Saint Anselm Photo Contest Allows Students to Showcase Identity

June 14, 2021

By Jason Kolnos

Saint Anselm students had the chance to get creative with their cameras while exploring the relationship between identity and photography for a unique contest.

There were 95 photos submitted for the “Picturing Identity and Differences: A Student Photography Contest,” which was held during the spring semester. The effort was spearheaded by English Professor Bryan Picciotto and Fine Arts Professor Laura Shea, as part of the spring 2021 Diversity and Inclusion Innovation Fund projects.

Picciotto and Shea said they wanted students to gain the experience of representing and communicating their personal ideas and perspectives with others. Photography offers the opportunity to not only tell stories and reflect on the past, but also build community and shape the future. 

“In today’s divisive and polarizing social and political climate, photos have the potential to bring people together and make space for love and empathy, reminding people of a shared humanity,” said Picciotto.

The photos were entered in three categories that can now be seen in online galleries.

* Identity and Culture: Emphasizes students’ various backgrounds, communities, traditions, and values. See the Identity and Culture Gallery

* Identity and Social justice: Focused on all the community and volunteer work that students do as well as all the activism and political projects that students participate in. See the Identity and Social Justice gallery

* Identity and Saint Anselm College: Encompassed all things Anselmian, what it means to be a student here and now. See the Identity and Saint Anselm College gallery

Mackenzie Searles '22Mackenzie Searles ’22, a Classics major, won first place in “Identity and Culture” for a photo of herself that displays the difference between traditional Japanese clothing and an American-style leather jacket.

“The Asian-American identity is full of conflicting interests and fears of fitting in,” Mackenzie wrote in a personal statement about her photo.

The mismatched outfit represents how out of place she feels among peers, she said.   

“Now that I am an adult, I have been working on embracing my Japanese heritage. I am loving this part of me not only for myself but for my mother and grandmother who did not have the same opportunity,” Mackenzie wrote.

Shea’s expertise is in the history of photography and she showed students visually powerful photos from civil rights leaders like Gordon Parks during a workshop related to the contest. One of her favorite entries was called “Panorama of the Struggle Student,” a triptych image that shows students working together and apart digitally.

“The students really made an effort to creatively interpret the themes of identity, culture, and social justice,” said Shea.

students in a classroomPicciotto said he is most proud of how students embraced the theme of identity to communicate something authentic about their lives, such as their passion for volunteer work, struggle with mental health, celebration of religious holidays, experience as student-athletes, and their participation in the Anselmian Network for Racial Justice.

Both professors hope the contest and online galleries can continue the community-building work to help cultivate a more inclusive environment at Saint Anselm College.

“When the public views the online galleries, I hope they will come to recognize and respect the diverse lives and perspectives of students at Saint Anselm College as well as reflect on their own identities and experiences. Each photo, in this sense, is an opportunity to listen and understand, connect and grow, as a diverse community,” said Picciotto.

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