If you had one chance to represent a year’s worth of work and leave your final mark on Seattle University, how would you do it? What type of project could encapsulate all your experiences and the lessons you learned from them? This was the central question that guided the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) Photography Exhibition, a swan song project for seniors in the photography department.
As soon as one steps foot in the Fine Arts Building’s Vachon Gallery, they are met with what is perhaps the most pervasive theme of the exhibit: the idea that people on the same path can arrive at very different destinations.
All the students on display come from similar disciplines, attend the same school and have learned under the same professors, yet the works they produced would certainly not suggest this. Each of the eight student projects has a high degree of individuality, from minute details like their choice in framing to much larger elements like the themes that are conveyed in their photographs. The submissions all have their own unique story to tell and convey very different circumstances and lived experiences.
“There were so many factors to take into consideration such as time management, and the space I had to work with,” said Paulo Gonzales, one of the students presented in the gallery “Our graduating class were all helpful to each other, and I’m grateful for having them around during the process.”
Gonzales’ exhibit, titled “A Nice Place to Live”, focused on presenting gentrification and its influence on the Seattle neighborhoods he grew up with. The photographs selected for his collection had an effective balance of vibrant colors and bright labels, contrasted with raw, visceral materials like mixed cement and nails used in construction. The cobbled-together aesthetic was meant to evoke the irrationality of Seattle’s current situation, while several of the photographed objects are meant as references to Gonzales’ Latin-American heritage. Another unique trait about this collection was the physical component that accompanied his images; along with the photographs, Gonzales’ exhibit also included a wood palette adorned with a variety of objects. This addition felt like an image escaped from the frame and was emblematic of the outside-the-box thinking that went into all the student projects.
Experimental projects like this were not only allowed by the photography department, but encouraged. The BFA Photography Exhibition was intended as an opportunity to show the show the seniors’ preparedness for the professional world and their ability to stand out. Elisa Pickett, who ventured into the territory of video for her gallery submission, credits her professors for giving her the initial push.
“Producing my video installation was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done but it was more than worth it.” Picket said “The two photography professors, Wynne Greenwood and Claire Garoutte, really pushed me to grow as an artist by emboldening me to try new things and encouraging me to never stop reevaluating and building on my ideas.”
This final project was not only intended as an opportunity for seniors to put together all their skills and resources, but also to reflect on how they came to acquire them. Though the gallery communicates a forward- thinking intent, displaying the seniors’ first works as emerging photographers, it also seems to look back on the past. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the opening reception, in which the students were recognized by the instructors, friends and community members that helped them reach this final destination. In this space, they were not only able to recollect how they reached their finished product, but also how different their work was from when they started. Though vastly different in presentation and content, each exhibit serves as a sort of memento, both for the graduating seniors and the community that presided over their growth.
“As I approach graduation, I’m reflecting on the support given by the professors within the photography department and everyone at Photographic Center Northwest.” said Jennifer Bacon, another student featured in the gallery “Without this community I would not have been able to produce and achieve this level of quality in the work presented here.”
The BFA Photography Exhibition is publicly available during the Fine Arts Building’s hours of operation and will be on display until Friday, June 9.
Carlos may be reached at