This past Saturday, William Barr ’18, Julian Johnson ’19, and the Arts Coalition Collective hosted the first-ever “Photo Show: Live Music + Sick Pics” in the Westco Café. The show featured the works of 13 student photographers: Rowan Hyland ’17, Rick Manayan ’17, Jack Gorlin ’18, Jonas Powell ’18, Salim Green ’19, Minu Jun ’19, Allegra Lorenzotti ’19, Betty McGhee ’19, Malcolm Phillips ’19, Kate Runsdorf ’19, Campbell Silverstein ’19, AJ Wilson ’19, and Nick Yeager ’19, as well as over a dozen live performers.
Although flecks of glitter still dotted the floor from a Westco party the night before, the Photo Show’s atmosphere was far more relaxed. Students wandered in and out of the gallery space over the course of the four-hour event, pausing in front of the black velveteen boards upon which the prints hung, all while acoustic music played in the background.
“[It was] exactly what I wanted,” Johnson said of the exhibition’s atmosphere. “I wanted people coming in at random times, hanging out and looking at the photos and listening to music and leaving whenever they wanted to.”
Barr agreed, adding that he was glad to have provided an opportunity for photographers to see their work in print. He and Johnson obtained funding from the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) to print five to nine images for each photographer they invited to participate.
“I’ve found that photography has so many financial barriers, especially in my life, and we really wanted to remove that,” Barr explained.
To help secure the WSA’s support, Barr and Johnson collaborated with the Arts Coalition Collective, an organization founded by Helen Handelman ’16 last spring.
“[The Arts Coalition Collective sponsors] any project that any Wesleyan student wants to make happen, with a special focus on projects that encourage collaboration between different media and that are inclusive of the entire Wesleyan student body,” Handelman wrote in an email to The Argus. “And the fact that [the Photo Show] was an event that so clearly brought student makers (of music, of photography) together was right in keeping with the ACC’s mission.”
In addition to mixing media, Barr and Johnson made an effort to attract diverse perspectives within the art form. Concerned about representing exclusively white photographers, he and Barr reached out to artists and musicians across various dorms and class years.
“I [didn’t] want it to be very homogenous,” Johnson said. “The whole point of this [was] to have everyone come together and share something…and have this space be very relaxed, open, and welcoming.”
Their inclusive efforts paid off, as the images on display clearly reflected the diversity of Wesleyan talent. Some photographers revealed an eye for concert photography, others for portraiture, landscape, or collage. Their subjects ranged from the highly concrete—Alabama Shakes’ frontwoman Brittany Howard in mid-strum, a boy embracing a newborn lamb, a Moroccan cat silhouetted atop a wall—to the more abstract: colorful smoke billowing around a darkened figure, a kaleidoscope of bodies and fabric, a rose outstretched against a bright blue sky, dancers arching in a line.
The music, although less strikingly varied in style, was equally polished. Consisting primarily of solo, acoustic acts, the performances added to the mellow ambience. Several musicians, such as Josh Davidoff ’19 and Harrison Nir ’19, showcased original work. Phillips performed through a megaphone rather than a mic. Tano Brock ’19, Ben Saldich ’19, and Reed Stutz ’19’s melodic set, meanwhile, included covers by Crosby, Stills, & Nash; Simon & Garfunkel; and Foster the People.
“It’s a blessing to watch them,” Nick Byers ’19 said of Brock, Stutz, and Saldich’s group. “I’ve known them since essentially the first day of college, so I’ve gotten to see them…in their dorms…and also in these kinds of sessions.”
It was also a rare and successful push for print photography in the era of Instagram.
“It’s fun to see my photos printed, because I never, ever see them printed,” Powell said, currently one of the photo editors of The Argus. (He later clarified that he meant on “nice paper,” not in newsprint.)
Wilson, who watermarked his photos with the name of his Instagram account, said he was excited to be exhibiting his work for the first time.
“I’m new to this whole photography thing,” Wilson said. “I’m just happy to have my work up here.”
Having grown more comfortable with the planning process, Barr and Johnson hope to continue the Photo Show as a once-per-semester event. However, they may switch over to a new combination of media.
“We might do a different art form, like painting or something,” Johnson said. “I was talking to someone about doing a performance art exhibition, where people have different corners and do their own thing. The options are limitless.”