By Mya Blanton, journalism student
As a final requirement before graduation, Hannah Smith, a Baylor graduate student, completed a defense for her master’s project, which highlights the beauty of Waco’s past, present, and future.
Smith drew inspiration from Fred Gildersleeve, a documentary-style photographer who captured thousands of photos of Waco sites in the early 1900s, to look back on Waco’s history to understand its past and be able to document its growth.
“Gildersleeve became a pioneer in the field of industrial photography and was there to photograph it all and, in turn, immortalize this time period for Waco,” Smith said.
In order to reflect further on Waco’s history, and the photography of its time, Smith was inspired to create something from a historical standpoint: “Waco through the Lens of Time.” Her work is documented on Instagram as “the_waco_project.”
The Waco Project was created by Smith in order to continue the work of Fred Gildersleeve while shedding light on the growth of Waco. She worked in collaboration with the Texas Collection at Baylor University, which has preserved and archived Gildersleeve’s original photos.
"In Hannah’s 'Waco through the lens of Time' Master’s Project, she successfully melded material from the archives of the Texas Collection here at Baylor with her own documentary photography to create a unique, well-crafted and original body of work. This project should find any number of avenues for publication and exhibition," said Dr. Clark Baker, associate professor, who served as Smith's faculty adviser for her master's project.
Established in 1923, The Texas Collection is a special library, archival research center, and the University Archive that collects, preserves, and provides access to materials documenting the history, heritage, and culture of Texas for the Baylor community and the public.
“The Waco Project is a social media documentation of Waco’s history and where it has come since then,” Smith said.
Through the use of Instagram, Smith was able to present her work, and the work of Gildersleeve, to college students in an attractive, attainable, and accessible manner.
Her goal was to encourage students who find themselves trapped in the “Baylor Bubble” to feel more inspired and connected to the community that surrounds them.
“Social media is an interactive and engaging way to publish information and photos,” Smith said.
Inspired by the rich history of Waco, Smith hopes to give a new life to Waco’s history through her photography.
“Waco is entering a new period of rebuilding, revitalization, and redemption,” Smith said, “and documenting this process will be beneficial to future Wacoans as Gildersleeve’s work has been beneficial to us.”
“I want Waco to be known by Baylor and Baylor students,” Smith said, “...giving new life to Waco’s history is important to Waco, and it’s important to me.”
In the future of the Waco Project, Smith said that she hopes to highlight local businesses and activities for Baylor students, while also looking at how this project could potentially affect other Texas towns.