Diverse Display of Student Vision at Kitao Photo Opening

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Students setting up the show. From left: Virginia Hottinger '12, Heidi Wong '10, Emma Ambrose '12. Photo by Allie Lee.
Photo by Allie Lee.
Students and faculty both attended the show. Photo by Jiuxing June Xie.
Photo Jiuxing June Xie.
Photo by Allie Lee.
Photo by Allie Lee.

“Making art is about community and communication. You can create a project and leave it in a box under your bed, but the students’ ultimate satisfaction comes from being able to share [their] work,” said visiting professor of studio art Jessica Todd Harper. Two of Harper’s photography classes collaborated to present an exhibit that debuted at the Kitao Gallery yesterday afternoon. The gallery is holding further open hours this Wednesday and Thursday from 3-5PM. The show combines the work of nine students from the Black and White Photography class and four students working on Independent Study photo projects.

The opening was well attended; students and several professors munched on cheese and Milky Way bars while admiring the photos and speaking with the artists. Overall, the show did not have a unifying theme; the photography students had been assigned projects throughout the semester to guide them in their studies, but the subject and manner of execution for the final project was left to the discretion of the individual artists. This has produced a show with a great variety among the photos, in both subject and technique: from reflective self-portraits to dark industrial warehouses.

In the Black and White Photo class, Virginia Hottinger ’12 was inspired by a poem of e.e. cummings to explore the nude and nature. She used double exposure to create luminescent images of torsos covered by foliage. Carl Shapiro ’10 drew from his earlier projects, and depicted all-male gatherings, focusing on the isolation of individuals in social settings. He created three sets of images, each of four photos, one staged, one semi-staged, and one candid. Kathleen McNamara ’12 eschewed the human form and presented a series of intimate and organic close-up shots of bedsheets. “I started with a simple photo of a bed, but the images became more abstract. I wanted to make the sheets look like different things. Sand dunes, intestines, it’s really up to the viewer,” McNamara said.

Maria Khim ’10, in the Independent Study class, focused on portraiture and photographed Swarthmore professors in their natural environments. “I have had really amazing professors,” Khim said, “They are charming and have excellent personalities. I wanted to find out more about them.” Among the professors documented was French Lecturer Carol Netter, photographed with her collection of children’s toys. Netter, who grew up in France, did not have plastic toys as a child, leading to her toy-collecting hobby. Khim included jigsaw pieces on the photos to further illustrate Netter’s love of children’s puzzles.

All the participating students devoted a huge amount of time and effort to producing the show. “I spent about eight hours in the dark room for each of my sets,” Shapiro said. Hottinger’s own experiences seemed much in line with Shapiro’s. “I started weeks ago, and I was still in the studio from 10pm to 3am last night. Almost everyone in the class was there at least for a little while,” she said.

The student photographers presenting at the show came from different academic backgrounds with respect to having previously studied photography. Khim is a senior French major who had previously taken three photo classes and Shapiro, also a senior, is an Engineering major who had never taken a photography class. Alternatively, Claudia Seixas ’10 is considering graduate work in photography. The only requirement at Swarthmore for studio art classes is Foundation Drawing, allowing students from a variety of disciplines exposure to the visual arts.

“I am very pleased with this exhibit,” Harper said. “But then, I generally am. Swarthmore students are very motivated, and it is a privilege to teach here.”

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