This month PHOCUS, Vassar’s photography club, is hosting its annual lecture series. Every Monday at 8:00 p.m. in Rocky 310 during the month of April, PHOCUS brings a professional photographer to lecture and critique student work.
“Last year we did the lecture series, and it was a good way to get people involved with PHOCUS,” said member Emily Whicheloe ’14.
PHOCUS, as Vassar’s only student photography club, celebrates the photographer’s unique perspective. “The role of PHOCUS is to reaffirm the value and importance of the photographer as an artistic voice,” said member Alden Rose ’14.
Last Monday, Paolo Nigris, an engineer and biomedical software designer from Tenafly, NJ., came to talk.
Although his main career is as a software designer, he regularly exhibits fine art photography and his works have appeared in many travel and photography publications. Other lecturers include Meredith Heuer, Billy Name, and Ted Spiegel.
Meredith Heuer is a photographer from Beacon, NY. She was chosen as one of Photo District News’ 30 emerging artists in 2001, has received numerous awards for her photography and shoots for magazines such as Fortune, Gourmet and Time.
Billy Name is an American photographer, filmmaker and lighting designer from Poughkeepsie. He is known for his brief romance, friendship and collaboration with Andy Warhol. He was the archivist of the Warhol Factory from 1964 to 1970, and Name’s understanding of theater and lighting was an important influence on the look and ambience of The Factory and Warhol’s early films. In 2001, the United States Postal Service used one of Billy Name’s portraits of Warhol when it issued a commemorative stamp of the artist. Name is a frequent contributor to New York based photo arts magazine Lid.
Next Monday, Ted Spiegel is coming to talk. Spiegel is a local photographer who has worked more than 30 years in the field of photography, often shooting for National Geographic Magazine. Spiegel has traveled to over 60 countries, but is most passionate about his home, the Hudson River Valley. He has also produced several picture books, including ones on the Hudson River Valley, Saratoga, New York and West Point.
Speigel’s biography on the National Geographic website espouses his zest for his home: “He’s covered assignments across the globe, but like the 19th-century artists of the famed Hudson River School, he’s made the Hudson River Valley the focus of much of his life’s work.”
It also notes that he uses photography as a medium to encourage appreciation and respect for the environment’s beauty: “Spiegel’s love of the landscape and positive attitude infuse all his images, [and he] sees his landscape photography as a way to make people aware of the beauty in nature and a way to, in turn, encourage people to help protect and save the environment.”
A key element of the lecture series is bringing photographers from the Poughkeepsie area to campus. “It’s encouraging to see the work of practicing local photographers, and to see their enthusiasm in the projects they come up with,” noted Rose.
Spiegel also iterated his goals, and what he will present at the lecture. “My task is essentially capturing time,” Spiegel said. He will be presenting three different selections of his work that represent different approaches to this mission. The first selection is seasons in the Hudson Valley. The second selection is four years he spent photographing the class of 1992 for West Point, at West Point. The third selection is an overview of the time he has spent as a photojournalist and how that has evolved through photographing particular zones of interest: i.e., people and places, historic time and environment.
Monica D. Church, local artist, PHOCUS’s faculty advisor and the associate director of the Palmer Gallery, recruited Spiegel to talk to Vassar students, and feels that his experiences will be illuminating for the group.
She said, “Spiegel has a great love for the Hudson River and sailing and I often watch him shoot on the Hudson River. He is a generous teacher and very accessible. I thought PHOCUS would gain a great deal from learning about his experiences as a National Geographic Photographer as well as how he has transitioned from film to digital and continues to publish his photographs on projects that primarily focus on the Hudson Valley.”
Spiegel noted that he hopes to share words of wisdom with budding photographers.
“I’m aware that I’m speaking to people young to photography who have the opportunity to create their own documents, and hope to demonstrate that photographers can share a form of vitality with other people through their work.”
He also will be critiquing Vassar student work, and any individual who comes to the lecture can submit their work, not only PHOCUS members.
PHOCUS member Daniel Bialer ’15 said, “You don’t have to be a photographer to come to the lecture, you just have to be interested.” Member Margot Beauchamp added, “I’m super excited about this opportunity to engage students through this series, not only with PHOCUS but with photography in general.”