Upstairs exhibit a boost for photo rookies

By Thomas Pardee

While most exhibits on campus display work created by upperclassmen, the Photography Department is tipping its hat to the up-and-comers as well.

The hallways on the 10th floor of the Alexandroff Campus Center, 600 S. Michigan Ave., are lined with displays featuring selected works from the department’s introductory photography and darkroom courses. It’s one of the only places beginning students’ photography can be seen on campus, according to Robert Linkiewicz, darkroom facilities coordinator.

He said the department started displaying beginners’ work about four years ago, when the college decided to place more of a focus on new-student retention.

“If students feel like a part of the community at Columbia, they are more likely to continue here,” Linkiewicz said. “When new students come in and they see other new students’ work, they have something [short-term] to strive for.”

The current display features a series of about 65 images, roughly five per class section, that were selected by instructors for their “quality and content” from last semester’s introductory courses, Linkiewicz said. The images are 8×10 black-and-white prints developed by students themselves.

The subject matter in each photo is unrelated to the next, but a standard of solid composition and sharp print quality is consistent throughout the series, said Jon Gitelson, a part-time instructor of both Photo I and Darkroom I.

“I have my students look at them so they can get a sense of what a proper print photo looks like,” Gitelson said. “They’re great photos, and if nothing else, they’re great inspiration.”

Kayla Story, a junior photography major, had her work on display a year ago. She said seeing her work on the wall was a boost of confidence.

“It made me want to keep working, maybe enter some contests,” Story said. “It was awesome to have my picture up there for everyone to see.”

Story said she’s improved greatly since her first class. She said being able to see beginners’ work helps her recognize the areas in which she has grown. It’s also a great early indicator of rising talent.

“It may not be senior-level work, but it’s a great starting point to see who’s working hard, who’s got the eye,” she said.

Alice Feldt, a sophomore photography major, had one of her photos chosen for display this semester. It was taken in March at the South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and was well-received by her peers and instructors when she finally printed it correctly.

“I’m proud of it,” Feldt said. “I think it’s cool that [the department does] that. It’s put up not in a high profile place, but in a place where other people in the program will be able to see it and learn from it.”

Feldt, now in Photo II, said seeing what her peers in other sections are up to gives her a fresh perspective as she advances in the department.

“It inspires you to push yourself further than you might have, and it gives you an idea about what other people at your level are capable of,” Feldt said.

Linkiewicz said the display lets students keep an eye on each other and keeps instructors aware of who’s up-and-coming.

“It’s [all about] people no one really knows yet,” he said. “And then, as they rise up in the program, we’ll remember them.”