Photography Challenged in Tisch Senior Thesis Show

Tisch graduating seniors showcase their photography in "Show Two." The exhibit will run until April 22 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and noon to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.

What constitutes photography may at first seem clear-cut, but graduating Tisch seniors dare to challenge that. Last Thursday evening, the undergraduate Photography and Imaging department unveiled “Show Two,” the second half of a presentation of senior thesis works. Currently displayed on both the ground level Gulf + Western Gallery and the eighth floor of 721 Broadway, the exhibition includes a variety of works, ranging from the conceptual to the biographical, that redefine our understanding of photography.

The exhibition space is not sequestered, and flows with the regular traffic of students and professionals who study and work in the building. The first floor gallery displays the works of Lucy Beni, Phoebe Boatwright, Rachel Tarling, Aaron Kho and Claudia Mann.

Beni’s piece, visible from the building’s entrance, is undoubtedly the most captivating of the series on display. “Her Story” captures a series of women who, according to the accompanying image plaque, “have faced prejudice for loving who they want to love and for embracing their sexual or gender identities as women in a time when such choices were not widely accepted.” Black-and-white images of these women occur alongside quotes telling the stories of their lives — whether they fell in love with someone else or with themselves.

Works by Boatright and Kho are more avant-garde, and challenge the boundaries of photography. Boatright’s “Derivations and Inference” appears like a madman’s bulletin board, dicing out the connections between the arbitrary and the measurable, conspiracy and fact. Newspaper clippings, mathematical models, doodles and Post-it notes are only a few of the materials utilized in this thought-provoking piece.

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Kho’s “Documents: Why is there a need to find meaning in everything?” is somewhat more accessible but just as fascinating. On three screens, a series of pop-up windows show different combinations of viral videos, Instagram feeds, animations, photos and text. One window shows a YouTube makeup tutorial. Another displays a looped video of what appears to be Matthew McConaughey and others cheering at a sports game with the caption “Who do you look at first?” in the search bar. Familiar images stand out against the noise — while Kho’s piece demands that viewers make sense of his work, the humor lies in the title, which meditates on passive versus active viewership.

Tarling’s and Mann’s photo sets are more traditional and explore vastly homes in locations as varied as suburban Scarsdale, NY and mafia-controlled areas near Naples, Italy. These images are incredibly captivating and skillfully produced, and although they are not quite of the same innovative caliber as the more conceptual works, they are equally — if not more — philosophically and visually rewarding.

This juxtaposition of unconventional and traditional works continues on the eighth floor. Although it is evident that the curation is not incidental, with the most extraordinary works displayed on the ground floor, these pieces are not to be missed.  Highlights include Maya Baroody’s “LIBNAN,” which exquisitely captures Lebanon through landscapes and portraits, and a set of images by Claire Sunho Lee, which captures the bizarre beauty of everyday images such as a debit card or an empty carton of McDonald’s french fries.

Other featured artists include Lauren Brahn, Aaron Breetwor, Eugenia Efstathiou, Alex Fiszbein, Kearra Amaya Gopee, Michelle Kim, Justin Lanier, Andrew Nelson, David Tu Sun Song and Jeffry Valadez. The exhibit will remain on view through April 22. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays. Admission is free with a photo ID.

Email Natalie Whalen at [email protected] 

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