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The Power of Women: The Red Lips Project

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On Friday, Feb. 23, I walked from Parrish to one of my favorite places on campus: the Women’s Resource Center. As I got closer, I could see the strings of light hanging in the windows of the second floor contrasting with the darkness of the evening.  When I entered, I was greeted by the comfortable vibe radiating from the WRC.

I walked up the stairs to see people strategically placing lamps on the floor and spreading lipsticks out on the table to the sounds of Beyoncé. A photographer walked around the room, testing the lighting to ensure the area was ready for all the photos that were about to be taken. I had entered the Red Lips Project.

The Red Lips Project was founded by Swarthmore alumna Aditi Kulkarni  ̇̕17 after her sophomore year. The project came from simple beginnings, later developing into the powerful movement that it is today.

“I felt like in my life, there wasn’t necessarily a space for me and my friends to kind of be open about how powerful they were, and I didn’t like that, and I wanted to see that change. I’ve always been really interested in photography and I’ve loved taking pictures of my friends,” Kulkarni said, discussing the conception of her project. “So it sort of just started with me wanting to take pictures of my friends and I thought that red lipstick was a really powerful way to show off the intrinsic strength present in all women.”

On Friday, however, there wasn’t just red lipstick; there was a multitude of shades so those who came could choose the color that best suited them. After applying their chosen color, often with the help of a friend, Kulkarni would then take the attendee’s photo. Once the photo was taken, they would then move on to one of the most moving aspects of Kulkarni’s project.

The next portion of one’s participation in the project is perhaps the most difficult. After having their photo taken, attendees would be recorded answering a single question: “What makes you feel powerful?” This seemingly simple, succinct question is incredibly thought-provoking and can bring about incredible answers.

“I loved the photos. But I didn’t want it to just be about the photos,” Kulkarni explained. “I wanted it to kind of show their stories, so I thought that a quote about what makes them feel powerful accompanying the photo would be the best way to kind of showcase that.”

During her time at Swarthmore, Kulkarni’s project had to slow down due to the hectic nature of college life. After graduating, she was able to bring the Red Lips Project back to life. Though having more time to pursue the project was important, Kulkarni was also strongly motivated to create a space for women to feel powerful as a result of the election and the topics of discussion that are so often on the news. Kulkarni also spoke of the Me Too movement and the inspiration it provided to her, especially since their goals are similar.

Citlali Pizarro ̕ 20, the diversity peer advisor for the WRC, played a key role in bringing the Red Lips Project to Swarthmore for the relaunch. Pizarro has been working with Kulkarni on the project, giving her feedback and ideas.

“It reminds me of all the strong women in my life,” Pizarro said, discussing the project’s meaning. “It reminds me of [Kulkarni’s] strength, it reminds me of the strength of all the women who raised me, and it keeps me grounded.”

Pizarro shared one of the powerful women she sees in her life, her mother.

“She’s an incredible woman who is incredibly powerful. She is a curator of art … and [is] into art as resistance. She taught me that art can be super powerful,” Pizarro explained.

Her mother’s passion for the arts has trickled into Pizarro’s life as well, as seen in her love of theater, poetry, and spoken word.

The importance of the space was lost on no one. For some, the experience was deeply personal and reflective. For others, it was empowering and joyful in its nature. Regardless, having the space was a powerful moment for everyone involved.

“A big part of my identity is that I’m a feminist,” shared Alliyah Lusuegro ̕ 20, who attended the event. “So I think being empowered and showing others through this social media project different, diverse faces of women who feel beautiful is a really great thing.”

Kulkarni’s goal of creating a space where women could feel empowered was undeniably reached on Friday. Even if you didn’t have a photo taken, the joy of everyone in the room was palpable. Seeing people’s eyes light up when they saw their photo was an incredible thing to witness. What made this event even more amazing was seeing that female-identifying people of all races came to the event, further showing that representation in the arts and in life matters.

Kulkarni hopes to see the movement grow and gain back the momentum it had during her time at Swarthmore.


