First-years exhibit photography

First-year students are lending artistic insight into their college experiences.

by Amber Schadewald

Roommates, laundry, dorm food and final exams: a college student’s first year is filled with new experiences.

A photography exhibit, “Develop: Looking Through the First-Year Lens,” opens tonight, featuring the photographs of 12 students during their first semester at the University.


Develop: Looking Through the First-Year Lens
WHAT: Photographs by 12 first-year students documenting their personal development and transition to the University. WHEN: Exhibition: Jan. 17 to 28,
Reception: Jan. 17 4 to 7 p.m. WHERE: Coffman Union Art Gallery

The project documents the students’ transition to college while encouraging them to get out of their rooms and explore campus, said Bill O’Connor, assistant director of communications for the Orientation and First-Year Programs.

This is the second time the “Picture Your First Year” photo project has been done, and O’Connor said he wants to make it a yearly event.

During the summer of 2006, about 85 students applied online for the project by answering two questions about why they wanted to participate.

O’Connor said they were looking to create a diverse group of students with unique perspectives and a desire to become more involved on campus. Previous photography experience was not necessary and digital cameras were available for loan.

Throughout the semester, the students had four themed photo assignments: first days, about you, show your ‘U’ and a series of questions on their interpretations of the University.

O’Connor said he was never looking for a specific answer to any of the questions, but wanted the students to express themselves.

“They could’ve taken seven to 12 pictures of carpet, and if that’s what represents you, then that’s fine,” he said.

The photos in the exhibit show a little bit of everything, from friends and class to marching band and nature.

Heather Klein, one of the student photographers chosen, said her collection contains a lot of landscape shots, like the sunset behind the Minneapolis skyline.

Klein is from Owatonna, a smaller Minnesota town, and said her photos highlight the differences between where she grew up and the big city surrounding the University.

Student photographer Evan Stremke said he enjoyed comparing his photos and his experiences with those of the other students participating in the project.

At first, Stremke said, he had a lot of photos of campus monuments, specifically bridges.

“Even though some of the pictures were the same, their meanings were vastly different,” he said.

Josh Miller, another first-year student photographer, said he liked the freedom to take pictures of anything because it “encouraged you to take the lens cap off your mind and explore.”

“I’d be lost a lot more on campus if I hadn’t done the project,” he said.

Miller said his collection contains last-minute snapshots and planned pictures.

One of Miller’s photos, “Mount Loft,” pokes fun at the trouble he had while learning how to climb into the lofted bed in his dorm room.

O’Connor said the photos gave the students a way to express feelings and share them with others.

“The photos help (the Orientation and First-Year Programs) better understand the needs of our first-year students,” he said.

The photos will remain on display in the Coffman Union Art Gallery for a week. The students said they are excited to show their friends, but nervous of possible critics.

Miller said he used this experience as a first step to his future as a deep-sea photographer for National Geographic.

Miller said he’s not expecting a Pulitzer for this exhibit, but he and Stremke joked that they wouldn’t mind a limo ride and a red carpet.

“If nothing else, (the photos) make great Facebook albums,” Stremke said.