The word “photography” brings forth a mental stock of a million different images and ideas in the mind of every person. Perhaps it is an Instagram feed, a friend from home who took senior pictures, or old family photos. This stock likely does not readily include forms of photography such as photos from a disposable camera, a photograph of a woman wrapped in pink tulle, or a series of photos created with stock images through photoshop. You definitely would not think of cyanotypes, a version of photography originating in the 19th century that employs chemical reactions to create a print of an object.
“Shadow and Substance”, the first stand-alone photography show to be put on by Covenant students— Reed Schick (‘19), Carl Simakoff (‘19), Hannah Orren (‘19), and Caleb John Smith (‘19). It challenged viewers’ assumptions about what photography should be, and brought a splash of creativity and excitement to Covenant’s foggy January campus.
As students, alumni, and professors filed into Lucas Art Workshop on January 17th, a sense of curiosity and wonder overtook the atmosphere. Most guests of the show likely do not have the same extensive knowledge of photography that the four showcased artists gained after their independent study of Contemporary Practices in Photography with Dr. Elissa Weichbrodt (04’).
Reed Schick explained that even though all four students went through the same course material with Dr. Weichbrodt, they all walked away from their learning with extremely diverse takeaways. Their desires for how to respond creatively clearly varied as seen by the wide range of approaches that were taken for this show.
Caleb John Smith’s piece, “Pregnancy”, captured viewers’ eyes through his disorienting and surrealist use of online images, set on backgrounds of deep, bright yellow. Smith took a variety of seemingly unrelated images, drew connections between them and his own life experiences, and created a piece of art that communicated the jarring realities of life.
Carl Simakoff took the word, “Eilodon”, meaning “ideal”, and ran with the idea of natural and ordinary life encounters as they collide with the things in life that are most hidden, and perhaps are the closest to reality. His set of cyanotypes with “phantom” outlines of a variety of plants was a gripping and beautiful viewing experience. The dark blue background with the white shapes of plants simultaneously felt like a draw towards nature, and a separation from it. It allowed the viewer to consider the world around us in a creative, and perhaps inventive, way.
Reed Schick captured the attention of viewers with a full bodied experience- his disposable camera photographs, taken over the last 7 months of his life, were projected on a reel. If desired, the viewer could pick up a pair of headphones that played sounds of nature, soft beats, and light guitar strumming. Additionally, a book of the photographs sat beside the headphones, so that they could be appreciated for a longer amount of time. “Summer Scent,” the name of his piece and the book, will be available for purchase this month.
Hannah Orren’s piece was a captivating viewing experience. The photographs show two women struggling with physical material in some way- one with fabric, one with her own wet hair. The photos were displayed as a wallpaper, from the floor to the ceiling. To stand and observe these photos was an experience that pushed the boundaries of how the material world affects us. Without an outlet for escape, we were forced to take in that which was directly in front of us.
Covenant’s art students are continuing to assert themselves as thoughtful, innovate makers, and “Shadow and Substance” emphasized their willingness to go out on a limb for the sake of showcasing truly significant pieces of work.