Profiles in Art: Olivia Smith

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One of the first things that is easily noticed upon arrival at Swarthmore is the incredible amount of art that students create every day, which often goes unnoticed. From my own experience, for people from smaller, more rural areas, the exposure to different forms of artwork can be limited. This is not the case at Swarthmore. Those inside and outside of the art department tell stories about the world around them in unique and creative ways. These stories are what drive this series to create pieces that highlight the thoughts and works of different Swarthmore artists.

Olivia Smith ̕̕̕̕̕̕ 21, a prospective economics major with French and math minors, is one of many incredible artists sharing their work at Swarthmore. She is a photographer who has been heavily involved in the Kitao Gallery since last semester and has recently become president of the Swarthmore Photography Club, which she is working to expand during her time in the role. Smith’s involvement with these organizations gives her a unique perspective on art at Swat, making her the perfect person to start this series. While she studies at Swarthmore she hopes to take foundational drawing as a means to balance her photography work with other mediums.

“Because I consider myself a photographer, I consider myself an artist, but I don’t know if I have a very good definition of what art is, so things can get a little confusing. I think everyone’s an artist in some way or another,” Smith explains.

“I guess I like making beautiful things not in the beautiful ‘pretty’ sort of way, but the beautiful ‘enrapturing’ way. I definitely think art is a cultural, and hopefully cross-cultural, unifier, so I’d like to say I contribute to that somehow … but who really knows?” Smith went on.

Art has been part of Smith’s life for a long time. “I remember two photos that I would call my first artworks. One was of three stuffed animals, one of which was holding a sign that read ‘forgotten’ with misspellings and poor handwriting. The other was of song lyrics from ‘Little Talks that I had collaged and hung from a hanger. I was pretty angsty in middle school,” she reflected. Along with those pieces, she also loved taking photos of words and graphics.

“While I started as more of a architecture/street photographer, I moved more to portraits and shoots with models because I have a friend back in St. Louis who would go on small expeditions with me. I have to give her a lot of credit for my work over the years; she is such a motivator,” Smith detailed.

“Within the realm of those model shoots, I often find myself fighting with my feminist anti-objectificational views that clash with taking pictures of women, but really anyone. This internal struggle always results in the conclusion that my portraits should not just be a picture of a human being, but a picture of an identity, and one that should have the primary goal of empowerment for the model,” Smith explains as she connects how the struggles of photography enable her to tell stories. This goal of empowerment is evident in the photos she takes and how the models are portrayed.

“I’d say that to be a photographer you have to have a sense of adventure,  and to some extent, rebellion. It ultimately makes the actual act of the photoshoot a work of art as well,” she concluded, “Once I had to convince an enraged campus security guard from calling the real cops on us for setting off smoke bombs near a school. Oops.”


Environment and Culture: Bode Wang’s photography of the Miao people

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Recently students at Swarthmore have had a beautiful accompaniment while studying for midterms and churning out essays in McCabe’s second floor Cratsley Lounge across the large globe. Colorful windows into a pastoral life hang on the walls contrasting the familiar picture outside of the frame of students with readings strewn across the blue couches and McCabe coffees in hand. These photographs depicting lives of the Miao (Hmong) peoples in southwest China’s Hunan province are on display on McCabe’s second floor thanks to the efforts of the Bi-Co East Asian Languages & Cultures Department. The photographer and scholar behind these works, Bode Wang, captured the intimate details of the environment, human communities, social customs, and religious practices in his county of Fenghuang.

This past Wednesday, Bode Wang completed a circuit of presentations through the TriCo with a talk at Swarthmore. As the audience settled into the small throng of chairs set up in McCabe’s atrium, they noticed their future presenter darting around the periphery. Camera in hand, Wang was ushered through McCabe by Professor of East Asian Language and Culture Yonglin Jiang who — fittingly for his temporary role as a tour guide — maintained an impressive backwards stride. Snapping a few final photographs of his audience, Wang settled in at the podium joined by his translator Syuah Luo.

