Photo Club gains exposure

As some may have noticed, the walls of Paresky are covered with student artwork as of late. This general trend is a function of a campaign by College Council (CC) co-presidents Ifiok Inyang ’11 and Emanuel Yekutiel ’11 to increase the visibility of student work. However,  there is one wall in particular that presents an especially exciting collection of art. This plain, unassuming white column in Whitmans’ is home to the Williams Photo Club’s first gallery since its foundation this fall.
There are portraits and landscapes, black and white and color prints from photographers in various classes at the College. Arranged and put together by the Club’s co-presidents, Ayesha Shahid ’11 and Stephanie Owyang ’13, this exhibit is one component of the Photo Club’s ever-expanding presence on campus. Owyang believes photo displays are “the best non-invasive way to get the word out about the club,” she said. Owyang hopes the Paresky gallery will “make people look up while they’re eating and think, ‘Wow, what is this?’”
Shahid and Owyang come from remarkably different photographic backgrounds and experience levels, but they have come together to create a space where anyone with an interest in photography can learn more. Shahid’s passion for photography started around the time she arrived at the College, and it blossomed as she talked with “people who [were] willing to share what they knew.” Owyang, on the other hand, had taken senior portraits and photography classes throughout high school. Originally she thought photography was a phase. Then she realized that even outside of the classroom she was “holding a camera practically everywhere [she] went,” she said.
Shahid was the driving force behind the club, creating it after buying a digital camera during her freshman year and realizing, “Oh my god, I need to learn how to use this!” With this newfound mission, Shahid began work on the club, officially founding it and applying for funding in the winter of 2009. This year, the club’s growth has been more dramatic: “We’ve branched out into hosting more events and organizing things so that people can come to take pictures or share pictures they’ve taken.” The club has also reached out to the Office of Admissions to see about contributing to their brochures.
Shahid expects that the club will transcend its basic informational and instructional function to become “a forum for people to learn from each other,” she said. Owyang, who will serve as next year’s president, got involved last year after teaching a Photo Club workshop on light painting. She echoes Shahid’s hope for the future of the club: “It’s a place for people to come if they want to share things. I’d say you can learn something new from everyone who comes,” she said. The club is also striving to increase visibility on campus by offering its services to anyone who wants an event photographed. “We’re hoping to be a student resource. We’d love to take pictures of any events or rallies on campus,” Shahid said.
In general, Shahid has made the club a way to make student interest in photography more transparent and more accessible. It is difficult for those who share her curiosity for the world of aperture and shutter speed if “[they] don’t have the chance to take it as a course and don’t know people who do photography,” according to Shahid. Judging by student interest in the club, however, those people are everywhere at the College; when they tabled at last year’s Purple Key Fair, they got almost 60 signatures. This year’s list was nearly as full.
“In the past, clubs have intermittently popped up and eventually died down,” Shahid said. Owyang agrees, noting that “the clubs usually die out once their founders or core members graduate.” It doesn’t help, Shahid said, that “the art department doesn’t have enough resources to support everyone who’s interested … Our biggest challenge is funding.”
Despite the four-year cycle of club membership at the College, the Photo Club has grown significantly since Shahid and Owyang began to spread the word and is constantly recruiting more shutterbugs. Owyang hopes that their incarnation will have what it takes: “Hopefully our Photo Club will actually last,” she said.