It’s the last week in January, and we have yet to see significant snowfall at Sweet Briar (though, New York is getting walloped with a blizzard right now). I’m posting these photos from the prettiest snowfall we’ve had in my four years here, on March 25, 2013, as a wistful reminder of how transformed this beautiful campus becomes after snowfall.
No photos tonight, just a few quick recaps from the week.
First, if you ever have the chance to hear Trish Downing speak, you must!
Downing was the keynote speaker for the Leadership Conference this morning. Ironman, paraplegic athlete and inspirational speaker, she was a great fit for the conference theme, “Confidence and Courage.” I don’t pretend to know what it’s like to suddenly go from able-bodied athleticism, to needing to re-learn how to even sit up in bed. But Downing told the story with such grace, and her pluck is quite remarkable. I don’t want to spoil her story, but one thing that stood out to me is that while her strength and determination were inimitable, she also readily admitted that she couldn’t have competed without the belief of her equally stubborn support team.
My husband is quite the Ironman fan, and needless to say, was quite jealous.
I hope to share pictures later, but this evening I photographed another speaker from the conference, one of our own: Lieutenant Colonel Polevitzky ’93, who has served in the Marine Corps for nearly 20 years. I asked her what’s changed for women in service since she enlisted. Among other changes, she said that then, there were fewer roles women could fill, so her “MOS” (military occupation specialty, or career path) choices within the military were limited. Now, enlisting women have many more options from day one.
Earlier this week the Waxter Forum speaker, filmmaker Josh Fox, spoke about his documentary “Gasland,” and made the case for banning the controversial hydrolic fracturing (“fracking”) method of obtaining natural gas. He mentioned an uptick of medical problems in communities where fracking is prevalent, such as an increase in birth defects. I won’t get into anymore particulars here, but I’m looking forward to watching the film.
Between these events and hitting the ground running with projects in the office, it’s been a busy week! But one of those weeks that reminds me of why I love working in higher education: so many interesting and inspiring lectures, and always new things to learn.
I have a list of blog posts I want to write, about Lauren Alkire ’12 visiting campus and making time to come say hi to me which warmed my heart. Or about the really interesting and exciting photo projects I’ve been working on, and sharing some of the past magazine’s behind-the-scenes stories and images. Or about the beautiful new library and how I love the light in its new student studying spaces.
But for now, I leave you with one of my favorite images from the annual walk to the monument. It’s been indoors the past two years because of rain, and it was nice to be back outside, and also to try to find a new way of seeing this event.
I’m back on campus after maternity leave this spring, and summer is in full swing: programs and campus are rotating through buildings each week, and the only relief from summer sun is the shade of our old trees or an afternoon thunderstorm.
Here are a few moments I found while wandering around campus, reacquainting myself with my old familiar nooks, and finding a few new views.
Construction on the library renovation continues! It was just a steel shell when my baby was born at the end of March, and I think it’s fascinating to see how quickly things have moved along.
I have walked past the sundial in Daisy’s Garden, a gift from the Class of 1923, dozens of times and have probably taken wide photos of it, especially since Sweet Briar House makes such a lovely backdrop. But this was the first time I have paused to take a detail photo. It’s so beautiful!
And of course, I had to stop at Sweet Briar House.
Two summer camps currently in session are the Blue Ridge Institute for Young Artists (BLUR), which emphasizes technology as a tool for artists, and the Young Writers Workshop, which features a songwriting component. I caught both camps a few times. The first photo was not taken outdoors, but there was beautiful sunshine through the windows in Fletcher. The second is an aspiring songwriter who spent her afternoon elective composing music in the quad.
This final image is not a new subject–I’ve captured dozens of images of the Bell Tower over a variety of seasons. But as I wandered campus, I tried to consider new angles and look for new ways of seeing the same things. I walked off the sidewalk in front of Fletcher, and happened to notice the way the branches created a sun-dappled frame, which made for fresh perspective of the tower.
Happy New Year! The College offices have reopened after the holidays, though classes don’t resume until January 23 so campus is quiet, besides the ongoing construction.
2012 saw the start of work on the library expansion, the graduation of a remarkable class of young women, a visit from alternative farmer and locavore Joel Salatin and the first summer, of hopefully many, hosting the Young Writers’ Workshop (formerly at University of Virginia). Members of our office took a trip to DC to meet with some of our many alumnae doing great work in that city, and wrote about it for the summer 2012 college magazine. As I’ve written before, author and activist Masha Hamilton visited as part of her work with the Afghan Women Writers project. These are just a few of many highlights on campus.
Before we get much further along into 2013, I thought I would gather a few of my favorite images from the year. These are in no particular order, and are by no means inclusive of every program or tradition at the College, but rather they’re images that make me smile, or that I’m particularly proud of when looking back at the year’s work. I hope you enjoy them, too.
First, some of my favorite Instagram images from the year.
The remaining images were shot on Nikon cameras, either my trusty D700 or the fabulous (especially in low-light!) D800.
I can’t write a post about 2012 without mentioning my student photographer Sarah Lindemann ’13, whose great attitude and talent have graced our office for a year now. I’ll be sorry to see her go this May, though the great big ol’ world will be lucky to have her.
