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ISSUE 116 VOL 19 PUBLISHED 5/9/2003

Students draw on travels in photo contest

By Bethany Jacobson
Staff Writer

Friday, May 9, 2003

St. Olaf students who participated in off-campus study programs had the opportunity to share their experiences through a photography contest held in early May.

Four hundred and thirty photographs were submitted to The 20th Annual Gimse International and Domestic Off-Campus Studies Photo Contest and Exhibit, which was sponsored by the International and Off-Campus Studies Program.

This year’s top winnters were Beth Kinderman '04, with "Afternoon Tango;" Phillip Knutson ’05, with "Painted by the Past;" Andy Willis '03, with "Subway, Cairo" and "Mong Tok, Hong Kong."

Students involved in off-campus study programs were invited to submit up to five photos that illustrated their experiences while abroad. The four Top Awards, along with 22 other photos, were displayed in the hallway that runs from the Cage to Rolvaag Library.

The photographs were judged by a panel of six St. Olaf officials and students. The criteria considered were artistic and technical ability, cross-cultural content, and reproducibility for the exhibit. The panel’s judging session was identity-blind and lasted for only one hour. This short judging period ensured that only the most eye-catching and original photos were chosen for the exhibit.

During a recent exhibit some students reported unease about the subject matter selected by judges: photos of building in Europe and of poor people in other parts of the world. In response to this, judges were asked to be sensitive to this sort of bias in their choices for next year’s exhibit.

Students received no monetary compensation, said Helen Stellmaker, one of the judges of the competition. "I think it should be done for the sheer joy of sharing their experience," she said. The exhibit is a way to encourage students to take more photos and to "express in visual form their experiences off campus," said Stellmaker

Stellmaker believes that organizing and discussing photographs taken during students' off-campus experiences can be a useful way to re-enter normal life and put their new knowledge in context. Lindsay Freeman ’04, who spent a semester in Germany, agreed. "It helps you to describe your experiences," she said. Also, "it helps generate the stories" that she later told to friends and family.

Many of the students who submitted photos are not professionally interested in photography. The exhibit encouraged students to "look at things artistically, through a different eye," said Stellmaker. As they see

"things and people that they wouldn't normally notice," their cross-cultural experience is enriched.

"Wherever I went I was trying to capture something to bring back," said Kinderman. For Kinderman the exhibit also became a way of sharing an experience with her father, a professional photographer. He encouraged her to enter the exhibit and helped her to choose which images to submit.

Stellmaker said that the exhibit is something "the campus always looks forward to," mentioning that she recieves a lot of feedback from students, who enjoy the vivid photographs of far-away places. Occasionally students will object to the subject matter of the photographs, and valid complaints are submitted to the judging committee.

Although the exhibit is no longer displayed in Buntrock, the photos are available year-round in the International and Off-Campus Studies Office in Manitou Cottage, and will also be uploaded to the program's website by the end of the month.

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