Walking into the class, I knew I had a solid project. I spent countless hours accumilating and concentrating ideas, taking the photos, scanning those tiny 35mm negatives, editing the film, and printing the pictures out on 13x19 inch pieces of paper. I think I spent a total of 20+ hours in a cold dark basement for the past
I felt a sense of accomplishment. Yes I did see the flaws in my work with some things being a little too grey and little specks of dust here and there that clearly did not exceed my standard of perfection, but that’s because I am still learning the craft.
But I thought that the concept of my piece, the aesthetic and artistic quality that my
teacher countlessly repeated in his lectures to us were there. I felt that my piece didn’t need any extensive explanation because it was there. It was obvious. Even through the differences in tones, textures, and the complexity of the images; it was all there.
I remember putting up my work and I was sweating. I was shaking because I knew that what Albert would tell me would determine my destiny in the photo realm. I was more nervous than anything to hear what he had to say. When the class was was ready to critique, Albert said, “Now who’s is this?” Timidly but assertively, I said it was
He turned and covered his mouth to whisper, “Good job.” Immediately, my small quakes became trembles because he had never said that to me, or actually to anyone in the class. As the class talked and broke up into small section to talk about my piece, he confronted me. We talked about my piece a little but not in depth. I said that
with the same object choices (the feather or the egg) that this project made me strive for competition, because I wanted to be the best. Albert replied that it obviously was working.
Once the class talked about my piece aloud and critiqued what was good, okay, needed improvement, etc. They gave me score. Surprisingly the scores were a little lower then I hoped, but I didn’t care, because I knew that I was proud and knew that I put forth the most work that I could have possibly done. Albert then told me to describe my concept and what drove me to create my piece.
I went on to say that eggs to me symbolize fertility and birth, naturally. So I incorporated baby’s breath, orchids (the scientific term for orchids in greek means ”testicle”), and eggs together for my still life, or the “creation.”
On either side of the still life I had a female and male model with their arms out branching towards the still life with different types of leaves and floral arrangements branching from the arms to symbolize the family tree and the connection creating a triptych of rebirth, connection, life, etc.
I also went into saying that the paisley bandana was not random, but supposed to symbolize the never-ending cycle of birth and reproduction. The paisley bandana, yes was a little random in the presentation, but had just as much meaning as every
other piece. Everything in the piece meant something, it wasn’t just there for aesthetics, but also for its meaning.
Albert glanced at me and I glanced at him. It was the moment. He said that he didn’t agree with the scores and that this was probably the best project he had seen so far this semester. I thought I was going to cry in class. My lip was quivering and I was trembling. Albert is not the type of man to give compliments. Then the words, “M.S., stand up.” The whole class ooo-ed and coo-ed over the statement. I
thought I was going to die. “M.S., don’t be scared, just stand up.” I proceeded towards him and what was a couple of feet felt like a mile.
“Class,” he said. “I don’t normally gives these out so, listen. Camille you have received the extremely rare golden hand shake.” He extended his arm to me and I shook his hand. The embrace was short, but probably the most meaningful handshake that I would ever receive.
In my head I was dying. I wanted to start crying, but that would have been so dramatic. I am not one for water works. But this whole semester, I’ve studied the language and word choices Albert uses to describe other works of art. I’ve studied his work and saw what art meant to him and the symbolic messages he wanted to convey. I really
respected him as a teacher and as a mentor because I was told to utilize him for what he’s worth.
For the rest of the class, I was numbed to the other projects because I was consumed by the thought that someone actually appreciated what I had made. It wasn’t a family member or friend telling me that they liked my work. I always feel a bias in that sense.
But to have a professor call me out in front of the class and announce that the class should be acknowledging my work was unreal. I wasn’t just another “protographer” in the unforgiving world of art.
What I thought I was became affirmative to what I am. I am a photography student and I do have a talent.
- M.S. PIERCE © 2012
© Photos by M.S. Pierce