On Purpose: Portrait of the Liberal Arts

on purpose photo
To commemorate our 150th anniversary in 2019, the College of Liberal Arts created a special edition magazine for alumni and friends of the college. View Liberal Arts: The Next 150

For 150 years countless faculty, students, staff, and alumni have made what is now the College of Liberal Arts. How can one, then, make a portrait that represents one hundred and fifty years of hard work, struggle, inquiry, study, delivery of information, and service? On Purpose: Portrait of the Liberal Arts is only a fraction of time in the history of the College of Liberal Arts. This is who we are right now, this is how we look, this is what we are interested in, this is our work, and this is how we present ourselves to the camera. 

Individuals from every single department of CLA, scattered all over the University of Minnesota, plus relevant people to the college participated in 60 portraits at 60 different locations. One hundred and eighty-six people were photographed, hundreds of faculty, students and staff contributed to make this exhibition happen. Two thousand, seven hundred and seventy-nine photos were taken for this project. That was the task to accomplish in less than two semesters. 

In times where communication through technology pushes for individualism and isolation, in a world becoming less and less sensitive to the human condition, portraiture becomes increasingly important for preserving our humanity, culture, care, and love. Portraiture is essential to put a face on every group, department, area, and research.

I usually employ portraiture not just because we simply like to watch people’s faces; I take portraits to have personal contact with the subjects I photograph. Faces are malleable, persistently changing, continually transformed, constantly modified to portray emotion, sentiment, excitement, passion, or disdain. When we encounter a portrait, we dare to stare. We immediately interpret the moment the picture was taken and that person’s attitude. We try to have a conversation with the mute sitter. 

More than portraits, these are documented encounters with remarkable people passionate about their roles as alumni, as students, as professors and staff. 

I hope that throughout the years we will look back at these portraits and keep conversing with the people I was so grateful to meet.
The exhibition was on display at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery in the Regis Center for Art during 2018’s fall semester. View the exhibition and full gallery online.