School of Visual Arts presents “Re:Shift,” an exhibition of thesis work by the MPS Digital Photography class of 2018. Curated by New York City gallerist and SVA faculty member Debra Klomp Ching, “Re:Shift” is on view Friday, October 12, through Saturday, November 3, at the SVA Gramercy Gallery, 209 East 23rd Street, New York City. Admission is free and open to the public.
MPS Digital Photography Chair Katrin Eismann (MFA 2002 Design) explains, “Being a successful photographer requires curiosity, attention to detail, dedication to experimentation and very importantly the openness to learn from so-called mistakes. ‘Re:Shift’ reflects and reveals all of these attributes of the class of 2018, whose essential tenet was, ‘I’ll try it,’ as they worked long into the night fueled by cold coffee and stale pastries. This exhibition showcases the commitment and imagination required from each student to successfully conceptualize and complete a unique body of photographic work.”
As exhibition curator Debra Klomp Ching shares, “The title of this exhibition is an appropriate and broad-sweeping form of branding, and points to this ever-changing context of the photograph. It also—appropriately—points to the diversity inherent in 18 individual photographers, each exploring subjects that comment upon varying cultural shifts, which are at once universal and uniquely individual. We see across the different projects subjects touching upon introspection, the environment, family history, public/private identity, societal expectation and so on. We also see a range of approaches that remind us that the voice of the photographer is capable of overcoming the restraints of the technology, and making visible the hand of the artist.”
Vicky Azcoitia’s project “Pesqui & Papi” explores the relationship between a father and his three-year-old son. With unrestricted access that only a mother can possess, the extended photo essay illustrates the blurred line of what it means to be paternal in modern society.
In “hide / seek,” Yiyu Chen’s environmental self-portraits serve as visual metaphors for the artist’s unspoken conflicting feelings and her impulse to hide from reality. Together, the quiet palette and solitary figure tell the story of a search for identity and recognition.
Conceptualized and composited by Crystal-Anne Chijindu, “Ancient Whispers” uses photographs to tell the story of an imagined encounter between a young, modern woman and her archetypal female ancestor. Inspired by the word Sankofa, which means “Go back and fetch it” in the language of Ghana’s Akan tribe, “Ancient Whispers” encourages viewers to return to their own roots for important life lessons.
Tenney Espy’s project “Hidden” explores the relationship between nature and the human figure. The images evoke vulnerability, freedom or sensuality and play with our notions of modesty by abstracting the nude female and male form through the use of shadows and light, cropping, or the placement of flowers, fruit and bones.
“The Human Spectrum: Coming of Age with Autism,” by Kyle Hislip, tells the story of six autistic young people who are entering the adult world. The ambition of “The Human Spectrum” is to help viewers understand that despite their issues, autistic people are still deeply human, and may still benefit from the social support that has helped them throughout their childhoods.
Qianyuan Hu is a trained fashion designer and her project “Timeless Silhouette,” combines the kinetic movement of dance with the ever-evolving world of fashion. Hu uses bold color and contrast to highlight sheer textures while hiding details in the shadows to create strong forms that move beyond pure fashion and showcase garments of her own design.
“Pre•disposed” is a series of studio self-portraits by Qiqi Huang in which the artist wears sculptural garb constructed entirely from single-use materials, bringing viewers’ attention to our continuing mass consumption of “disposable” items, including plastic utensils and straws, rubber gloves and bubble wrap. In dressing herself with such materials, the artist is also calling attention to her own culpability in this serious environmental problem.
Jason Johnson’s “Rock of Ages: My Jamaican Grandmothers” is a portrayal of grandmothers as the social pillars in West Indian and African American cultures. It presents viewers with a series of environmental portraits of the photographer’s own two grandmothers, who grew up in Jamaica.
In “Get Away,” Pongsakorn Jungthaweesil portrays the artist’s feeling of being an outsider in a foreign environment. Each image is a self-portrait, taken in an uncomfortable position, to signify a sense of being out of place in a setting one has no control over.
Growing up on the shore of New York’s Long Island Sound, Chase Leonard was struck by how its changeable waters created a wide range of feelings. In “Dark Beauty,” she evokes this emotional range by combining water’s highly variable textures and reflections together with movements of the female form.
“i_am_miss_bonbon” is a photographic project that explores how social media creates pressure on its users and affects the way they see and interact with beauty and expectations. Created by Joy Li, this online performance uses Instagram, featuring a computer-generated avatar named Miss Bonbon, to question the authenticity of the Internet world and remind people how social media may endanger their sense of self.
Xin Liu’s photographs in “Island” create a surrealist world of stylized and manipulated figures and geometric solids, offering a symbolic commentary on the limitations of human expression and connection. The project’s lighting, styling and post-production work make the spatial relationships between each element in an image deliberately ambiguous and hard to “read.”
Procrastination can be crippling for some people, and “…The Waiting Game” by Wenlan Luo offers a deceptively comedic narrative about all the ways in which this habit can affect daily life. Its images, which have a cartoonish quality achieved in both shooting and post-production, show characters acting out everyday scenes, such as doing laundry or going to the dentist, in which procrastination has overwhelmed them, literally and figuratively.
“Rule Breakers: Women Who Are Challenging Stereotypes,” photographed and designed by Sofie Stenmark, challenges female gender stereotypes. Through environmental portraits and one-on-one interviews, the project explores how its eight subjects have managed to negotiate traditionally male-dominated fields of endeavor—from powerlifting to comedy, skateboarding to music production—and prevail in them.
Unlike commercial fashion photography, the photographs in “Chroma” by Xiaotian Wan are not intended to represent a specific garment, shoe, hairstyle, makeup or even “look.” Instead, they are visual experiments that use the vocabulary of fashion work—its lighting techniques, emphasis on color and texture, reliance on gesture and movement and seductive mood—to create abstractions with a life of their own.
“The Five Elements” uses highly abstract photographic imagery to explore the ancient Chinese concept of Wu Xing (五行), which posits that the universe can be explained through the complex interrelationships of earth, water, fire, wood and metal. Fan Zhang created the images using a complex process involving projecting original photographs into a set constructed by the artist.
Yutian Zhou’s “Dollhouse” is a metaphorical essay about the intense parental and social pressures faced by Chinese girls growing up in one-child families. Through the use of three-dimensional collages and digital compositing, “Dollhouse” follows these girls through that culture's rites of passage—ultimately encouraging them to abandon the suffocating dollhouse of demands and expectations.
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 required of professional photographers and photo educators at the vanguard of commercial, fine art, portrait and fashion photography practices. Within the year, students learn how to produce conceptually compelling and technically outstanding images and are positioned to pursue gallery representation, editorial or commercial work, as well as high-end digital retouching and consulting careers.