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StoriesFaith Ninivaggi ’21, Art & Design

Photojournalist documents the pandemic experience of teens

MFA in Photography and Integrated Media alumna Faith Ninivaggi documents history through her lens

When Faith Ninivaggi first picked up a disposable camera as a 9-year-old, she discovered a tool through which she could express and explore her inner voice. Later, as a photojournalist, it became a tool propelling her outward as she documented historic events. 

Parade of people in Speedos with Faith Ninivaggi in the center with cameras
Faith Ninivaggi, center, on assignment at the Santa Speedo Run in Boston

With a BFA in Photography from the Art Institute of Boston (now the Lesley College of Art and Design), Faith’s visual tenacity led to a career close to the heartbeat of the Boston community as a staff news photographer for the Boston Herald until Covid-19 led to her sudden layoff.

Without an editor to assign her projects for the first time in 19 years, Faith, now studying Photography and Integrated Media in our MFA program, began to review her own nearly two decades of personal and professional work while finding new subjects to document.

The pandemic provided an unexpected abundance of subject matter. A freelance project with ABC’s Boston affiliate WCVB 5 led to a documentary project photographing the city as well as the news crew’s experience working during the pandemic. She won a New England Emmy Award for a video created using her work.

Gen Z’s collective pandemic narrative 

Richer still were the opportunities for photography at home. Isolated with her teenage kids, Faith saw the need to tell stories of the pandemic’s effect on their generation. She pitched a story to Reuters on teens dressing up to mark the coming-of-age ritual of prom, even though most schools had canceled the dances. Faith recollects how the teens took advantage of the moment.

“They hadn't seen their friends in months, so they got to get dressed up and feel good about themselves and be photographed. I just tried to create a little slice of…I can't even say normalcy, but just opportunity for the kids.”

Those images, which became part of her MFA thesis, were the start of an ongoing portrait series that expanded as she spoke with teens in her community. 

She says, “I wanted to focus on the shared conversation we were having, especially during this time that was so hard for them. I think a lot of them needed to talk. They needed to connect. We all needed to connect.”

“I wanted to focus on the shared conversation we were having, especially during this time that was so hard for them. I think a lot of them needed to talk. They needed to connect. We all needed to connect.”
Faith Ninivaggi ’21

Her time in the MFA in Photography and Integrated Media program also helped her connect to her oeuvre.

“It really gave me time to pause and think about all the work I had been making throughout the past two decades of my life; that was important for me to move forward.”


Learn more about Lesley's MFA

Our two-year, full-time MFA in Photography & Integrated Media involves an intense focus on studio practice and seminar critique, combined with self-directed study in your area of personal and professional interest. You'll go beyond taking photos, to making images with traditional and alternative processes as you pursue your artistic vision.

The program begins once a year, in the fall (September).

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