June 24, 2010

Behind "A Day In The Life"

Mads was so impressed with the photographs in "Nine Views: A Day in the Life of Vassar" from the latest issue of the Alumnae/i Quarterly that we got in touch with some of the photographers to get the scoop behind the images.

Update: You can also check out our interview with photographer Ryan Muir '06 here.

Mads Vassar: How did you decide what to photograph? What was the process?

Ben Rutkowski '09: We were all assigned specific themes and events. For instance I was assigned various rehearsals at Skinner, the Christian Fellowship meeting, Cappy walking her dog, a rehearsal for a play, a professor playing with her babies, WVKR, the post office, the grounds crew working on the baseball field, etc. I was told to specifically focus on people, rather than architecture, landscapes or objects. We were then each sent around with a helper who would get people to sign releases if they appeared in the photos.

Lauri Robertson '75:  We had specific and general assignments. I asked to be assigned to Sunset Lake and the Vassar Farm. I'm a landscape photographer, so my eyes were wide open - we didn't have much time and the light is crucial.

What was it like being back as a photographer rather than just an alumnus/a or student?

Ben: I felt uncomfortable doing it. Yes, I am technically an alumni, but I don't feel like I have (now or then) the perspective to reflect on Vassar photographically in a role other than a student doing it for pleasure ... or as an employee, which I also did (I worked for College Relations as a photographer for four years). In other words, I think my photographs as  a student and an employee for College Relations are a lot better than these, and that's my own fault. I feel that the photos taken by people with a lot more life experience outside of Vassar are the most successful of the bunch, for instance Benjamin Busch '91 - I think those ones are amazing. It would have been a lot different and frankly a lot more interesting to get this assignment at my high school or middle school, where I didn't know half the people, was less familiar with the territory and could have done it from a much more objective prospective with several years of buffer space.

Were you drawn to photograph places you had spent time as a student?

Ben: I was definitely drawn to places I'd spent a lot of time (like Skinner), but also avoided places where I'd run into too many students (like the Library). Once again, running into people I knew during this assignment made me very uncomfortable for some reason.

Which were your favorite photographs?

Ben: I think my favorite photographs published are actually only on the website and not in the magazine: the woman that sells bread in the College Center, and a wide shot of Cappy with her dog outside of Main.

Lauri: I'm fond of the image of the red barn with the blue door, and my blurry dog. There are a series of hoar frost images of Sunset Lake I also like, one of which is on the web.


Were you happy with the photographs selected?

Ben: I was actually very disappointed with the ones published. We each essentially took 500-1,000 pictures and then handed them off to the publishers of the VQ. We could of course highlight selects and hope that those would be the ones they published, but it was pretty much out of our hands.

Images via Alumnae/i Quarterly.

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