Last Tuesday afternoon I decided to visit the photo studio, except on my way there I realized, “Wait…where exactly is it?”. That’s right, I’m a senior art student and I am embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know where to find the photo studio in Hege- Cox until last week. It’s a tough place to find and while seemingly hidden away in the basement of the building, this space is by no means discrete.
Over the past week I had the opportunity to hang out with fellow art students and Maia Dery for Photo II/III. The class is composed of students at various places in their photography exploration. Everyone is given the option to either follow a provided syllabus or create a production plan, a DIY syllabus in which students are responsible for setting personal deadlines, creating projects and finding an area of focus. The in-class experience is highly collaborative; everyone is in constant conversation with one another, discussing theories and concepts of photography, workshopping or critiquing work.
Julia Breskin, ’14, is apart of Photo II and chose to create her own syllabus: “My intention is to take my semester’s body of work and transform it into a cookbook composed of Spanish-Jewish fusion food, based on my family heritage. Along with taking pictures I am writing my own annotated recipes. These pictures are part of a series of food portraits and process shots of Israeli Gazpacho.”
Now I must admit that I am not a photographer and furthermore know very little about photography. In fact, I would even go as far to say that I’m afraid of the camera — it gets a little too real for me.
Realness is unavoidable in photography. Photographs disclose, expose, acknowledge and tell the truth of our reality. At the same time though, they create beauty. This is exactly what we discussed on Tuesday from Susan Sontag’s On Photography, one of the most influential and referential photographic criticisms of our century.
According to Sontag, photography transforms reality, whether harsh or ordinary, into something beautiful. It takes the tough, everyday reality and create an unexpected or sometimes shocking beauty. By the Thursday critique I better understood my fear. The camera scares me because in a way, that is what it’s suppose to do. It approaches the unapproachable, acknowledges and exposes beauty from the ordinary and makes us look closer at what we easily pass by. Looking at students work I began to realize more and more that photography captures parts of life that I so often miss out on, even though I may interact with it everyday.
For example, James Escobedo, ’14, takes a look at identity and representation in his photography by exposing notions of racial hierarchy and gender identity: “This concept is important for me because I live in-between the borderlands of race, gender, sexual orientation and class. I never have the chance to explore what kind of impact this has on my out look on life and how I interact with the world. In collaboration with my models I want to discover what effect that living on boarders has on personal relationships. The focus of this project, in a visual sense, is the use negative spaces and how they impact relationships.”
Needless to say, big things are happening in the photo lab. Photographers are making photos of the everyday as it is relevant to their lives. These photographs are beautiful. They make you want to talk and ask questions. I encourage everyone to go to the studio and ask the people there what they are making photos of and why. You’ll leave knowing more than you did when you first arrived.