As Miao himself, Bode Wang was particularly focused on providing his audience with an accurate and extraordinarily in depth understanding of the lives and culture of this Chinese minority group. Opening with a map, Wang took the audience through a lesson that delved into nearly every facet of the Hunan province’s environment, threading rivers into the landscape and encircling the entirety of the province with mountain ranges. After taking his audience through the caves and lush forests of the mountainside, Wang allowed the small ancient county of Fenghuang to enter the picture.

The ancient town emerged around the Tuojiang River and over time wrapped itself around the emerald waterway with stone bridges capped with sweeping roofs. However, its banks still hold the same stilt houses that the Miao have built for generations. While the outward beauty of this county is captivating, one of the most unique aspects of Fenghuang county is its population, which is over 60 percent Miao.

“As we look at the landscape of Fenghuang county, we can begin to understand the fundamental question of how the land influenced the Miao culture,” Wang relayed to the audience.

Slowly the facets of Miao culture began to lock into place with corresponding aspects of their shared culture and environment, such as the silver ornaments Miao women wore in the city squares in Wang’s photographs. They clicked with the cultural memory of wearing silver during the many, long migrations their people undertook.

“The use of obvious silver ornaments was to facilitate travel for the Miao who underwent the dangerous migration through the mountain passes  known as ‘carrying home during travel,’” said Bode Wang as his photographs lit up the screen behind him.

A long scarlet table extends toward a misty horizon. On either side, men and women gather around hot pots, some wearing traditional clothing and some younger members of the assembly wearing North Face and holding smartphones. In other photographs, women gilded in silver look over the shoulders of men seated for an evening meal, a canopy of crimson paper lanterns seeming to float gently above them. However, in the majority of cases, Bode Wang preferred to direct his camera toward the land where he grew up. Velvety green mountainsides with cascades of mist running down their faces, and the glassy bottle green surfaces of the rivers are photographed with a special tenderness.

While some of the pieces are on display in McCabe, the exhibit’s center is off campus. Bryn Mawr College currently holds the majority of Wang’s work on display for this exhibit. Bryn Mawr’s professor Jiang planned the event in conjunction with the 360˚ course cluster, “Eurasia in Flux: Trans-Siberian Perspectives on Russia and China.”

Professor Jiang hopes his students  that Wang’s presentation, “will help enrich their understanding and appreciation of the dynamic relationship between the environment and ethnic culture on China’s borderlands.”

Bode Wang’s exhibit “Fenghuang Landscape and Miao (Hmong) Culture” will remain on display in Mccabe’s second floor lounge until April 13th.


List honors legacy of photographer Bruce Cratsley

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Walking into the List Gallery, now featuring “Bruce Cratsley: Shifting Identities,” one is struck by the vastness of Bruce Cratsley ’66’s portfolio.  The exhibition highlights images taken between 1977 and 1999 on Cratsley’s twin lens Rolleiflex camera, showcasing a range of subjects from participants in a gay pride parade to marble statues in a museum. Lectures and events will accompany the exhibition until it closes on October 30.

List Gallery Director Andrea Packard ’85 and Studio Art Instructor Ron Tarver curated the exhibit. Of Cratsley’s over 2,000 images, they were challenged to select only a limit amount for presentation.  

“As curators, you not only pick the artist,” Packard said, speaking to the difficulty in choosing these images, “but you have to think, ‘What are the best physical objects which represent the artist’s visions?’”

Throughout such a vast corpus of work, Cratsley frequently juxtaposed shadows and light to add a unique quality to his black and white photos.  

Tarver, who also is a staff photographer with The Philadelphia Inquirer, said, “Bruce’s work is all about light and texture, and sort of creating a mood with light, and how he used light to sort of sculpt his images. His focus is all on light and shadow.”

One theme in Cratsley’s photographs is especially poignant. By documenting the LGBT community and the AIDS crisis over the course of his career, he confronted topics in the 1980s, which were controversial when these images were captured and are still so today.

