Photography styles work together in senior showcase


Courtesy / GVSU

Mary Racette, Associate Editor

Seniors in the Grand Valley State University photography major wrap up their last semester with a final project which reflects different techniques that they’ve studied in the program. 

This year’s title for the senior showcase is “A Modern Anomaly.” From Nov. 23-Dec. 10, the Thomas J. and Marcia J. Haas Center for Performing Arts Gallery will be scattered with projects that photography seniors have worked on all semester.

The Photography Thesis class is taught by professor Victoria Veenstra but overall, it’s a self-driven project. Each student also has an advisor from their major who is available to help develop their ideas. 

Photography professor Stafford Smith is the advisor for three of the students in the class. Smith has helped guide Skyler Gottschalk, Jesse Sandoval and Maggie Eder through their final projects.

My job is to work as a sounding board, letting them bounce their ideas off me and give them feedback and I have to be careful not to put too much of myself into it or be too discouraging,” Smith said. “So I’m trying to kind of walk a fine line of giving constructive criticism without going too far.”

Stafford said Sandoval’s work is one of the most personal projects of the group as it expresses some of the struggles he has faced. 

“And so for him (Sandoval), it’s really like kind of mining his soul and communicating that in a way that makes sense not just to himself, but to people who don’t know him and don’t know anything about the project,” Smith said.

Gottschalk’s work uses herself as a model as she places herself in awkward positions and faces away from the camera. Stafford said her work can have many different interpretations from the viewer. 

Eder explores her surroundings with her project. For each scene in her project, she took an image of what is in front of her, as well as what is directly above and below the subject.

“What I want you to take away from my work is the message to stop every once in a while and take a minute to appreciate what is in front of you because there is so much detail and beauty around us,” Eder said. 

Senior Riley Adkins’ thesis is titled “Pain | Lust.” Adkins said her work is an array of black and white photos that visually depict subjects in extremely raw and sexual forms. 

“Its main point is to provoke emotions in the viewer by not giving much information about what it is that I’m displaying,” Adkins said. “I basically want it to be interpreted however these emotions are felt by the people who view my collection whether that is a positive or negative feeling.”

Adkins decided to take a more unconventional approach to show her work displays the images using projectors. Her goal is to make the viewer feel surrounded.

Adkins’ project is displayed in a darker and more secluded part of the gallery. It is also a multimedia experience with music and videos. 

Altogether, I’m basically trying to get people to feel a little uncomfortable or a little uneasy entering my space,” Adkins said.

The seniors’ work varies in technique and meaning. Eder said she appreciates how different everyone’s work is while they still managing to work together. 

“It’s always very satisfying to see students struggle against obstacles of trying to figure out what things mean and how things go together,” Smith said. “And then seeing where they get that ‘aha’ moment, you know, that epiphany where they just kind of have this breakthrough and everything kind of comes together.”