It was clear to Joy Durkin that the Ganges River was a holy place. People along its banks were doing religious spiritual work by the water and in temples. She sat in a boat, cutting through India by way of the great river, and when her guide looked off into the distance, she snapped a photo.
That picture, called “Guiding on the Ganges,” can now be seen in the Kinsey Gallery at Seattle University.
The College of Arts and Sciences puts on a yearly photography competition called “Imagining the World” for students who have captured their experiences studying abroad on camera. There are two categories to the competition: one for students who go abroad, and another for students from other other countries who come to Seattle.
Durkin, a public affairs major, said that she was surprised when her photo received an award. Unlike the photos she had submitted from a nicer camera, she had snapped “Guiding on the Ganges” using her phone.
But for Durkin, what makes a good photograph goes beyond pixel quality. She likes photographs that make the viewer feel some emotion. Even when the artist doesn’t have time or context to tell the story associated with a photo, it should still be able to stand alone.
“The photo should be able to tell its story within itself,” Durkin said.
Contest winner Kirsti Ruud’s photo “Rahavaviko Kely” shows the intercrossing of several stories. Meaning “my little sisters,” the photo features two young girls beaming from a windowsill.
Ruud took the photo in Madagascar, a country struggling from poverty and the advese effects of climate change. While aesthetically pleasing, “Rahavaviko Kely” is a lot more than just a pretty picture.
Now employed at the Education Abroad Office at Seattle U, Ruud believes that study abroad trips are a good way to realize the values associated with the Jesuit mission. This is because while she was abroad, she was exposed to a lot of the injustices in Madagascar.
“I think more and more it’s important for us to see ourselves as global citizens,” Ruud said. “A lot of the problems, issues of injustice, whether its environmental, poverty—and those are very interconnected in a lot of ways—those problems cannot be solved by individual countries, they cannot be solved by individual people; they’re very international problems.”
She believes that art is a good way to capture some of that essence and bring it to the viewer.
The international focus of the exhibit also takes into account the fact that for students from other countries, Seattle is an international setting.
“Honestly I feel like any photo can be labeled as international, depending on who takes it and where they are,” said photography major Nicole Schlaeppi. Schlaeppi, who tends to favor landscape photography, received second place in the Study Abroad category for her photo “Nicaraguan Mountains.”
Luka Karaula received first place in the category for students from other countries for his photo called “The Thinker.” Originally from Croatia, Karaula says he inherited his creativity from his father, who is a sculptor, and it is from him that he developed his eye for composing art.
“When I take a photo it’s like I’m touching my soul, getting connected to the world,” Karaula said.
He hopes that these photos will help link students to other places.
“The Thinker” was taken at Mount Si in Washington. A crucial theme of Karaula’s photography is that the multiple aspects of a scene can come together.
“But it’s also just having a fascination of how the world is not composed, but how it’s interconnected. How it’s all so perfect together,” Karaula said.
To him, photos can help capture a connection between Mother Nature and humans, and the interconnectivity among all living things.
Interconnected scenes is also a theme echoed by Ruud—something she mentions in relation to solving international issues.
“I think it’s important to see images of the world and see how you might find your place in that as well,” Ruud said.
Other photos from these artists as well as other students will be available for viewing at the Kinsey Gallery, located in the Admissions building.
The “Imagining the World” exhibit is open now through May 28. The awards ceremony will be held on May 7 at 5 p.m. It is free and open to the public.
Lena may be reached at [email protected]
Nicole Schlaeppi is the Spectator’s photo editor.