Tarver said, “It was a time when [this] wasn’t really talked about, but he was one of the first photographers to sort of push that idea of photographing mainly gay pride, putting it out there, and then turning it into art, and documenting it.”

A series of portraits of David, one of Cratsley’s partners, specifically reflects the toll of contracting AIDS.  At the time of these pictures, there were many myths surrounding the syndrome, which fed into paranoia and prejudices. Cratsley himself contracted AIDS and passed away in 1998.

Packard remarked on her own experience of graduating from Swarthmore and observing the impacts of the disease, explaining that there are still societal impacts to deal with today.

“That crisis manifested aspects of the best and worst of humanity, and those underlying qualities about human society … those underlying habits of both caring for each other and sometimes distancing ourselves from others are still prevalent, and we still have to work hard to overcome that sort of habitual and hurtful thinking.”

For Cratsley, though, there was no dominating single subject or theme. His diverse work included, among more, portraiture, still life images, and scenes captured in window reflections.  

“The show in its nature kind of delves into a lot of his different modes of working,” noted List Gallery Intern Blake Oetting ’18.

Packard commented that it can be important for students to see such a range.  

“I think it’s good for artists to know, young artists learning photography or any medium, that artists study and engage with lots of different things. We don’t have to be specialists in one,” Packard said.

To develop and create his photographs, Cratsley used two and one-quarter-inch negatives which were exposed in a darkroom. During this process, Cratsley varied levels of exposure to create different effects in lighting — a physical process that many duplicate today digitally.  He also did not use a glass collodion, which usually forces the negatives to lie flat, when printing, resulting in final prints which are not perfectly square. This effect is noticeable in his works currently on display.  

“If you go to the exhibit,” Tarver noted, “you may notice that the matte and the edge of the print isn’t necessarily parallel, and that’s because he didn’t use the glass plate.  From an aesthetic point of view, that’s probably where he … did his own thing.”

Trained by photographer Lisette Model, Cratsley was introduced to a distinct style early in his career. Model’s work is, according to Tarver, “not very fussy.”  

“She would photograph people on the street … very unposed,” he said.

Packard explained that Model defined photography as “the art of the instant,” and noted that Cratsley’s works took full advantage of this motif.  

“That paradox of instantaneity and timelessness in an image is something that a lot of artists are drawn to, whether they’re painters or photographers,” said Packard. “I think his work is interesting in that it really is an exemplar of that.”

“One thing I really am proud of with this show is the way Bruce did not define himself solely by one thing,” noted Packard. “He wasn’t solely a gay man, solely a person with AIDS, and the show [reveals] what a beautiful, full, life he led.”

The exhibition runs through October 30 with events occurring throughout its tenure. On Thursday, September 15, Tarver will deliver a lecture before an opening reception entitled “Bruce Cratsley’s Inspirations and Legacy.” The lecture begins at 4:30 p.m. in the Lang Performing Arts Center, and the reception is at 5:30 p.m. in the List Gallery.

Jasmin Rodriguez-Schroeder ’17 will speak at a closing reception on October 19 at 12:30 p.m., where an exhibition pamphlet created by Oetting will be available.

Pulitzer-winning photojournalist exhibits in McCabe

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On the Wednesday before break, Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist April Saul delivered a lecture on her work, currently on display at McCabe library and the List Gallery. Saul’s work, primarily based in the Greater Philadelphia area, documents the experiences of individuals and families in celebration, hardship, and their day-to-day lives.

“I always see myself as someone who is trying to help people understand one another better through my art, whether it’s in a newspaper or magazine or hanging on a wall,” said Saul. “My greatest passion is photographing families.”

Saul’s earlier work, displayed in McCabe, highlights this passion. During her lecture, Saul noted a major turning point in her work that came in 2005, when she followed around Victoria Yancey. Yancey worked with grieving families and employees in the Philadelphia School District. During her time spent with Yancey, Saul heard about the high number of children who lost their lives to gun violence. She subsequently produced a column, Kids, Guns, and Violence: A Deadly Toll, for the Philadelphia Inquirer to cover the children and their grieving families.

