Photography has been a part of junior psychology major and geography and communication double minor Sarah Simon’s life since she was a young and inquisitive 7-year-old growing up in New York City. Since then, Simon has continued to explore her potential through photography and has found it to be incredibly rewarding. Simon explained that her father—an avid proponent of visual arts and one of Simon’s greatest influences—was the first one to support her in her artistic endeavors; he noticed his daughter’s talent after she stole his digital camera one day when walking in Central Park. Simon noted that her father was pleasantly surprised when the pictures on his camera were more than the expected clumsy snapshots of a 7-year-old. Simon distinctly recalled the moment when her father said to her, “You have the eye.”
Simon emphasized that she has always seemed to be aware of the power of visuals, noting that she views visual art as a “holistic experience that is more universal than reading a message.” She describes her style as cinematic, as she loves taking photos of people. Simon’s portraits, however, are about more than the final product. They’re about the collaboration of those both in front of and behind the camera.
“You’re both contributing to this,” Simon said. “The picture is what happens and it’s a reflection of both of your work.”
The importance of connection between photographer and subject was highlighted for Simon over the summer as she interned with fellow photographer and New York City native Michael Cinquino. Gaining professional experience with photography is critical for Simon, as she simultaneously navigates the art world while attending school. For “real world” practice, she relies on her internship at the Genesee Sun and on projects that she sets up for herself, sometimes collaborating with other students.
One of Simon’s favorite current projects is her collection of Instagram works in her “Light Series.” Simon noted that she loves the unique and experimental nature of the series. “It’s basically random shadows and whatever I see that involves light in some way,” she said. “Photography is the study of light, so I have a lot of latitude with it.” Photos in Light Series range from neon streetlights to shadows created by natural light.
Simon’s online presence continues on her Flickr page, where she puts her favorite shots. Simon noted that she is proud of the success she has had through these online accounts.
“I think we live in a society that is repugnant towards narcissism … but showing your face is something you have to do, especially if you want to get out there in art,” she said.
While not entirely photography-oriented, Simon showcases her love of the creative in another project: the performance art group Womb Rumors where she works with junior Alex McGrath and sophomore Tess Ramos-Dries. Each individual has a different role, with McGrath creating the music, Ramos-Dries dancing and Simon reciting poetry. In addition, Simon works with McGrath in a photo and music mash-up.
Simon’s biggest piece of advice to fellow photographers is to listen to their inner voice and to strive to stay present and aware of their environment.
“You have to be open to the opportunity,” Simon said. “There are times when I’m in the middle of the street and it would not be convenient for me to take a photo, but something in me is like, ‘You need to take a photo.’”
Simon explained that she is hoping to take her photography to the next level with a Geneseo ambassadorship for a project that she has proposed. “It will involve going to three different countries and photographing teachers in the classroom. And so that, again, draws on people,” Simon said. “But also, I like thinking about teachers; when they work in the classroom, it is a performance. They use their hands and their bodies to express to you what they want you to learn. It’s beautiful.”
An ambassadorship is just one goal of Simon’s, but her real aspiration is to keep doing what she loves. “If you take a picture, it beats not taking a picture,” she said.