Whether or not you have an iPhone, chances are you’ve heard of Instagram, the app that lets you apply vintage filters to photos and upload them to a social network. One of the reasons I like using the app is because it gives me a creative outlet while taking away a lot of the control that I’m used to having as a photographer. That is, I can’t change aperture, shutter speed, or zoom (or as some photographers say, I have to zoom with my feet and walk closer!), so I’m forced to think about the angle, framing, etc., in new or creative ways. It’s sort of liberating in that way. And the filters add a fun little pop.
When I think of it while out shooting around campus, I’ve tried to snap some Instagram moments here & there in addition to using my Nikon. If I do, I tag them with the hashtag #sweetbriarcollege (if you’re on Instagram, do the same!) to create a little collection of these images.
Here are some favorite moments:
It’s been lovely to see all of our students return to campus refreshed, ready to tackle a new semester. Nearly everyone has said that her break was relaxing, and more than one senior has posted to Facebook about the “last first day.”
I love all of the smiles and seeing happy reunions! Just now, on my way back to my office from lunch, I ran into one student who appeared to be arriving on campus after a grocery run. Her arms full of groceries, she still stopped, shifted her bags with a grin and asked me how my holidays went.
I realize I’ve written nearly the same post twice–this time last year, saying nearly the same thing, about having students back on campus…it’s just so very quiet on campus without these young women! I’m currently reading a collection of short stories about military families titled You Know When the Men Are Gone. The title could work here, too: You Know When the Young Women Are Gone. It’s a completely different place. Prothro and Daisy’s are shuttered, the Quad nearly echoes, the FAC is often dark. And now, the lights burn into the night, and these smiles greet you around every turn.
Next week, author and activist Masha Hamilton will visit Sweet Briar for a week-long residency. You can read more about her visit on our website, including information about the Afghan Women’s Writing Project (AWWP–also, the project was featured on NPR yesterday).
One of my favorite details of her visit is the fundraising project coordinated by Sweet Briar business students, involving an art project by two of our students. These artists are creating beautiful engravings that will be printed on broadsides with poems written by women of AWWP.
Yesterday, I spent a few minutes at the Art Barn as Sally (red sweater) and Katie made their final adjustments to their engravings. I’ve always been fascinated by this artform; printmaking requires incredible patience and also a good deal of coordination as the artists carve their art in reverse–not to mention all the steps and technical precision required for the inking and actual pressing (which can vary greatly with the brand of ink, for instance, or the weight and absorption rate of the paper).
If you’re interested, the finished broadsides will be for sale at the reading next Friday.
This summer, I had the pleasure of photographing the new group of Admissions Counselors. I’m so excited for this year’s prospective students and the relationships they’ll forge with these new counselors (and of course, the fabulous Admissions team they’re joining). While we said goodbye to some great women, the young women filling their shoes are an outgoing, friendly & lively bunch!
On a personal note, I was excited to find out that two of them are beautiful alumnae I had the pleasure of getting to know prior to their graduation this spring. A third counselor, Savannah, looked awfully familiar until we realized….we went to a Wilco concert in Charlottesville with mutual friends a few years ago. Small world!
Here are a few favorite outtakes from our session:
Welcome, ladies, and have fun traveling to meet our future Sweet Briar Women!
Here are two recent images that I’ve edited as b&w, becoming sort of character portraits, if you will.
First, Miss Shirley just retired from the library after 57 years of service to the college. I will miss her sweet smile at the front desk! I recently took staff portraits for the website, and while it was just before Miss Shirley’s last day, I couldn’t miss an opportunity to photograph her in the Browsing Room.
I really only needed head & shoulder images that day. Here, I stepped back for a moment while adjusting the lighting, and ended up capturing this wide shot because I loved her sweet smile. In black & white, all of the textures & patterns of this room are so interesting to me. And I love Miss Shirley’s butterfly shoes!
Second – this was a serendipitous moment. I’d just finished photographing some picnickers at a dress rehearsal for Endstation Theatre Company‘s outdoor production of Twelfth Night. It started to rain, so I packed up & left quietly before the play ended. I happened to see Walter, one of the leads, in the “wings” waiting for his entrance–right next to that fabulous, perfectly detailed antique car (which happens to belong to the school’s chaplain, who was already pretty cool before I saw this awesome car).
There’s just a mood in this photo that I love. Walter is lost in thought, concentrating on his lines, perhaps. The car is glossy in the sunset. Even the tree’s texture and the juxtaposition of the Jeep behind them works for me. It’s a jumble of eras, and it was a moment I was happy to discover on my way out.
Oh–and if you have a chance, there are still tickets to see Twelfth Night, which runs through this weekend. Bring fans, but brave the heat: it’s just so enjoyable, especially once the sun begins to settle below the mountains.
Most of my work here at Sweet Briar is used in color, whether in print or on the web. I shoot in color digitally, but I always enjoy making certain images black & white. It’s usually either a particularly moody photo, or perhaps one with interesting textures that are sometimes secondary to the color in the image.