Radical cameras: Photo League at Stanford

Nov. 2, 2012, 12:57 a.m.

Eighteen students will travel to San Francisco this weekend to see a photography exhibit for the Robinson Photo League’s second year. The trip is the first part of a three-part project led by Robinson House Resident Fellow Kristen Taylor, whose personal passion for photography inspired her to found and direct the program.

This year, the Photo League will see The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco. The program will continue with a photography workshop in January and conclude in March, when the Photo League students will display their own work.

Taylor, a professional photographer, began the program last year as a way to introduce students to photography and help seasoned photographers grow.

“I wanted to provide the opportunity for those who do not have experience in photography to develop an interest and encourage the people who already have experience to grow and get to know different photographers,” Taylor said.

She chose this year’s exhibit at the Contemporary Jewish Museum because of its historic importance. “The Radical Camera” consists mainly of historical documentary photography exposing Depression-era social issues.

“The [members of New York’s Photo League] helped document reality while communicating personal perspectives,” Taylor said. “It’s about us learning about the time period, the work that they did and the effect that they had.”

She hopes the exhibit will act as a guiding tool for the students to explore social perspectives in their own work. To teach both photography amateurs and veterans, Robinson Photo League participants will attend a workshop in January. They will use SLR digital cameras to create photojournalistic portrayals of ordinary life, a theme inspired by the exhibit at the Contemporary Jewish Museum.

The third and final component of Taylor’s program is an exhibit that showcases one photo taken by each participant. It will open in March on the first floor of Robinson House, replacing photos taken by last year’s students.

This year’s continuation of the three-part program was spurred in part by the success of last year’s League. Taylor led a group to see Bill Owen’s Ordinary Folks exhibit at the San Jose Museum of Art and was impressed by students’ work after the pilot workshop.

“It was amazing how many different areas on campus people covered,” Taylor said. “Everything from Quidditch matches to courtside of a men’s basketball game.”

According to John Machacon ‘13, a program participant this year, beginner photographers appreciate the addition of the post-trip photography workshop.

“It’s really exciting for people who haven’t already gotten into photography,” he said. “A program like this really pays homage to the history of photography itself.”

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