This brought Saul to her next body of work, currently displayed in the List Gallery, that focuses on documenting life in Camden, New Jersey. The exhibition brings to light many salient problems in Camden around poverty, guns, employment, and drug addiction, but tries to avoid the commodification of suffering.

“There’s tremendous heart in Camden,” said Saul. “Most of the residents are just trying to lead normal lives against really difficult odds.”

The exhibition also includes Saul’s photographs of mentoring organizations, pageants, and outdoor boxing matches to illuminate parts of Camden that are often overlooked by the media.

Throughout her lecture, Saul also discussed the process of documenting the lives of others, occasionally noting the friendships she formed with many of her subjects, or how and when she decided to pull out her camera equipment. These procedural blurbs helped explain Saul’s work and offered general insight to photojournalism or photography.

“Her work is fascinating and challenging because it’s the intersection of so many different kinds of practice,” said Andrea Packard, List Gallery Director and the curator of the exhibition. “Fine art, in the sense that she’s choosing images that have a…compositional clarity that…connects you with her subject matter. They’re obviously [also] documentary.”

Professor Ron Tarver of photography, who worked alongside Saul for the Philadelphia Inquirer, is responsible for bringing her work to the attention of Swarthmore’s Art Department and the List Gallery. On Wednesday, Tarver introduced Saul and her work, noting the countless awards she has received, as well as the tension between photojournalism and art photography.

“These photographs, from a photojournalistic point of view, are not art,” said Tarver. “They are documents that tell a story—that communicate. As photojournalists, we used to bristle with the word ‘art’…but what April does transcends photojournalism.”

Packard noted the various challenges that came with curating Saul’s photographs. For example, Packard and Saul were not able to display all the photographs they wished due to logistical issues—one individual did not like the way their hair looked in a photograph, and thus asked that it not be included in the exhibition. Respectfully, Packard did not include these images. Other challenges arose in navigating the sheer size of Saul’s work.

Although April Saul described trying to avoid the commodification of suffering, responses to the exhibition have been mixed. Zoe Wray ’16, one of the List Gallery interns, noted the generally skeptical responses of students she spoke to, who found the exhibit problematic.

“One thing I’ve heard brought up,” said Wray, “is that while Saul’s intentions might have been very good and she might have been genuinely trying to help the people she photographed by telling their stories, and telling a story that may not otherwise be told, that may not change the end result of how these pictures are perceived.”

Wray noted these responses in comparison to the positive responses of older adults that visited during her shifts monitoring the gallery.

“I don’t know why that is exactly,” said Wray on the somewhat polarized nature of the responses. “But perhaps it’s because, as Swarthmore students, we’re a lot more aware of the effects of images like that…What role is having these images in general serving, and what role does it have being exhibited specifically as art, specifically at a place like Swarthmore College?”

However, by generating such a wealth of conversation, the exhibition has already accomplished one of Saul and Packard’s goals.

“Viewing art can be a very solitary experience,” said Packard. “But my hope is that people would be in dialogue with others, conversing with others, about the experience. ‘This is how it made me feel, do you feel differently after reading the artist interview?’”

Saul’s work in Camden will be on view in the List Gallery until April 3. Free copies of the 70-page catalogue, which includes an essay by Packard and an interview between Tarver and Saul, will be available in the gallery and during the closing reception.

LPAC photo exhibit humanizes refugees

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Last Tuesday, the photography exhibit “Humanizing Humanity: A Day in the Life of a Refugee”, opened in the lobby of the Lang Performing Arts Center. The exhibit features images of refugees taken by several photographers which are displayed alongside short pieces of text telling the stories of the subjects of the photographs. Teya Sepunick, founder of Theatre of Witness, opened the exhibit with a guest lecture. In her speech Sepunick shed light on the use of art for support and advocacy.

