This site, is an acknowledgment of the dedication and commitment we, the MICA Photo Class of 2020, have spent to create the following bodies of works this past year. This portfolio and book serve as a culminated preview of the different approaches we take in being light-workers and image-makers. Through long nights and much appreciated snacks provided by Regina and Sarah, we have come together to create the beginnings of our life’s works. This diverse collection of portfolios is complex, though, all together grounded in a sense of unity. We are unified in our processes, in the ways that we capture imagery and how we see photography. Unity, as it is especially critical in this poignant period of our lives as we come together to protect the health and safety of ourselves and the people around us.
We shall be absolutely certain to make it through any pathway or difficult time if we continue to protect, uplift, and recognize each other as the resilient, community-driven and thought provoking group we are. As we progress in our practices and in our careers, we are prepared to learn and thrive in all the communities we extend ourselves to. This is the end of our undergraduate experience and yet, the beginning of a new adventure.
Thank you to Dr. Deborah Willis, this year’s MICA Photo Endowed Chair of Photography, for guiding us along the way. Thank you to Regina DeLuise for creating a home for us. And thank you to Nate Larson and the MICA Photo Department for your continuous support.
Asha Holmes, Photography BFA 2020, Maryland Institute College of Art
May 15, 2020
I knew going in, Senior Thesis 2020 would be a wholly unique experience. I have taught our capstone course for many years, but have always done so collaboratively. With my colleague Lynn Silverman on sabbatical and a smaller graduating class, this would be the year our department moved to a new model. The implementation of our newly founded Endowed Chair of Photography, the inaugural Chair, Dr. Deborah Willis Ph.D. linked to my class meant we would walk an important road together.
To say that embarking on a yearlong, senior thesis project presents enormous creative and personal challenges is an understatement. At this stage of their development, what we ask of our students is to be fearless. We ask them to take up the mantle of their future lives and truly implement what they’ve practiced during their undergraduate experience. I often say being an artist is not for the faint of heart. We must be agile, develop the desire to stand firm on a moving platform and thrive in an uncertain environment. I can’t help but feel my class of 2020 is being baptized by fire.
Two months have passed since COVID-19 shut us down. From my new social distance, I’ve witnessed a great range of emotion. Although the disbelief, frustration and anger seem to be shifting, the reality remains. My class continues to work intensely and with great passion. They have created compelling and beautiful work over their senior year at MICA. What I know now, is that their dedication to their practice and to each other has been forged. This will fortify and serve them always.
To the MICA Photo class of 2020, thank you for being so brave and for working so sincerely towards your goals. I admire you and feel privileged to be walking this path alongside you.
Below you will find the work of each of those individuals.
Regina DeLuise, Senior Thesis Advisor, Faculty, Maryland Institute College of Art
Endowed Chair in Photography
In 2014, Alumni Stuart B. Cooper (‘72) and Rebecca L. Besson established the Stuart B. Cooper Endowed Chair in Photography. The endowed fund annually brings an acclaimed artist and scholar to engage with the BFA photography department, and the 2019-2020 academic year and its students were joined by its inaugural Endowed Chair, acclaimed scholar, historian, curator, and artist, Dr. Deborah Willis.
Dr. Willis is a university professor and chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, and has an affiliated appointment with the College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Social & Cultural, Africana Studies, where she teaches courses on Photography & Imaging, iconicity and cultural histories visualizing the black body, women and gender. She is also the director of the NYU Institute for African American Affairs and the Center for Black Visual Culture. Her research examines photography’s multifaceted histories, visual culture, the photographic history of Slavery and Emancipation, contemporary women photographers and beauty.
The Endowed Chair is a critic-in-residence for the BFA Photography Program, which has allowed Dr. Willis to visit the department and specifically the Senior Thesis class, multiple times over the semester, where she has provided important feedback to all seniors to help nurture our growth in our thesis projects, and in the world after we graduate. In addition to meeting with seniors as a group and individually, Dr. Willis has also participated in panels and lectures on the campus, as well as curating the exhibition, “Migrations and Meaning(s) in Art” which appeared in the Meyerhoff Gallery at MICA.
Although Dr. Willis’s time with the department and the seniors was cut short due to college and university closures across the country, we are forever grateful for all the wisdom and thoughtful reviews she provided us with, and are appreciative of her working with us through online and virtual means to the completion of our projects.
My thesis began through reflections of physical impression; how can I embody the presence of others through alternative processes of the photographic medium? I am constantly thinking about my personal relationship to clothing within the human experience, the representation of clothing through the camera, and how photography, at its core, solidifies ephemeral experiences. Through traditional and alternative uses of the photographic medium, these works are small vignettes of their ever-lasting imprint on my psyche.
