Thousands flock to New York City every summer for big-shot internships or jobs. With an iPhone in her hand, senior Lauren Gesswein ended up capturing some big shots of her own.
While interning with an independent filmmaker in Manhattan, Gesswein began taking pictures on the subway during her commute.
"I was attracted to the ethnic-social diversity of subway riders," adding that she was struck by "how isolated people are from one another."
Taking one photograph on the subway led her to another, then another, then another.
"It started to become a weird obsession," she said. "I couldn't go into a subway without a camera."
Traveling on the L and F lines to her work every day, Gesswein confidently took out her iPhone to capture the scenes around her.
"Everyone was in their own world," she said. "I was not trying to capture people riding the subway, but [their] vulnerability."
For Gesswein, riding on the subway is the one true time to relax and she noticed a certain vulnerability among the riders with people expressing sorrow, boredom and even melancholy.
When shooting, Gesswein recognized that photographing others in public places is an intrusion and an invasion of privacy; however, very few of her subjects told her to stop.
In fact, most people did not realize she was taking pictures.
"There were instances where I was right up into people's faces and they had no idea," said Gesswein. "I felt like a spy."
Gesswein described the thrill of capturing a fleeting moment on camera.
"There's something about getting a small moment of someone and leaving," said Gesswein.
While photographing strangers was somewhat stressful, Gesswein felt satisfied at the end of the day.
"When I bring photos home and see them, that's the reward," she said.
Gesswein's interest in photography on the subway was inspired by the famous 1980s photographer Bruce Davidson.
One image in particular from Davidson's "Subway 1980" series—a photograph showing many women's hands tightly clutched to a single pole as well as the faces of several women lost in thought—really struck out to Gesswein and was the main, motivating force as she photographed all summer.
Throughout her photography experience on the subway, Gesswein tried to mimic some of Davidson's images, without success.
"I tried to capture it, but didn't really nail it," admits Gesswein, a visual arts major and film studies minor.
She first became interested in photography when she took a class with Associate Professor of Art Michael Kolster.
"I started wearing a camera around my neck every day," she said. "It forced me to look at the world in a way I hadn't before."
Gesswein's interest soon developed into a passion for photography in fall 2009, when she purchased her first Yashica film camera, before leaving for Paris to study film.
"I took pictures of people, places—anything that caught my eye," said Gesswein, who used her Yashica throughout Europe.
Before leaving for her summer in NYC, however, Gesswein asked Professor of Art Mark Wethli for her own photography show when she returned. He said yes.
"It means a lot to me," said Gesswein, who independently worked on this project without any College funding.
Gesswein's show, titled "Inside and Underground" opened yesterday evening at the Fishbowl Gallery in the Visual Arts Center and will remain on view through October 7.
The show consists of approximately 30 photos, each 12 by 18-inches large. Gesswein hopes to show visitors that even iPhone technology can produce great art.
"Any camera you use can be legitimate," she said. "I want people to question mobile phone photography."
Among all her photos, Gesswein is most proud of a photograph in which two to three girls are laughing on one side, with sad-looking woman right next to them and another woman who is reading a book, not paying attention to her surroundings.
"That photo sums up my thesis," she said. "Goes to show that if you see a moment, capture it because you won't see it again."