School of Visual Arts (SVA) presents “Parallel Adaptations,” an exhibition of thesis work by the Master of Professional Studies in Digital Photography class of 2020. Curated by New York City gallerist and SVA faculty member Debra Klomp Ching, “Parallel Adaptations” is viewable online from Saturday, September 19, through Saturday, November 21, at parallel-adaptations.com.
MPS Digital Photography Chair Tom P. Ashe explains, “‘Parallel Adaptations’ is the result of the resourcefulness of these 17 talented photographers. They met the challenges of a global pandemic and quarantine, adapted their projects, supported each other and produced amazing work. We will exhibit the beautiful prints from this exhibition when it is possible for us all to come together in the future, but for now this online exhibition showcases the class of 2020’s commitment to continuous progress and the importance of community.”
As exhibition curator Debra Klomp Ching expands, “The ‘Parallel Adaptations’ exhibition is an unapologetic testimony to the resilience, creativity and vision of the class. Despite the obstacles presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, each student either remained steadfast in the singular vision of their photographic project or was superbly fleet-of-foot—adapting to imposed and altered circumstances. Whichever journey was taken, this exhibition demonstrates a broad range of photographic sensibilities, the employment of key photographic tropes and a confident display of technique and craftsmanship. We also witness recurring themes across the exhibition; in particular, the questioning of personal/cultural identity, ideas of imminent loss juxtaposed with reconnection, the struggle between humankind and nature, the value of familial relationships and the potential stability of tradition. The photographs are simultaneously humorous, meditative, exuberant and also loud.”
After SVA began remote operations in mid-March, two photographers in the MPS program left New York City for their hometowns, where they completed new, pandemic-themed thesis projects. Apeksha Agarwal’s “Mumbai Lost and Found” shows us the eerie emptiness and silence that overtook this otherwise bustling, visually dense city during its lockdown. “Close to Home” is an intimate documentary study Yiran Chen made in Florida of her parents’ cross-cultural marriage and daily life, which aims to identify the human values that unite us all.
Alvaro Keding’s “Inland Parkway” is a photographic exploration that documents the intersection between the urban built environment and landscaped nature along the boundaries of New York City parks. Elfa Frið’s series of surreal and dreamlike images, “Heart-to-Heart,” presents a visual, cross-generational conversation by compositing her own photographs of nature with photographs of paintings by her late grandmother.
The hands in David Luo’s “The Presence of Gesture” are often suggesting the human presence, and they encourage viewers to look for mysterious stories behind the scenes we take for granted. Rather than take the usual documentary approach to the issue of gender inequality, the photographs in Congying Miao’s “Uprising” explore it with an abstract, concept-based visual language.
Three artists explored psychological themes. In “Persona,” M.J. O’Toole uses modern photographic language to symbolize the ways in which people separate their public and private selves, hiding their deepest feelings from the outside world. RaeAnn Serra’s “Floral Diagnosis” is an examination of different mental illnesses, using floral still-lifes to represent what each condition feels like to the sufferer. Finally, “Letting Go” is a series of cathartic intimate portraits of important people in photographer Catherine Sharp’s life, created using high-speed strobe and splashing water.
Two projects show the artists’ passions for preserving the cultures of their hometowns. From Beijing, Ruoheng Shen produced the photographs in “Peking Opera” to interpret this age-old theatrical art form with still-lifes and gestures in an abstract symbolic language and as a gift to younger generations. “Nine Lives” is a documentation by Hannah Stampleman of nine bodega cats—an attempt to foster this endangered part of New York City’s history and identity.
“Re:Connect” is a series of self-portraits by Phuong Vo using simple objects juxtaposed with human presence alienated from their environment, and meant to depict her sense of displacement and disconnection between bodily experiences and the fleeting nature of reality. Natcha Wongchanglaw’s “Postcards from Fremont” is a photographic study of American life in the small Michigan town where she lived as an exchange student years ago, which explores the relationship between memory and modern realities.
Dylan Xie’s “Through the Open Door” is a series of stylized, whimsical self-portraits that explore the dramatic effects of China’s recent social and economic changes on members of his generation. Binge Yan’s self-portrait project, “Undefined,” is a way for her to express her thoughts about the importance of being true to one’s self through allegorical photographs that use the language of fashion and fashion photography.
Cassie Zhang’s “Cycle” is a series of abstract images that use brilliant color and suggestions of natural forms to ascribe emotional meanings to the four seasons. Finally, Judi Zhang’s “We Are Home” explores the meaning of family at a time of social displacement in China, which is based on her experience of growing up with parents who couldn’t always live together.
“Parallel Adaptations” is shown concurrently with “Thesis, Interrupted,” an exhibition at Photoville 2020 in Brooklyn Bridge Park, which is curated by faculty member Marko Kovacevic (MFA 2016 Photography, Video and Related Media; BFA 2011 Photography) and explores the ways in which these photographers adjusted and their thesis projects evolved when COVID-19 hit New York City in March. “Thesis, Interrupted” is sponsored by B&H Photo Video.
The Master of Professional Studies in Digital Photography is an intensive one-year graduate degree program that addresses the digital image capture, workflow, exhibition printing, sound, video and visual storytelling skills, which professional photographers and photo educators require to be at the vanguard of commercial, fine art, portrait and fashion photography practices. Within the year, the diverse and talented students excel at producing conceptually compelling and technically outstanding images, and are ideally positioned to pursue gallery representation, editorial or commercial work, as well as high-end digital retouching and consulting careers.