo IV class and found a whole new side of photography that she naturally took to and excelled. She then took the initiative to apply for the Lilley Advanced Independent Study." 

"My independent study was designed to provide an in-depth exploration of photojournalism, specifically in the genre of photojournalism in sports," explained Gracie.

Armed with a Nikon D810 and 150-500m lens, her goal was to develop the artistic and technical skills critical to being an effective photojournalist. She also developed a better understanding of the ethical issues that arise when documenting real-world events and people through photojournalism. EA athletics was her "focus."

Juggling her own athletic schedule, "I started photographing the first week of school, trying my best to get to two events per week," explained Gracie. "In the final few weeks, I focused on choosing my most compelling and best images and sequencing them for my gallery exhibit."

Seventeen large prints strategically hang against the gray gallery walls along with a grid of 5x4 smaller images. Eight others are featured in the outside hallway.

"I’ve always had a natural passion for documenting athletics. I would always get excited when a photographer would come to one of my meets or games to photograph or even if a friend came and took photos on their phone," said Gracie. "Throughout high school, I developed a passion for journalism and the athletic world in general."

"She wasn’t just taking photos," pointed out Ms. Erikson. "Gracie researched different documentary photographers, and even met with one, and analyzed their process and style, learning more about the ethics of documentary photography."

"It was so exciting seeing my work up in the gallery!" beamed Gracie. "Finally seeing my best images printed and hanging up is fulfilling."

"Gracie's Lilley Advanced Independent Study is a sublime work weaving the many facets of community, sports, and Stripes so distinctive of The Episcopal Academy into the tenants of the Lilley Advanced Independent Study," said Director of Libraries and Lilley Fellow Program Director Lorie Harding. "Our graded, honors-level course option that allows students to deeply explore a topic firmly within a particular discipline for either a semester or entire year is an incredible opportunity. Students work with an Upper School faculty member to devise their own curriculum, objectives, and projects culminating in disseminating their work through pertinent outlets." Applications for the next round of Lilley Advanced Independent Study opportunities are due May 1.

"Ms. Erikson has been such a big help to me every year of high school," said Gracie. "She is always so patient and dependable."