Brandywine student uses flexible degree to pursue creative passion

Azariah Shelton photographing nature.

Azariah Shelton, who is majoring in letters, arts, and sciences, is completing a 300-hour internship with a freelance photographer. 

Credit: Mike McDade

MEDIA, Pa. — For a Penn State Brandywine senior who embraces creativity, the letters, arts, and sciences degree allowed her to craft an individualized path of study built upon her passion for art and photography.

Azariah Shelton, who is scheduled to graduate in December, is completing a 300-hour internship with freelance photographer Bernard Campbell.

“I’m an artist,” Shelton said. “I like to paint, I like to do makeup, and I like photography. I thought, why not get more hands on with photography since I do the other two more often.

“And then once I got the hang of it, I really fell in love with it. Telling a story through photos is really interesting.”

During the internship, Shelton has learned technical aspects of photography, including editing photos, and how to manage the environment of a photo shoot. She’s also learned how to work with clients.

“I like taking photos of nature, so one assignment was to take pictures of nature and edit them and just be creative and see what I came up with,” she said. “It helped me get a feel for the camera.”

Campbell then gave her feedback on the photos.

“I’ve learned a lot about myself as an artist,” Shelton said. “There were a lot of things I didn’t know that Bernard has taught me. I thought I knew so much about shadowing and lights and color combination. When you edit a photo, you realize what fits and doesn’t go.”

Campbell said he’s watched Shelton’s skills and confidence grow during the internship.

“As we talked about the ability to get the shot at any cost and blend in with the crowd depending on the client’s need or the eye of the artist, she began to understand composition and acquire a level of comfort with crowds while shooting,” Campbell said.

“Continuing to see her grow to now arranging, participating and completing photo shoots and makeup sessions on her own is very satisfying as a mentor,” he added. “Seeing her accomplish this level of growth within the time of her internship shows an inner strength and a maturity to cultivate relationships.”

Campbell said Shelton’s experiences included seeking photos in the Philadelphia Navy Yard, calculating light in an old Harlem theater in New York, contacting sources for dates and itinerary information for client calendars, and exploring artistic image placement in a church banquet hall. She also was the principal makeup artist on a model portfolio upgrade behind the Philadelphia Art Museum.

“What continues to stand out is the ‘can't stop, won't stop’ attitude concerning her desire to create art,” he said. “Whether it’s using the camera or makeup palette or even the paint brush, she loves art and wants to leave her mark somehow.”

Shelton settled on the LAS degree in consultation with her adviser, Patricia Hillen, assistant director of academic affairs and associate teaching professor of English.

“She talked with me about my career interests and career paths and my options,” Shelton said. “The LAS degree was very interesting to me.”

Hillen said letters, arts, and sciences allows students to tailor their own aspirations in a way that may not be available in other degrees.

“LAS was a perfect degree for her,” Hillen said. “The interdisciplinary facets of the LAS degree allow Azariah to focus on her creativity, combining her internship in photography with her classes in art and communications and American studies, and bring them all together.”

Hillen said that on a Brandywine Global Programs trip to London and Liverpool in 2017, Shelton carried her sketch book constantly, capturing her impressions of British and American cultural influences.

“Everyone on the trip knew her as the student with the sketch book,” Hillen said.

Shelton said that through her internship she "learned a lot about my creativity and how I continue to grow as an artist,” and she built on her past experiences, include working as a makeup artist at a hair salon. Her interest in art has continued from high school, and she has taken several drawing and painting classes at Brandywine.

After graduation, Shelton hopes to pursue a career in art or photojournalism.

“I know I want to be in the art field,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to do something with photography. I know art is a hard field. You have to continue working and building. It’s not just something that happens overnight. But I would love to do something with photojournalism.”