Second-hand garments, coated in cyanotype chemistry and exposed to sunlight during an embrace, act as the canvas to receive what is inherently fleeting: the impermanent nature of relationships. The photographs, all shot on medium format film, were made organically through each relationship. They act as an additional personal diary which not only gives further context, but aids me to remember; to help me understand why I am so drawn to archiving these moments, as the complexity of my emotions are constantly changing.
Much of my life after puberty was ruled by a chronic illness called interstitial cystitis. The illness causes inflammation in the bladder, which in turn causes pelvic pain, frequent urination, painful urination, painful sex, and a slew of other symptoms. In 2015, I was officially diagnosed by a cystoscopy and had to drastically change my lifestyle to accommodate the illness, namely, my diet and the physical stress on my body.
I learned how to cope and live a semi-normal life with it, but when I became sexually active, it was almost impossible for me to have penetrative sex. I thought it was a symptom of the bladder disease and the bladder disease only, and treated it as such. It caused a lot of strife in my personal and intimate relationships, and after a while, I started to only be able to associate sex with pain, which manifested into anxiety about the pain. Mixed with the ignorance and cruelty of intimate partners, I became afraid of sex and adamantly avoided it.
After a traumatic first pap smear appointment, I was referred to a pelvic specialist, and after nearly a decade, in 2019, I was finally diagnosed with something that had manifested during puberty. I was diagnosed with vestibulodynia; chronic pain in and near the opening of the vagina, vaginismus; involuntary muscle spasms of the pelvic floor, and dyspareunia; the overarching medical term for painful sex. All these conditions exist in conjunction with my bladder disease as well.
After I was diagnosed, everything that had happened during my teenage years and into my twenties started to make sense. All the pain, all the tears, all the anxiety and panic attacks, all the failed relationships made sense, and I was furious that it took so long for me to become aware of it. I started writing, recounting my past, digging through old photographs, taking new photographs, doing whatever I could as a means to work through the pain for myself, but also as a way to build a platform to speak about female sexual dysfunction.
I Was Waiting For The Anger To Change is an image-based autobiography about struggling with chronic pain, sexual dysfunctions, and the mental anguish that comes with it. But, it is also about learning to work through that pain and how to heal, while cracking a few jokes along the way.
Noah M. Fisher
Technology in recent years has advanced rapidly, for better or for worse. The internet spawned a wealth of knowledge and conversation, but the public has become a target for advertising and surveillance. There are websites that catalog cameras around the world; some voluntarily available and some not. Although they’re in public, is it alright to record their actions? On social media we offer our lives to the public, is it alright for corporations to harvest and sell our data to the highest bidder?
Pictured are all security cameras involuntarily open to the public.
After hours of looking through cameras, I realized that often times the cameras would be an environment that is completely empty. I was starting to place a lot of importance of anyone in view, and rather than retain any information about them, they became an encapsulation for humanity. In order to represent this feeling, I 3D modeled a human figure to place into different locations and would later become a feature in a lot of my work. We are the green figure looking at ourselves through these cameras.
Imagine if you had an illness that could be lifelong, consider the anxiety or depression that could stem from the realization there may be no cure. Now visualize what it would feel like to explain this painful reality to your friends, family, or coworkers who assume you are alright because nothing physically about you signifies an illness. Issues of being treated differently, thoughts of being pitied, and being fired for taking too many sick days from work are a daily reality for people who suffer from an invisible illness.
This in-progress project explores the discourse of societal stigmas and invisible chronic conditions through self-portrait therapy. Discussing our body’s boundaries needs space in society where it is encouraged instead of restrictive.
This body of work entitled, I Wish You Knew Me: Was It Worth It? represents my personal losses due to the loss of my relationship with my father. The loss of people, spaces and places, and things is displayed in this collection. When I was in middle school my father stopped taking care of us and over time we stopped seeing each other.
I no longer went to spend time in my childhood home, which was his house. The images and artifacts recreated here show the way things were and the specific things that were lost. My anger, sorrow, and resentment have been a struggle and I continue to process a very specific type of grief as I live without my father. I am stronger than I was and have learned to let go; however, I do wish he knew me.
The crux of the scientific method is the establishment of completedetachment and neutrality between the observer and the observed,so that nature could be manipulated from a distance and used toadvance the material interests of humankind.Benjamin Thompson’s version of Entropy Law
Exhaustion of nonrenewable resources has caused ”entropic watersheds” to arise throughout our known industrialized history. The world has been repeatedly forced to switch from one material to another, following the depletion of the prior. Deforestation caused the first jump from wood to coal, mining complications pushed us to discover oil, and climate change’s demand for emission regulations now forces our transition to renewables. The current phase is causing a drastic switch in the way our societies function, especially in Baltimore. Various fossil fuel-based facilities have undergone large transformations to adapt to a changing climate, while others are left to the elements. My thesis work documents the processes in which our lights are powered, our cars are fueled, and our city is maintained. It is a privilege to be so detached from them, as power plants push to the edges of lower class communities and “untouched” land. They contaminate air, water, and human life with little regulation or remorse. Through the exploration of power sites and their surrounding environments, I aim to understand the full consequences of excessive energy consumption and production.
