Student Spotlight: UI art student captures unconventional themes through storytelling

From photographing Lizzo and Bernie Sanders to interviewing radical preachers, University of Iowa student Liv Harter is skilled in telling unorthodox stories.


Raquele Decker

University of Iowa student Olivia Harter takes photos in the Visual Arts Building on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020.

Sarah Stortz, Senior Reporter

Liv Harter knows how to capture an outlandish story, whether it’s through her camera, illustrations, or her own words.

Regularly contributing her artwork to Fools Magazine, the University of Iowa student said she was encouraged by one of her friends to attend one of the publication’s meetings her sophomore year.

“When I joined, it was a really nice way to get feedback on my photography and illustration, and it was also a good way to send it out into the world,” she said. “It was a really good medium for that. And I really like that they do a great job with being inclusive.”

Harter had the opportunity to photograph pop singer Lizzo during the UI Homecoming show last year. In preparation for the event, Harter said she felt overwhelmed.

“It was weird because it was sort of before she became super, super popular,” Harter said. “I just remember I bothered my photo editor all night because I was so nervous about getting the shots and I was so freaked out because it was dark and the lights were all crazy.”

Harter additionally photographed Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., during one of his visits to Iowa City last March. After the experience, Harter said photographing political rallies was far more stressful than shooting a concert. Although the rally had more consistent lighting compared to Lizzo’s performance, she said she felt more restricted by staying behind a bar and standing in a large crowd.

Alongside events, Harter said she loves to set up her own photo sessions, and recently completed a project inspired by Ophelia from Hamlet. In the photo series, she photographed her friends dressed in white garments while they were underwater.

While she mainly works with her digital camera, Harter said she’s currently experimenting shooting with film photography. Because of the limited film she has to utilize, Harter said it’s helped enhance her skills in digital photography more.

“I just think it makes me a lot more careful with what I’m capturing,” Harter said. “With film you can’t just continuously shoot like you can on digital. You have to be really careful.”

As for her writing, Harter is pursuing a project where she spoke with Christian protesters who’ve previously held signs on the T. Anne Cleary Walkway.

“The psychological reasons behind why they do that was just really interesting,” she said. “A lot of people have strong opinions, like I certainly do. But not all of us stand on corners and yell at people who don’t share those opinions.”

When she conducted her first interview, Harter said she felt so scared that she brought a friend along with her. However, she said it was an enlightening experience, helping her understand the protesters more as people.

She hopes to continue making unconventional work with all of her skills and talents.

“Personally, if I have an opportunity to make art, I want it to be something crazy and weird, and not something I would normally do,” Harter said. “I wanted it to be as weird as possible because I feel like you don’t get a lot of chances to do stuff like that [these days.]”