JJC professor connects photo students with those in need
By Jeanne Millsap For The Herald-News January 29, 2012 8:14PM
Joliet Junior College photography students took this photo for the Pits for Patriots charity. | Photo courtesy Adriana Acevedo
Updated: March 1, 2012 8:02AM
JOLIET — A Joliet Junior College photography professor is looking for a few good charities.
Gene Alvear, who teaches Advertising and Still Life Photography, said his students’ first foray into shooting for not-for-profits worked out well for both students and recipients, and he said he would like to do more of that type of work.
Alvear, a professional photographer, started out teaching digital photography at JJC, then specialized lighting classes, fine art photography and nature photography. Advertising and still life are great for students who are looking at a career in the industry, he said.
Pits for Patriots
This past semester, a friend of his was talking to him about a new project — Pits for Patriots — an organization that brings together trained pit bulls and disabled veterans. The group needed some publicity help.
“It was just getting off the ground,” Alvear said, “and he wanted some advertisement. I thought it was a good idea.”
U.S. Army veteran and Pits for Patriots volunteer Keith Aguina said the organization needed some public recognition.
“We take rescued pit bulls and train them and test them,” Aguina said, “and use them as service or support dogs for disabled vets or for first responders … Pits, like veterans, are often misunderstood, but they are some of the best dogs as far as temperament and lovability.”
Aguina said he was overwhelmed at Alvear’s offer of a free photo shoot of the dogs and veterans for the organization.
“The caring that they showed, the generosity that they showed was amazing,” he said. “The most precious gifts come from the heart.”
Alvear said he first talked to his volunteer students about the requirements of the photo shoot, and they prepared for it in advance.
“It would have to be shot differently depending on whether they would use them for magazines, brochures, or other needs,” he said. “We shot it for every one of those situations, just in case.”
The subjects were two pit bulls and one puppy, an Iraq veteran, and Aguina in his wheelchair.
‘A win-win situation’
Photography student Adriana Acevedo of Lockport was one of the volunteers, along with Sonia Knutsen.
“It was a great group,” Acevedo said. “It was so much fun getting to know them. It helped open my eyes to see what they’ve done. Helping them out helped me out. I’ll be able to put it in my portfolio.”
Alvear said his students learn to shoot everything from table-top food spreads to custom cars, but working for the good of not-for-profits was something special.
“I wish there was even more of that,” he said of charity work for his students. “If I knew of more, I would do more with our students.”
Some of his former students are in The Viewfinders Club, and they joined up this month to do another charity project for the Joliet Area Community Hospice. About 10 volunteer photographers took family photos of the hospice patients and their loved ones.
“We’d love to do more community work,” Alvear said. “It’s a win-win situation. It introduces the students to a new medium, and it helps somebody in the community.”
To contact Alvear about not-for-profit photos, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.