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The Scarlet & Black

Student photographers get down in the dark room

Photo contributed by Frank Zhu.

While iPhones, selfies and Instagram have made photography widespread and accessible, many talented Grinnellians pursue photography as a serious hobby through various mediums and with varying interests.

Photo contributed by Frank Zhu.
Photo contributed by Frank Zhu.

Frank Zhu ’15 got started with photography after discovering his father’s old photography equipment at home. Travel photography became his main interest and he received Grinnell’s Fischlowitz Fellowship, designed to allow international students to explore the United States during the summer. This scholarship allowed him to travel to New York, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Boston and Philadelphia last summer and explore his interest in travel photography.

“The best place I’d say was Boston because that place is so old. … The Quincy Market has been around for as long as the U.S. and the people there are still doing the same thing they once did,” Zhu said.

While Zhu is a psychology major, during his time at Grinnell he has also taken art classes and he hopes that one day he can synthesize his major and his interest in art and photography to work in marketing or business.

“Knowing art and knowing what to sell the customer is a major thing for me,” Zhu said. “Doing photography is a way of living. You see things that people ignore all the time. You look at things and you imagine the possible way that they can look better, possible beauties you can find in them.”


Photo contributed by Saw Min Maw.
Photo contributed by Saw Min Maw.

Saw Min Maw ’16 began his journey as a photographer during his work at the company Proximity Designs in his home country of Myanmar. There, he worked in the media department to learn more about his interests in photography and videography. After his internship, he took many different kinds of photos, but his favorite subjects are the people around him.

“I really like people because I like emotion and people captured in images. … People are sort of everywhere, so they’re easy to shoot. … I found shooting just normal, natural people to be the most fun for me,” Maw said.

Due to his interest in photography, Maw is declaring an independent major in Media and Communications by combining psychology, art and anthropology. While photography classes are not regularly offered at Grinnell, Maw joins what he learns in his art class with his photography.

“I’m very interested in visual media and I like things to look aesthetically pleasing … so the things that I do in photography are reflective of what I try to do in my art classes,” Maw said.

Photo contributed by Dabney Hofammann.
Photo contributed by Dabney Hofammann.

Dabney Hofammann ’15 began photography through experimentation with her mother’s film camera and classes in high school. She was excited to discover during her first year that Grinnell had a student darkroom, as black and white film was already her specialty.

“It’s a cool kind of dying art form, at least in terms of black and white film and actually developing your own stuff. I think it’s really cool to have a little more control over how your pictures turn out. I think there’s a lot more substance to them. … You have to have an eye for what’s there and figure out in your head already what it might look like,” Hofammann said.

Hofammann uses the student dark room on campus to develop pictures of the animals and people she works with at a therapeutic riding barn, which allows children with disabilities and who have experienced trauma to work with horses.

“A lot of my favorite pictures that I’ve taken of horses are really close in on their eyes. They are really expressive and I like capturing that expression of character and the interaction of people and horses,” Hofammann said.

Hofammann hopes to continue to combine therapy, horses and photography after her graduation from Grinnell.


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