GVSU seniors to showcase photography theses

GVL / Courtesy - Margaret Shaw

GVL / Courtesy – Margaret Shaw

Anne Marie Smit

Grand Valley State University seniors Margaret Shaw and Olivia Karwoski are two of multiple students who will be displaying their photography senior theses this week in the exhibition “Fractal.” The show will be available in the Art Gallery of the Haas Center for Performing Arts from Tuesday, April 17, to Saturday, April 28, with a reception scheduled for Thursday, April 19, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Shaw is double-majoring in photography and film and video, and her thesis is a combination of what she’s learned from both of her majors. She said she wanted to demonstrate her knowledge in both areas in her final senior project.

“Mine specifically is kind of a combination of both of my majors,” Shaw said. “I wasn’t doing a film and video piece, so I decided to do a photography piece that combined aspects of both. So, the goal was to create really cinematic images in which I could utilize the information, the education I learned from both of my majors.”

Her thesis offers a unique perspective to universal human emotions, such as fear, guilt, insecurity and paranoia, which Shaw explored through cinematic storytelling.

“My thesis is a series of cinematic images that kind of explore psychological unrest and discomfort, kind of like eerie feelings that we can all relate to but in a very cinematic, narrative storytelling kind of way,” she said. “I’m just conveying basic things like paranoia, like when your boss catches you when you’re slacking off, or just fear and guilt and insecurity, things that we experience every day but photographed in such a way that they seem almost unreal.”

Shaw chose photography because she enjoys the creativity and viewing everyday objects or situations in unique ways.

“I like the idea of being able to see in a different way or make images that would give you a different perspective,” she said. “I like being able to take things that we find in reality and make them fiction.”

Karwoski’s project is much different, containing designs of household products that consumers use on a daily basis. She said she wanted to explore consumers’ demand on a product’s design. 

“My thesis project is about consumerism and the demand that we, as consumers and businesses, are creating as a society,” she said via email. “The images are household products that range from laundry detergent to kitchen salt to dog treats. Each product is photographed individually on a white background to isolate it. Then, in Photoshop, I removed parts of the wording on the packaging and replaced it with other words related to the demand that we are creating.”

The product designs that Karwoski created for these household items are related to what she would like to do with her photography as a career. As a double major in photography and advertising, she would like to work on branding campaigns for advertising companies.

“Visuals are everything in today’s world, and (businesses) can use photographs to help brand their ‘look,’” she said. “I would love to work for an advertising agency working on branding campaigns.”

When asked what motivated her to choose photography as a career path, Karwoski shared that photos can communicate so much in a short amount of time. Photography is a creative outlet for her, and she enjoys seeing the end result.

“I like that I can express myself creatively through photography,” she said. “It’s so satisfying to see the end result after all the work you have put into it. … I love how photographs can communicate so many complex ideas in as quick as a glance.”