Summer is a busy time for Bowdoin students. Activity options include finding an internship, traveling around the world, doing research on campus, and occasionally just relaxing. Evan Graff '11 and Piper Grosswendt '11 had an additional commitment this past summer: putting together photography projects as winners of the McKee Photography Grant.
Bowdoin's McKee Photography Grant was first awarded to students in 2008. The grant money comes from the McKee Fund for Photography, which was created in 2003 after the retirement of photography professor John McKee.
The grant requires the recipients to complete a photography project the summer after it is awarded and prepare an exhibition and lecture about the project that fall. It provides $1,000 for the recipients to use for supplies and other expenses. Grant winners are chosen by the current photography faculty and the visual arts department chair.
Both Graff and Grosswendt had been interested in photography for years before applying for the grant.
Grosswendt is an English and visual arts major and used the grant to combine her interests in photography, printmaking and architecture.
Graff's path to the McKee Grant began in childhood, when he began using his family's camera to photograph nature. Although he has never taken a photography course, nature and wildlife photography has remained a part of his life.
"All of my photography is pretty much self-taught," said Graff. "I know a lot of really good photographers because the nature photography community is pretty small. You get to know a lot of people and exchange little tips and advice, but it's mostly trial and error."
Graff's biology major led him to Kent Island in the summer of 2009, where he did research for his honors project. The population and geographical features of the island inspired him to apply for the McKee Photography Grant.
"Kent Island is a place where undergraduates from Bowdoin do research on various ecology topics. There are also some artists-in-residence that go up there and graduate students working on Masters degrees or Ph.D.s," said Graff. "It's a really remote island in the middle of nowhere. I wanted to put together a group of images that told the story of what living, doing research,or working on the island was like to bring back Kent Island to everyone at Bowdoin."
Learning about solarplates in a printmaking course prompted Grosswendt's project. Solarplates are metal plates coated with a polymer medium that allows an image to be exposed onto it. The plate can then be treated as an intaglio plate, so the final image will be formed by ink poured into incisions.
Grosswendt spent her summer working on her project in Brunswick. She first photographed interesting architectural formations and learned how to best show off the subject's geometrical features.
Visiting Assistant Professor of Art Meggan Gould, one of Grosswendt's faculty advisors for her grant project, enjoyed the necessary perceptiveness of Grosswendt's photographic method.
"I loved the idea of learning about the world, and our community, through the process of walking," wrote Gould in an e-mail to the Orient. "There is a tendency to lower visual awareness, I think, in our comfort zones, and giving herself this constraint meant looking with fresh eyes and a new perspective on local spaces."
To make her prints, Grosswendt arranged her pictures onto overhead transparencies, exposed the images onto the solarplate using natural light, etched the plate with incisions, and then made prints using ink and a printing press.
"I particularly love the quiet quality of the digital information rendered in the ink of these etchings; the removal of layers of information allows for the forms, shadow and light to really resonate," wrote Gould.
Grosswendt was able to use the grant money to purchase solarplates and other necessary supplies that she wished to experiment with.
Her other faculty advisor for her project, Assistant Professor of Art Carrie Scanga, admired Grosswendt's desire to work with an unfamiliar technique.
"Piper mastered the mechanics of a new printmaking process that is pretty unforgiving for this project, applying initiative and much creative problem-solving in order to be successful," wrote Scanga in an e-mail to the Orient. "The result is a thoughtful, elegant suite of prints."
Grosswendt's project culminated in 12 prints that will be displayed in the Fishbowl Gallery in the Visual Arts Center until October 21.
Graff's photographs from Kent Island will be displayed from October 22 until November 4 also in the Fishbowl Gallery.
The 16 pictures from his exhibit cover both the natural features of the island, including its enormous tides and the people present on the island over the summer.
"One picture I really like shows two people standing in the Bay of Fundy up to their knees who are waiting for a boat to come in with their groceries," said Graff. "It's really foggy and misty—a typical scene of the island."
Associate Professor of Art Michael Kolster advised Graff on his project. Kolster was impressed by Graff's process in creating and finalizing his exhibit.
"I liked his openness to explore what was interesting to him and then his ability to discern patterns in the work as he edited it," wrote Kolster in an e-mail to the Orient.
Some of Graff's photographs are already on display in the Saint John Art Centre in New Brunswick, Canada. They are part of the "Kent Island Artists: Island Bound" exhibit featuring pieces by other Bowdoin artists that worked on the island.
Both Graff and Grosswendt will be speaking about their McKee Photography Grant projects on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Searles Science Building 315.