Photo Students Exhibit Family Life, Elegant Stills at Light Work
The boy stands in front of a skateboard ramp at a skate park. His expression is enigmatic and invites many interpretations.
The thoughtful portrait by art photography student Joe Librandi-Cowan ’15 is part of his current work, “The Auburn System,” in which he reflects on his hometown of Auburn, N.Y., and its longtime coexistence with a state prison. A portion of the project involves a series of portraits of community members, including a section dedicated to the city’s youth.
“This subsection, and this image, explores what it means to be a young person in a community that hosts a maximum-security prison,” Librandi-Cowan says. “Ultimately, my goal is to make an emotional impact on my viewer that will interest them in reading into other images in the project in a similar way.”
His photograph won Best in Show at the “2015 Transmedia Photography Annual” exhibition at Light Work, which highlights the senior project work of 22 art photography majors in the Department of Transmedia in the College of Visual and Performing Arts. Ian Sherlock ’15 and James Tarbell ’15 won Honorable Mentions. The show runs through Thursday, March 5.
The visuals represent the breadth of creativity among the students, with carefully composed artful pieces, glimpses into family life and stills of everyday elegance.
Diversity of perspectives
During their years in the program, the art photography students typically have taken courses from all four members of the photo faculty—Associate Professor Yasser Aggour, Associate Professor Doug DuBois, Associate Professor Laura Heyman and Assistant Professor Susannah Sayler. Since each of the faculty members’ work is stylistically different, it provides students a diversity of perspectives, Heyman says.
“Their senior thesis is a yearlong self-directed concentration on a single project. A huge part of what they learn in that year is how to hone and refine—both conceptually and technologically—their own ideas,” says Heyman, who is also the program coordinator. “Because we are not pushing a single visual style, the work tends to be very unique.”
Other students in the show are Olivia Alonso Gough, Cade Austin Halkyard, Natasha Belikove, Uraina Bellamy, Morgan Edgecomb, Patrice Gonzales, Boying Huang, Molly Malone, Aimee Mercure, Anna Moulton, Max Orphanides, Izzy Owen, Matthew Pevear, Bridget Rogers, Christina Tainter, Nancy Taylor, Kevin Tomczak, Carly Tumen and Jermaine Williams Jr.
The annual show that features part of their senior project is a significant event for these artists.
“For a lot of the students, it’s their first professional exhibition and that it’s at Light Work is an incredible opportunity,” Heyman says. “With the history of the organization and its artists-in-residence program—pretty much any photographic artist of any importance in the past 40 years has come through that space—that’s wonderful for the students to be in that context.”
The annual student exhibition also coincides with one of Light Work’s gallery exhibitions. This year, multidisciplinary artist Xaviera Simmons’ work, “Accumulations,” is on exhibit in the Kathleen O. Ellis Gallery.
Light Work’s close partnership with the Department of Transmedia also provides art photography students with full access to Light Work’s production facilities, lectures and workshops.
“I have learned through hands-on experience and one-on-one critiques with John Wesley Mannion and Walker Blackwell—two of the industry’s best digital master printers,” says Librandi-Cowan, who has interned at Light Work and worked with the entire staff.
Librandi-Cowan, who has also networked with many of the artists who print at the lab or who have had residencies there, says the work has helped him enhance his skill set and has improved his own work and artistic practice.
“There’s a really wonderful proximity to engage with artists who are in professional practice that is in a way parallel to the academic coursework that the students do,” says Mannion, master printer at Light Work.
Mannion, who is also an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Transmedia, curated the annual show, with Ana Thor, selecting each piece from a larger body of their current work. Mannion sized and printed the work and Thor framed them.
“In the course of the curating, I’m also trying to think about relationships that happen within the body of work,” Mannion says. “This year’s exhibition is one of the best that I can remember in my history of exhibitions. It came together really well.”
An independent juror reviews the work each year. “There was a really high standard of photography from these students. It is great to see such diversity in their styles and subject matter,” according to Kate Barrett, associate photography editor for Wallpaper magazine in London and this year’s juror.
Heyman says the Best in Show honor was a great recognition of Librandi-Cowan’s ambitious project. “It’s a difficult topic but an important one,” Heyman says.
The student exhibition is also a way to highlight the rigor of the art photography program. “It’s a fantastic opportunity to show the community what our students can do,” Heyman says.