PHOCUS’ mag FIX an outlet for experimental

8593145799_77635cee75_bOf the many artistic groups at Vassar, PHOCUS is the only only student-run photography organization. PHOCUS has 130 members in its General Body and holds photography skills information sessions, lectures, and workshops on subjects such as Photoshop, digital single-lens reflex basics, portrait photography, black and white developing, and dark room basics.

It encourages the production of photography by setting weekly assignments and holding meetings so members can offer each other constructive feedback.

PHOCUS is a vibrant group, organizing fundraisers in the fall and selling items such as canvas bags, greeting cards, and calendars. When possible, it works to hold exhibitions of student photography during both semesters.

The upcoming spring season marks the publication of PHOCUS’ annual edition of FIX, a selective magazine comprised of high quality photographs. It will be available in late April of this year.

FIX will display photographs taken by PHOCUS members as well as photographers who are not part of the organization. It will include information about its featured photographers and will have a variety of photographic categories including, but not limited to, travel, portraits, landscapes, and abstract work. FIX will feature only one or two pieces and their titles per page so as to give each piece the attention it deserves.

PHOCUS’ activity coordinator and treasurer Lily Sun ’15, who has been involved with the organization since her freshman year, acknowledged in an emailed statement that she is currently taking more black and white photos than colored ones, though both she and PHOCUS photographer Alden Rose ’14 maintained no preference.

“Each provides a different way of seeing the world,” Rose wrote in an emailed statement. “An apple in black and white is very different from an apple in color.”

“I used to love color photos because the palette itself carries some information and emotion[s] that are not expressed in the subjects of the photos,” Sun wrote.

After taking a photography class on black and white film last semester, however, she discovered a love for the subtle tones of black and white photographs.

“Black and white photos always bring me so many delicate shades and details which I am often too distracted by the colors to see,” she elaborated. “The reason…I love black and white now is that I can concentrate more on the details of subjects and the relationship between pure forms in the monochrome photos.”

Rose touched upon the duality of the editors’ roles. “Our position is an interesting one, acting as both advocates and critics,” she said. “As advocates, we encourage all students to engage with photography regularly (the Weekly Photo Assignments help to do this). Any photographic level is encouraged to submit to FIX. But at the same time, acting as critics and curators, PHOCUS wants to publish in FIX exemplars of the quality of photographs that we believe all students are capable of.”

Sun elaborated on the role of FIX in providing budding photographers a venue for their work. “FIX is an inclusive platform for student photographers to display and promote their works,” explained Sun. Rose wrote in an emailed statement: “FIX aims to bring out different visual and thematic parallels and tensions, and acts as a catalyst for creativity on campus.”

PHOCUS encourages communication among photographers. Though Rose wrote in an emailed statement that she sees photography as very perseonal, she maintained that she enjoys collaboration with other photographers. “Everyone sees the world differently,” she explained, “and photography can be a brilliant manifestation of this diversity, if done honestly.”

Rose explained that PHOCUS does not simply see themselves as group photographers, but rather a forum to precipitate dialogue about a different artistic perspective. “We see ourselves more as a platform to engage the entire campus and community in a certain type of visual thinking. There’s no denying that social media has elevated the status of the social snapshot, often at the expense of the craft of photography.”

Sun explained that PHOCUS works well as an organization because of its effectiveness at bringing its members together. Its collaborative structure means that its executive board members, who apply for their positions at the end of the school year, have equal say when making group decisions.

“Even though each of us has [a] different responsibility in the organization,” she wrote in an emailed statement. “This horizontal structure enables us to bring our passion and imagination all together for PHOCUS.”

Sun maintained that being able to view the world from another perspective is important for a photographer. “The perception of the world may be distorted and transformed in the process of taking photos,” she wrote in an emailed statement, “so a photographer can gradually learn from his works that there [are] alternative ways to look at the reality.” Each photographer has a distinct specialty, she explained, and there is no one rule that dominates the art of photography.

Rose maintained a firm point of view on the current condition of this art. “The status of photography is in a crisis. Photography has been degraded to the crevice between snapshot and documentary,” she declared in an emailed statement.

“If I could encourage one single aspect of photography, it would be that of the activity of photography. Intentional photography,” she furthered.

Rose explained that PHOCUS as a group aims to celebrate the importance of the photographer as an artistic contributor. “The camera is an extension of the eye which is the window to the soul. It is an art, which is perception translated through personal style into expression,” she said. Through publications like FIX, PHOCUS encourages this expression.

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