Photography Senior Show

GVL / Robert Mathews
Student Andrea Baker working with Professor David Rathbun to assemble her senior thesis photography project.

Robert Mathews

GVL / Robert Mathews Student Andrea Baker working with Professor David Rathbun to assemble her senior thesis photography project.

Stephanie Allen

The Grand Valley State University senior photography students aren’t required to show their work in the thesis exhibit before graduating. If their projects aren’t fully developed, or ready to be displayed, they won’t even be allowed to participate in the showcase.

This year, all 13 graduating seniors are showing their work in the exhibit, “ballads of light,” which is on display in the Art Gallery inside the Performing Arts Center until April 27.

The reception on April 18 from 5-7 p.m. gives viewers a chance to purchase some of the artwork, while also discussing with the artists.

The group chose “ballads of light” to illustrate the parallels between music and their different skills and styles as artists, Senior Stephanie Olach said. Where music is like painting with sounds, photography is more like painting with light, she said.

“We’re creating a medium, and we’re creating a ballad of sorts,” Olach said. “We’re telling a story, where music is done without words and with sounds, we’re doing it with images and emotions that are evoked from those images.”

Fitting all of their projects into one space was a rearranging challenge, senior Ashley Umstead said, but they are all happy with how the exhibit has turned out.

“It was really cool to see it all come together,” Umstead said. “Like at the beginning, it was kind of chaotic, like, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing,’ but once we had some direction of what we were doing and it all came together, it was really cool to see everything as a whole.”

Although Umstead didn’t actually start working on the physical prints for her piece until this semester, she’s been thinking of the idea for a while. As a GVSU photography student, all seniors must create a thesis project of their work, which Umstead said was in the back of her mind since starting the program as a freshman.

Along with finishing up their individual pieces this semester, the 13 students had to plan the entire exhibit. The class, which is advised by Victoria Veenstra, worked well together, Umstead said.

“We basically started and we were kind of just a random group of artists and we all had our different projects that we were doing and I guess, at the beginning we didn’t really know what it was going to look like, and it was a little challenging,” Umstead said. “…And it actually worked out really well.”

And although they’ve put countless hours of work into creating an exhibit with a professional feel, Olach said the end is bittersweet. But she is excited to see the viewer’s reactions to their pieces and said she’s proud to be showing next to very talented artists.

“I am really happy with the way my personal work looks, but I’m also really excited about everyone else’s,” she said. I think collectively, it is a great work and a great piece to show. And I can’t wait to see the reaction of it opening night.”