The Collegian
Thursday, February 29, 2024

Senior photographer explores identity while inspiring other campus artists

<p>A portrait of senior Sherley Arias-Pimentel in front of the Boatwright Library.&nbsp;</p>

A portrait of senior Sherley Arias-Pimentel in front of the Boatwright Library. 

University of Richmond senior Sherley Arias-Pimentel’s photographic work depicting Ghanaian culture during her time abroad last year recently helped her land the Imagining America’s Joy of Giving Something Fellowship for the 2022-2023 cycle.

As part of the fellowship, which was only awarded to eight students nationwide this year, Arias-Pimentel will develop a new photography series on a topic of her choice. Though the finer details of the project are still in development, she plans to explore narratives of identity and race. 

“I am leaning toward a photography series which kind of illustrates the Afro Latinx identity,” Arias-Pimentel said. “Like, what does that look like? And kind of explores this idea of race within a Latin American context.”

The Joy of Giving Something Fellowship provides undergraduate students with the financial resources to pursue a community-based, artistic project of their choosing, while also introducing them to a network of accomplished artists, as well as organizing creative workshops and seminars throughout the year.

Arias-Pimentel’s Joy of Giving Something series will not be the first of her projects to explore themes of identity. In collaboration with senior Julia Brittain, Arias-Pimentel produced an art exhibition displayed in the Carole Weinstein International Center titled “At the Intersection of Contagion and Connection: HIV/AIDS and Richmond’s LGBTQ+ Communities.” The exhibition consisted of a series of interviews with and photographs of AIDS and HIV survivors, activists, and educators from the Richmond area. 

“Ultimately, it was her project,” Arias-Pimentel said, referring to Brittain. “And then I came along as a photographer to kind of bring the people’s essence into the words that she had written and, like, the stories that they were telling.”

In an email to The Collegian, Brittain described Arias-Pimentel’s contributions to the visual aspect of the project as innovative. 

“She was able to bring a whole new dimension to the project that I would not have been able to bring out myself through her amazing talent and impressive eye for capturing the beauty in everyone and everything,” Brittain wrote.

Arias-Pimental’s talent for capturing beauty has also given rise to one of her most recent contributions to the University of Richmond community. This semester, she has played a key role in starting the UR Creatives club, a group dedicated to fostering a campus community of visual media artists of color and creating on-campus opportunities for student photographers and videographers.

In October, they held their inaugural photo walk, during which they walked around campus in a group, stopping occasionally to take photos while also building artistic partnerships. 

“Essentially, it’s kind of like mentorship in a way, because as you walk, if you see someone take a really cool photo you can be like, ‘Oh how did you do it?’ And then they teach you,” Arias-Pimentel said.

UR Creatives co-founder Frankie Davis Daniels said Arias-Pimentel’s passion for photography was infectious

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“To see her work, and her creativity with her work and how she puts things together, it’s just kind of awesome,” he said. “So that’s why I wanted her to be part of the growing process of UR Creatives.”

Brittain, too, made a point to mention Arias-Pimentel’s obvious passion for her work. 

“Sherley agreed to help me with this semester-long project simply out of the kindness of her heart and her deep passion for photography,” she wrote. “I could not think of a person more deserving of such a prestigious award.”

Arias-Pimentel attributes her seemingly endless creative energy to her passion for bringing her subjects to life through portraits. 

“I love it because I’ve heard it described as capturing a person’s essence and that’s the coolest thing to me,” she said. “And it’s also kind of cool because pictures freeze time. There’s just this timelessness to photography that I love.”

Contact features writer Kelsey McCabe at

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