In Support of Collaborative, Informal Art Displays


From left to right: Robert Cassidy, Kate McCluskey and Mike Pallozzi next to photographs by Pallozzi at the Meeker event.

I “joined” the Darkroom Club a little over two years ago, during the days when Michael O’Hara’s camera reigned supreme on campus and in The Campus, with the hopes of learning how to develop and print the black and white film I had been shooting. They were offering a J-term workshop for newbies. I signed right up and received the ABCs of film processing. There were a few other eager students along for the ride, and Michael and Sebastian Zavoico encouraged us to go out and shoot some winterscapes together. It never happened. After the workshop I didn’t see the students or any of their photography again.

At the time it felt strange that these people were creating beautiful works of art and had seemingly no desire to share them with their fellow photographers with similar pursuits. I jokingly told my suitemate at the time, Andrew Schwartz, that we should start a film collective and get people together to bounce ideas around and go out on shoots. The potential was there, but I lacked the motivation in the midst of a grueling spring semester to get anything off the ground.

A year and a half later and I’m sitting at my kitchen table over winter break compiling a list of student photographers and filmmakers into what is now the Middlebury College Film and Photography Collective. Fancy name, yeah? Don’t be fooled. The Facebook group description reads, “An informal collective with the purpose of collaborating on, sharing and exhibiting works of photographic visual art.” The cover photo is a still of Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window wielding a massive telephoto lens.

In creating this group, my intention was to provide a space where students could share their personal work, which would otherwise only make it to the fleeting platforms of social media. The realization of this space was a student-run photography exhibit that displayed the stunning photos of twelve artists upon the walls of Meeker House on a Friday evening. There were grapes and cheese and crackers (courtesy of Cook Commons) accompanied by the musical talents of Max Shashoua. The great many who attended were able to engage directly with the artists themselves, ask them questions and strike up discussions about the photos hung proudly behind them.

This wasn’t a professional or academic gathering. We didn’t put it together through the pathways that the college attempts to provide (though we are grateful for the resources they did provide). We wanted it done on our terms, not MCAB’s. So we made it as informal as could be: a delightful evening throw together by a community of students with a pure and simple love for the photographic image.

Even still, it requires the work of many to put on an event that, in its realization, appears effortless. Will Lupica and I spent four hours fiddling around with the photo printer until we realized that the paper roll had been inserted backwards. Charlotte Reider-Smith donated her home for the evening and for many afternoons to help plan the event. Max Shashoua sang and played guitar in the living room for well over the hour he promised us. Mac Christopher, hobbling around on a freshly torn ACL, and Arden Coleman spent the whole afternoon with me hanging up photos. And to the photographers for entrusting me with their work, along with all friends and family who came to make the evening into the joyous success that it was, I thank you.

That day left me with the conviction that this style of gathering is not unique and has implications for the exhibition of other forms of art — be it dance, music, poetry, etc. Spaces like the Gamut Room and groups like Poor Form already do a great job of this. However, so that it is not misconstrued, I take no particular issue with College-sponsored art. I think they do a tremendous job of making accessible and affordable a wide variety of art to the college and town communities. I simply believe in, and strongly advocate for, more student events that keep it simple, make it casual and offer more beer. There are a great many ways for students to gather together over a shared interest or passion, it just requires a little work and a lotta love.

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