Q&A with Friends of the Arts Grant recipient: Senior Snapshots
Senior Snapshots is a collaboration of work by Illinois State University student photographers Kelly Brant, Alex Mears, Carleigh Gray, Lauren Lenart-Proctor, Victoria Saint Martin, Amanda Miller, Jordan Minder, and Bianca Hervig. After getting to know one another in classes, they decided to join forces on an exhibition. Seven of the students will graduate in May. One graduated in December.
During the opening reception on February 13 at Transpace Gallery, attendees were able to purchase select works via a silent auction and meet the artists. The exhibition, which continues through February 16, represents not only their last time working together, but also a celebration of their college experience.
Why did you choose photography as a creative medium?
Kelly: I’ve been interested in photography for eight years, but it wasn’t until my senior year of high school when I knew photography is what I want to do for living. I have continued to grow in this creative medium throughout college and my decision to major in photography has clearly become what I’m supposed to be doing in life.
Alex: Photography is a way for me to express myself when words aren’t enough. It’s a way to create different ideas and express them in ways other people can feel and understand.
Carleigh: Photography has always held more depth than the surface of the image printed. I chose photography as a creative medium because it exudes truth. This truth is rarely found in words anymore, and I found I could impact others more strongly with one image than a hundred words. Due to my background in journalism, I have seen the value and significance of photography is sharing the news with the world.
Lauren: I got into photography when I was on the high school cross-country team. I was frustrated no one would take pictures of my races; parents would only take pictures of their child’s race. I got into photography because I thought it would be fair to take photos of everyone! Of course, that didn’t solve my problem of getting pictures of me in my races, but I got over that. I enjoyed taking photos of everyone else. I still visit and take photos of the team. And they still enjoy them!
Victoria: I choose to work in photography because no other medium can convince the human eye like a camera can. Photography gives you the ability to lie in your work and manipulate it so the viewer understands what it is you want to convey and does not question its reality, in most cases. It is the ultimate tool.
Amanda: I fell in love with photography around the age of 13. When I was learning to use a DSLR camera, I enjoyed the thought that goes into an image before you take the picture. As the photographer, you’re making decisions that affect how the viewer will see an image. I enjoy the control I have as the artist and creating beautiful images of the things and people around me.
Jordan: I believe the medium chose me. I grew up with an artist mother, so I was exposed to multiple forms of art. However, I’d always find myself intrigued most by photography. Before I got my own camera, I would visualize scenes in my head that I desired to make into reality. Holding and using my first camera felt incredibly natural, and I’d get that feeling like everything “clicked.”
Bianca: I have always been interested in cameras and photography. When I was little, I would photograph everything. In high school, I decided to take photography as one of my electives. Ever since then I knew I wanted to continue learning and to pursue photography more seriously.
What photographers or artists have influenced your work?
Alex: Julia Margaret Cameron, Imogen Cunningham, and Francesca Woodman.
Carleigh: I’m not sure I have a specific photographer who has impacted my work, but I follow and study multiple street film photographers and imbedded photojournalists and the work that they do. Recently I’ve been studying the photography done around and at the time of 9/11.
Lauren: I really enjoy Annie Leibovitz’s portrait work. As for landscapes, I love Joel Sternfeld’s work. His cityscapes are unexpected yet beautiful. Roy DeCarvara is someone I’ve gotten into recently, with the black and white range of tones he uses within his work.
Victoria: I have been influenced by many other artists and photographers such as Juana Gomez, David Hilliard, Francesca Woodman, and Nicholas Bruno. I find new inspirations in each new project I take on.
Amanda: Stephen Shore’s work has inspired me to look around me and find beauty or something special in the mundane.
Jordan: Very early influences include Sally Mann, Cindy Sherman, Francesca Woodman, and Man Ray. Current artists who inspire me include Petra Collins, Brooke Shaden, Keith Cotton, and Savannah Martiniere.
Bianca: I have felt inspired by many famous and local artists including Hellen Van Meene, Peter Hoffman, and Nicholas Nixon.
Kelly: I have a lot of influences within my work including, Jesse Rieser, Sally Man, Aberland Morel, Man Ray, and Daina Arbus. With each new project I do, I gain more inspiration from others.
What is the most interesting observation you’ve made from behind the camera?
Carleigh: Putting yourself behind the camera is opening yourself up to all vulnerabilities. You’re searching for the slightest oddity or baring of the soul for others in front of your camera. It continually surprises me how emotionally exhausted I am after spending hours taking photographs. Photography isn’t just adjusting some settings and clicking a button; it’s uncovering people’s thoughts, emotions and ideas in the exact moment they have them.
Lauren: The most interesting observation I’ve made is how people react to a camera pointed in their face or in their general direction. Some flinch from it or try to hide their face. Others automatically smile or make their face more presentable in the face of the lens. I think their reactions speak a lot about the person’s personality.
Victoria: I think the most interesting observation I’ve made is how many people are uncomfortable in front of a camera. I see people look confident and beautiful in all stages of their lives, but wanting to show that through the camera is difficult at times because of people’s insecurities when a camera is put in front of them. I’d like to make everyone feel as beautiful and confident as I see him or her.
Amanda: I find it to be profound to simply see things from new perspectives. Growing up in the town I’m attending college has somewhat limited my view of how I see the town and what’s around me. I enjoy making myself look at things and places in new ways and seeing how that unfolds in my imagery.
Jordan: Photography has allowed me to create my own stories, invent new places and capture the familiar from a new angle. It’s truly shown me how colorful and mysterious life can be. Anything is possible and creativity has no limitations.
Bianca: The most interesting observation that comes from being the photographer is seeing your work come to life. You have an idea and you have props or models to work with, but being able to see the idea become an image as it is being photographed is fulfilling.
Kelly: The most interesting thing I have observed is viewing the world with a new perspective. Whether I am photographing people, nature or abstraction, I look at life with my unique perspective. The most interesting thing I’ve observed behind is the lens is the change of perspective of the world.
Alex: I love seeing the way that light can affect different things and how you can control it to an extent to create different emotions and levels of drama.
Transpace provides art students the opportunity to curate public shows, display their work, and gain experience in professional art. Transpace is located on the first floor of the Illinois State University Center for Visual Arts and is open during the following hours:
- Tuesday, noon–4 p.m. and 6–7 p.m.
- Wednesday, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
- Thursday, 10 a.m.–noon and 1–4 p.m.
- Friday, 11 a.m.–4 p.m.
Friends of the Arts (FOA) is a community-based organization, partnering with the College of Fine Arts to provide scholarships and grants to Illinois State University fine arts students. Last year, FOA provided over $50,000, including $15,000 in project grants and $40,000 in scholarships. The FOA student grant program provides support for student creative projects, research, events, and visiting artists. Grants are available in amounts up to $500 for an individual and up to $1,000 for a group.
To help other fine arts students receive grants and scholarships, make your gift to Friends of the Arts.