“Theatre of Witness is a form of performance where people who haven’t had a voice in society are actually telling their own stories,” she explained. “It’s woven together with music, sometimes with visual imagery, sometimes with film. The purpose of it is to have people bear witness and humanize the other.”

In the course of her work, Sepunick has told the stories of a wide variety of people, from convicts within the US prison system, to runaway girls in Poland, to ex-paramilitary members in Northern Ireland. Through her art, she strives to bring disparate groups of people together with the ultimate hope of dissolving the tensions that hold them apart.

“My hope is to be able to see the other as self and when I bring people together who would be enemies — which I often do in my work — and they are able to model a coming together and listening to each other and they create their own piece — and that gives hope to people,” she said.

She uses her art to reach people, to approach them from an emotionally honest angle that leaves a lasting impact. The concept of “bearing witness” is central to her work; she’s motivated by a belief that personal testimony has a uniquely powerful ability to produce affective responses.

“For me, it’s ultimately about bearing witness and hoping that people can sometimes through the personal and sometimes through the artistic, there’s a way to open the heart up in a way that all the statistics and all the opinions and everything you read can’t always do,” said Sepunick.

Sepunick’s goals are similar to those of Rachel Elkind, one of the contributing photographers. The photographs she contributed were taken on the island of Lesvos in Greece earlier this winter. She headed there on her own in an attempt to make a difference.

“I went to Lesvos by myself to volunteer.. I went there to do whatever I could, not knowing exactly what that would be,” Elkind said.

While in Greece, Elkind began to take pictures in order to process what was going on around her. Those photos, which helped her make sense of the situation in Greece, are now being displayed in LPAC with the hopes that they will also help someone else make sense of what’s going on.

“Photographing the refugees was a way to see the situation more deeply. They would wait in the cold for days for everything from food to official documents of registration,” she said.

These photographs have become a way for Elkind to share what she learned in Greece. By taking and exhibiting photographs, Elkind hoped to document and expose some of the hardships experienced by the refugees, in order to help the viewer empathize with them and try to comprehend their ordeal.

“I was educated by the refugees. They would share their stories of why they left their countries and what their journey was like. I learned about their concerns as well as their hopes. It made me more compassionate and understanding of their history as well as their desires for the future,” said Elkind.

Sepunick also noted the significance of the photographs. She noted her admiration for the images, as well as the powerful purpose they could serve on campus.

“I think these photographs are really poignant and beautiful. Harrowing — some of them,” she said. “I think it’s so vitally important to see these images and to be reminded and to be moved. I think seeing a photo exhibit is different than just seeing a photo in the paper. These feel really beautifully done, really important.”

The event and exhibit were organized by students who hoped to provide a human face for the refugees who’ve been ending up in the headlines frequently over the course of the last year. Eriko Shrestha ’19, who organized the event was specifically motivated by what she saw as the failure of the media to provide a basis for that empathetic connection Elkind and Sepunick strive for.

“I organized it because I thought it would be a good continuation from the panel on the refugee crisis last semester, and because I feel really frustrated by the way the media covers the crisis with refugees,” Shrestha said. “Yes, they could be helpless, but they also have dignity, which the media fails to portray.”

Besides the desire to counteract the media coverage she finds frustrating, Shrestha is motivated by a personal desire to better educate herself on the experiences of refugees. She expressed admiration for the refugees’ strength in times of chaos and suffering.

“As someone who has migrated several times, I definitely empathize with their struggles,” she said. “ I’m aware that even though I follow the news religiously and I’ve been to several refugee camps, I am still only aware of a fraction of their story, but it’s enough to recognize that what they face requires a lot of strength to endure.”

The photo exhibition also includes photographs contribute from Jon Warren and Laura Reinhardt. The exhibit will be on display in the lobby of LPAC through this Friday, March 4, 2016.

