Student photography exhibit explores memory, college life

The Kinetic Gallery hosted the opening of its first exhibit of the semester “Looking Forward/Looking Back: (Re)Staging Memory & the College Experience” by senior Catherine McWilliams on Friday Jan. 23. The exhibit features a repeating slideshow of photographs exploring the obstacles women face while navigating the college experience. The scenes portrayed in the photographs are recreations of actual college experiences that were shared with McWilliams. Through the photographs, she attempts to give a visual representation of the struggles of women—struggles that, although they are part of public discourse, many may not relate to as intimately.

“Some of the memories are not gender-specific, but I didn’t really have a formal interview process,” McWilliams said. “It took a long time for them to tell me these intense personal stories and memories.”

It seems that McWilliams, a creative writing major accustomed to telling stories with words, has found a way to convey a similar kind of narrative through pictures with her exhibit. She noted that during the interview process “either a story would really stick in my mind as something that was photo-worthy or narrative-worthy.” She added that the challenge was then to figure out how to take a picture of it.

McWilliams became interested in photography during an internship with campus photographer Keith Walters in the spring semester of her sophomore year. It was then that she realized she had a natural talent for taking photographs, and that she was taken up with the emotive aspect of photography.

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“I guess that this project hit really close to home for me because I was dealing with a lot of my own memories and wanted to investigate the memories of others, too,” she said. “This project has been really important to me because I’m currently in college, so this is what is happening in my life. It’s been kind of a way for me to process my own experience as well as helping others with similar experiences.”

McWilliams noted that she does not wish to spell out the intended meaning of each of her photographs. “As a viewer, you’re not supposed to knoweverything, but [instead] build your own narrative,” she said. “As much as this project is about experience, it is also about relationships. It’s about friendships and hook ups and love.”

Still, the chief aim of McWilliams’ exhibit aim is to personalize and shed light on the recurring themes regarding the struggles women in college may have. “One of the things I wanted this project to do was give some sort of visual manifestation of these things that we know about or talk about, but ... don’t really hit us,” she said. “We can know about them and talk about them, but I wanted to have a way for people to see these things––to have them be manifested as something real that is happening.”

 

“Looking Forward/Looking Back: (Re)Staging Memory & the College Experience” will be displayed in the Kinetic Gallery until Feb. 7.