Asha Jamila Holmes
The following works glimpse into the ways I am thinking about transience and impermanence as it pertains to the relics of my home, my presence and the presence of Blackness. I have begun personal and historical discoveries about the preservation of objects and ephemera in my family and in my culture. Through digital file manipulation and the Van Dyke Brown process, I am commemorating the generations of women in my lineage as an anchor between the past, present, and future. I am creating a network between memory and rememory. Asè.
For the past three years I’ve been documenting the underground music scene in Baltimore, Maryland. From the bars to the basements, I have become a part of the community that I’m photographing. Attending multiple shows every week and becoming friends with everyone in the frame of my photos. This collection of prints will showcase the multitude of bands and “venues” that have come and gone within my few short years in Baltimore.
As I furthered my education in photography at MICA by day, I brought these new skills and techniques with me to the next show I attended. Continuously trying different cameras, film formats and lighting equipment to capture this incredible city’s underground music scene. This is not an encyclopedia of the Baltimore music scene, but a selection of bands whose music has inspired me.
Be still is a collection of photographs recounting the lives of my grandparents, Bob and Mary Ellen Reichert. Through letters from family and personal memories, this is an attempt to help me cope with their loss many years later.
Edgardo Guerrero Salomon
NOSOTROS SOMOS NOSOTROS (WE ARE US) is a series that has grown out of a need to control and regain cultural autonomy in the United States as a latino immigrant.
The narrative in the United States has been that the value of the life of an immigrant making their way to the United States is less valuable and less meaningful than a life that already exists in the United States. This narrative is pushed by a system older than the modern borders we have now. Every day occurrences through depictions in the media, the treatment of migrants by the government, propaganda peddled by politicians, and fear from the white supremacist establishment. Before a migrant crosses the manmade construct of the border their cultural autonomy is destroyed. Instead a new culture is thrust upon the migrant. A culture that teaches that their life is worth less. A culture that dismisses who they are, where they come from, and why they are migrating.
Through photographs, appropriated images, change of language, historical imagery, spoken word, and sculpture I work to change the narrative and imagery used to define the latino migrant. As well as taking signifiers rooted in Chicano culture that have gone unchanged for 60 years and thrusting them into a contemporary light. Give a humanity, a strength, a dignity, and a respect back. Regain a culture that is lost and stolen.
I believe there is a massive disconnect between people and their food. The result of this is a multitude of health issues and misinformed consumers buying into diets and life choices that may not be beneficial to their health and/or the environment. Through research into traditional and contemporary Western diets and farming techniques I have been searching for a solution for our agricultural problem. Working with my sister, Shannon Walker and brother-in-law, Ty Walker, I have been photographing their farm, Smoke and Chimneys in Franklin County VA, to provide visuals of people who are actively trying to solve this dilemma. My hope is to provide visual insight for people who don’t have the opportunity to see and consider the love inherent in farming or the hardships endured on a daily basis. Seeking a connection to our food sources and the movement of food, is critical to a sustainable relationship with the earth. Wherever you are living, an urban or rural setting, my goal is to deepen your perspective on food producers, this beautiful Earth, and yourself.
This collection of images is a work in progress, highlighting Ty’s commitment to raising this special breed of Mulefoot pigs.
On March 11th, MICA Photo Seniors received the news that the college would be closing due to the spread of COVID-19. It felt like the light inside of us had burnt out, everything we had worked so hard for these past few years was at risk of being taken away. We had less than a week to remove everything we had from the department and our studios, after which the campus and its facilities and resources would close indefinitely. After the initial shock of not having any more classes together, not being able to show at our senior exhibition or walk at graduation, we stood up, brushed ourselves off, and did what we do best: create.
Top: Alli Reichert, Bottom: Edgardo Salomon, Right: Emma Cheshire
On the day of the department closure, seniors Sarah Eckstine, Sam Glick, Jason Magid, and Matthew Wagner arrived with wine bottles, milk cartons, and any empty containers we could find and drained all the chemicals. Armed with black plastic, cardboard, and lots of duct tape, we spent the next 12 hours building a darkroom and developing station in Matt’s basement. Over the weeks we had put together two working enlargers and a print developing set up, a ventilation system, a print dryer, a scanning and computer station, and a mini fridge full of film and Natty Boh.
The 2020 Senior Book was beautifully designed by Sarah Eckstine. As a department, we would like to extend a big thank you for bringing together the work of these talented individuals with responsiveness, warmth, and heart.