Martin Froger-Silva ’16 shows photography in Kitao Gallery

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Last Friday night, approximately 90 members of the Swarthmore community flooded Kitao Gallery to see Martin Froger-Silva’s new exhibit, Travels. The opening began at 4:30pm with a small reception and lasted into the night with an open mic event and a solo show from Honey Pickup.


Martin Froger-Silva ’16 has traveled extensively both abroad and domestically, visiting a number of interesting locations including New York City, Washington State and London. His photographs at Kitao showcase different moments and scenes he has captured throughout his college career. In addition to the show at Kitao, he has also sold photographs to Hobbs Coffee.


The inaugural showing of Travels was curated and hosted by Tara Giangrande ’16, the Student Co-Director of Kitao, and Clara Habermeier ’17, the Student Deputy Director. One of the reasons they reached out to Froger-Silva was because they were familiar with his work. Giangrande and Habermeier were pleased with the exhibit and impressed with Froger-Silva’s photographs.

“I think Martin really has an eye for landscape pictures,” Giangrande reflected. “He is able to find really cool angles that other people might not see, and he works so much that he’s really refined what he does,” she said. “One thing that really stood out to me is the way that he conveys the expressiveness of the people in the photographs.” Habermeier added.

Martin Froger-Silva discovered the camera when he was thirteen years old while his mom was taking photography classes at a community college. On his first day of college, Froger-Silva went to media services and borrowed their camera — he would keep borrowing it day after day to take pictures of the Swarthmore campus.

Froger-Silva had traveled with his family before college, but continued upon matriculating at Swarthmore. He spent a semester abroad in London and has explored California and New York City.

“The opportunity to go somewhere offers the ability to explore a new place with my eyes and with my camera.” Froger-Silva said.

Froger-Silva enjoyed seeing the millions of people in London and believes that everything can be photogenic.

He is a versatile photographer both in terms of subjects and methodology.  He works with various types of cameras, including film, digital and his phone camera. He believes there are benefits to each tool, but remembers going “film crazy” in London, shooting 30 rolls of 36 frames throughout the whole trip.

“There’s always something to photograph, and then it’s fun to find millions of ways to photograph that one thing.” he said.

One of Froger-Silva’s inspirations is the landscape photography of Ansel Adams. He is particularly appreciative of Adams’ skill for photographing one thing multiple times to highlight its beauty. While Froger-Silva loves to take photographs, he identifies primarily as a filmmaker and is also inspired by cinematographers like Emmanuel Lubezki, who has worked on films such as “Birdman,” “The Tree of Life,” and other films. Despite his love for film, Froger-Silva carves a lasting space for photography in his life.

“It’s easy. I could learn how to paint, but that would take more time. With photography, you can instantly grab something. You can print it, put it in your pocket, have it on your phone, put it on your wall. Your physical wall I mean, not Facebook. I like it for the reason they advertise it: instant gratification.” Froger-Silva said.

Students who were friends of Froger-Silva, his professors, and students who were just becoming acquainted with his work all came to the event.

The nighttime event featured an open mic with stand up comedians, PJ Trainor ’16 and Simon Bloch ’17, as well as music from Dan Creem ’16, Joe Boninger ’16, Ben Xie ’16, Kyung Min ’18, and Colette Gerstmann ’18. The event ended with music from the band, Honey Pickup. Guests enjoyed listening to the acts and coloring pictures with crayons throughout the night. A sense of warmth and community permeated Kitao Gallery on Friday night.

Giangrande was initially unsure of how the event would go.

“It’s our first time trying out two events in one night. With the open mic and hangout space, we hope more people will come through.” Giangrande said.

Kitao Board Member, Natalie Flores Semyonova ’19 was pleased with the event and sees it as an indication of new developments for Kitao.

“We were really impressed with the turnout. Because of the big turnout, Kitao is thinking of moving more towards a hangout space for artists of all kinds to hangout and perform in open mic settings.” Semyonova said.

Daniel Eisler ’16, a member of the band Honey Pickup, echoed the sentiments of the Kitao staff and Froger-Silva.

