Spotlight: Shayna, Photo Intern

By Shayna Flanigan

When I agreed to write a blog post sharing my intern experience at Focus Lab this summer, one of the first things Cléa said to me was that I don’t have to write about how awesome everyone is.

Shayna@2X
The one and only Shayna Flangian.

 Well, that’s going to be difficult, because everyone IS awesome at Focus: whether it’s Erik’s lessons on Wednesdays, John’s ability to always find the perfect GIF for any situation, or the fact that nearly everything that comes out of Wilyo’s mouth is absolutely hilarious. 

There is something awesome about every person who works there. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to spend my Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays with. And though my time as an intern was relatively short, I learned more about a professional creative environment in two months than I have during my entire time at SCAD. 

Don’t get me wrong: in no way am I bashing what SCAD has taught me so far. SCAD taught me the fundamentals of becoming a creative professional. 

But there are some things that cannot be taught in a classroom.

 The most obvious of those things is the experience of having to think creatively while adhering to a strict timeline. Yes, at SCAD I am required to crank out a concept or project by a certain date. But if I’m really struggling to come up with an A+ idea, I can usually b.s. a mediocre concept in a way that works out in my favor. I found out very quickly at Focus Lab that I had to break that habit. Business—even when it’s creative—doesn’t work when an artist is static in his or her creative process. Only those who are actively striving for the bigger and better ideas will be productive and ultimately successful in their craft.   With that in mind, I also learned what it’s like to be in a genuinely collaborative environment. SCAD constantly pushes collaboration among peers and among majors, but there’s always competition. I’m reminded on a regular basis by my professors and other students that the creative job market is cutthroat. It’s always about being the best in your respective field or being the best at marketing yourself as an artist. 

It wasn’t until I interned at Focus Lab that I experienced what it’s like to be in an environment where everyone supports each other.

Honestly, it took me a while to get comfortable being vulnerable with my ideas, concepts, and opinions, because it was relatively new to me. Alicja pushed me in that regard and I cannot thank her enough for that. 

Speaking of Alicja, I’m so grateful for the time we spent together this summer. Even though the majority of our work was internal, I gleaned so much knowledge and experience from her that I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else. The amount of passion she has for the work she produces, and for photography in general, is beyond inspiring. 

School Apple1800
Shayna's still-life for a Sidecar article.

Alicja taught me what it’s like being a photographer and a graphic designer at the same time. Since graphic design is my minor and photography my major, I was curious to see how the two coexist. Alicja taught me to photograph through the eyes of a designer, which was totally new to me. The past year at SCAD, I’ve been immersed in the fine art/avant garde side of photography, so switching gears to a more calculated and, in a sense, formulaic style was a huge change for me. 

Thankfully, Alicja was patient with me. During my last few days with the Focus Lab team, I had to put all she taught me about concept development, pre-production, styling, and still life set production to the test. I could go into detail about that shoot and all the pre-production that went into it, or the iterations I made that ultimately came together to form the final shot… but to me, that doesn’t show what I learned during my time at Focus Lab. 

I learned how to be a part of a greater whole. This was the first time others relied on me to do my job on time while trusting my creativity. It was the first time my opinions and ideas affected a finished product for others to “consume.”

Seeing my photos on the Focus’ Instagram/website/Dribbble was a great feeling, because I knew that I delivered what was expected of me, and other people were enjoying it!

I couldn’t get that at SCAD, that’s for sure.

Looking back on my time interning with the Focus Lab gang under Alicja’s wing, I would say I learned how to be a part of a team. It’s something SCAD can’t really teach; SCAD gave me the tools and design foundation upon which I can build, but Focus gave me the experience of utilizing those tools. And I’ll be forever grateful for that opportunity.