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My Senior Exhibition at the Devos Art Museum

14 April 2009
By Sean

Senior Exhibit

Yesterday afternoon I installed my senior exhibit in the Devos Art Museum at Northern Michigan University.  As you may or may not know I am currently an undergraduate photography student drudging through my final semester.  This small body of work is the foundation of my newest series “Recollections.”  My regular readers will recognize a few of the pieces on display, two of my homemade cameras and one picture.

Let me briefly walk you through my show.

Homemade Cameras

My regular readers will recognize the first two cameras (left to right), they are the 35mm foam core that I constructed about a month ago and the Neretta Snap, completed early in the year.  The one on the right is my newest build, it is called the 6×7 Black Box.  Like the Neretta, it is a basswood camera and took way too long to make.  I did not follow a plan and it took more than 50 precisely cut pieces of wood, fitted together over the course of two weeks.  The back is a somewhat functional Mamiya ProS 6×7 back, the lens is none other than 60mm Holga lens, and the shutter came from a super old Brownie.  It is my greatest homemade camera to date because of the images it is able to capture.  The picture “Out of the Darkness,” as seen below was made with this camera.

The three pictures on the right have all been shot and printed within the past three weeks, the first was one of my first exposures from the Neretta.  The four pictures in order that they appear in my show from left to right can be found below.

Approaching the Edge

“Approaching the Edge”

Out of the Darkness

“Out of the Darkness”





The pictures were placed in this order to highlight the implied narrative in the titles.  Although not shot in the order they are displayed in, when grouped like this they effectively articulate my philosophy behind this body of work.  I had to omit two pieces that I intended to show with this series due to space limitations (even though, the director of the museum was very generous with the amount of wall space she gave me) and visual inconsistencies.  I’m not all that broken up about it; I’ll just have to shoot more so that in the future those inconsistencies aren’t a problem.

Here is my philosophical statement for this series. I know I hate reading most of them too, relax though it’s not that long.  It’s verbose (kinda), but definitely not long.

“I don’t trust my memory and I don’t trust yours either.  The act of remembering is a cognitive process of storing our pasts to aid us in the present.  Our ability of recall is flawed before the memory is ever formed.  Each and every memory formed is based on our perceptions at the time it’s made.  Perceptions, in their own right, should not be trusted as they are based on past perceptions and emotive responses towards the realities presented to us by our environment.  In time our views and perceptions change which pulls our memories out of their original contexts and places them in our present context.  Over time our memories become clouded and fuzzy, which forces us to reconstruct them in a present context with present perceptions.  This means that the details in the memories aren’t entirely truthful, we’ve filled in the blanks.

My work with photography is an embodiment of my views on the formation and recollection of memories.  My homemade cameras represent the cognitive process of memory construction.  When building them I intentionally push the focal range beyond infinity so that only a narrow region of the image is in focus.  This region of the image is the retained memory, surrounded by the clouded details we no longer remember in their entirety.  The pictures I produce are not necessarily my memories.  They are representations that can be shared by anyone.”

I’m really excited about this series and can’t wait to get more work done on it.  In two weeks I won’t have to show up to class anymore, so I should have a good amount of time this Summer to work on it.  I’m really curious to see where this series leads me.  What ideas will it create in me, what spin offs will it lead to?  It’s very exciting.

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2 Responses to My Senior Exhibition at the Devos Art Museum

  1. Carol Henry on 11 August 2009 at 1:27 am

    Hi Sean,

    26 years ago I graduated from NMU with a BFA in photo. Dennis Staffne is a mentor who still emails me with updates. I’ve lived in Los Angeles for ever now. But still think fondly of the U.P. and simpler times. Very interesting cameras you are making. Back to the basics is good and very cool.

    Carol Henry

  2. Ryan on 15 April 2009 at 11:57 pm

    great work Sean, I can’t wait to see what else you come up with.

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