“It was a cozy space for creativity, colors ran from crayons, there was comedy and so much beautiful music. I feel so lucky to have been a part of it.” Eisler said.

Travels by Martin Froger-Silva will be installed at Kitao Gallery for the next few weeks.


McCabe exhibit proves and takes pride in Black life on campus

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Bobby Zipp/The Phoenix
Bobby Zipp/The Phoenix

“It was as if blacks were invisible,” reads a quote from an anonymous Swarthmore alumna, understated and in tiny font on the wall directly across from the entrance to McCabe Library. Referencing the presence of Black students on Swarthmore’s campus and carefully lacking a timestamp — it could have been said yesterday — it is the introduction to an exhibition of Leandre Jackson’s ’75 work, entitled “Proof of Black Life,” which will be on display in the library until mid-March.

The goal of the exhibit is to bear audience witness to the life of Black Swarthmore students past the protests between 1968 and 1972. The images picture Black students playing piano, reading in the library, walking across campus. They are living, visibly, sometimes alone, and sometimes together.

One of the exhibit’s most effective artistic strategies is its combination of obviously deliberate pictures of students posing — on a tree in a composed lean, in front of the then-newly chartered Black Cultural Center — with candid snapshots of eating, reading, simply being. It is a look at a vibrant community that a majority had regarded as “invisible,” a community that is proud enough to pose and be shown in its most mundane, day-to-day proceedings.

“It was not so much that Black students were invisible,” the exhibition’s opening statement continues on to say, “as it was that many others at the college experienced a failure of sight.”

The exhibition powerfully contests the attitude of Black “invisibility” that manifests itself in statements like the one on the wall. They may have been believed invisible by their peers, but as far as the viewership of the images is concerned, the only students on campus were Black students.

The project was headed by Professor of History Allison Dorsey as part of the Black Liberation 1969 project. Dorsey worked in tandem with Cynthia Jetter ’74, the director of community partnerships and planning at the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility. She was familiar with and recommended Jackson’s work. Jackson is a prominent photographer, and most of his work is currently on display at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of the New York Public Library.

Jetter and Dorsey then scheduled a meeting for the three of them, after which, Dorsey says, “it was clear that the Black Liberation 1969 project needed access to the images from Mr. Jackson’s collection.” She managed to secure funding from Vice President for College and Community Relations and Executive Assistant to the President Maurice Eldridge ’61 for the exhibition, as well as for hundreds of Jackson’s images for McCabe’s permanent collections.

In tandem with Visual Resources and Initiatives Librarian Susan Dreher and Reference and Instruction Resident Jasmine Woodson, Dorsey began to get a vision of the kind of images that might be best to display and the installation best suited to the photographs.

The specific selection process of images from the expansive collection was incredibly involved. While the artist’s entire official collection of materials is likely as well done as the selections on display, the work in McCabe fits more specifically to Dorsey’s artistic and cultural visions, for the exhibition as well as for the underlying themes of her class’s project.

“I wanted to highlight certain themes in Black student life: academics, sport, creative expression in the form of music and dance,” said Dorsey. “I also wanted to capture images of Black students in moments of relaxation, fun and play, images which reflected the ways students experienced and enjoyed a sense of connection and community.”

These ideas are communicated expertly in the chosen photos. There is none of the upfront power of historical images of protest. It more closely resembles a personal photo album, with a friendly character spoken through the smiles or look of casual concentration on the faces of its subjects.

Sifting through the collection to find the most fitting was likely a daunting task, but Dorsey was not without some help.

“I had the assistance of Nora Kerrich [’16], who was enrolled in Black Liberation 1969 and has a very artistic sensibility,” said Dorsey. With Kerrich’s help, the final photo selections for the exhibition were made and the exhibition was primed.

The photos are undressed, sitting plainly on walls and in display cases with, at most, a brief description of what is pictured. They stand alone well in the absence of flourish or labored description. They may go unnoticed, in some cases, not unlike their subjects must have.


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