So successful has been the camera’s role in beautifying the world that photographs, rather than the world, have become the standard of the beautiful. —Susan Sontag
It is often said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, implying that our experience shapes our perception. But, how much of what we see informs those experiences? In a sea of social media and advertisements, a feedback loop permeates our consciousness. We make images and images make us.
The four female photographers in this exhibition seek to explore concerns beyond the surface of popular photographic imagery; testing the traditional conventions of representation that are often determined by their male counterparts in the industries of fashion, documentary and fine art photography. These images celebrate photography’s ability to render all that we imagine visible, but also critique its limitations. For “now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but soon we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that we know now is partial and incomplete, but soon we will know everything completely, just as God knows us completely.” (1 Corinthians 13: 12) Who holds these standards of beauty and who decides what is worth recording? The photographer must aim to see more than what is visible.
Adrianna Toro | Sydney Estrada | December Kurtz | Brianna Dice
Adrianna Toro grew up looking at fashion magazines but, never related to the content. “I always felt like I was different and decided to embrace it. I wanted to see people and places existing on the margins—like me.” As fashion imagery is predominately mediated through a male gaze, Toro seeks to employ her own purview as a young woman behind the camera instead of being in front of it. In her work, colorful fragments are layered into photographs of youthful subjects; subjects whose beauty and satisfaction are as fleeting as the shutter of her camera.
Sydney Estrada was drawn to photograph her sister as a single mother who is raising two twin girls. So often, women are either depicted at the center of a nuclear family or as an object of desire, yet there are so many complex roles they fill between those two poles. Statistics show that 1 in 4 children under the age of 18 — a total of about 17.2 million children — are being raised without a father by single mothers. How we portray women in the media so often undermines the complexity of the roles they carry as leaders in their workplace, churches, families and communities. Estrada was interested in showing the beauty of her sister’s struggle to raise two strong women who will one day see her sacrifices.
December Kurtz is interested in using the camera as a way to get to know the people around her. Documenting the rural community where she works in Idyllwild, CA, her sensitive environmental portraits aim to reveal the complexity of her coworkers’ lives through a humanizing lens. After a fire devastated area businesses and homes, she continued this inquiry to show how a single event can leave a lasting impact on many. Hailing from a small town herself, it was important for Kurtz to personally connect with her subjects, giving them a sense of agency in the images.
Brianna Dice is interested in questioning cultural standards of beauty that have been reinforced through Western media. Mining her own experiences and relationships, she seeks to reveal how larger political systems shape everyday life. Through photography, performance and video montage, she challenges the male gaze and critiques society’s unrealistic expectations set for women. She states, “ my work is greatly influenced by my background and community. I often look to the past to reclaim some of my family history in hopes that this will bring light to present days issues we face today.”
The photography program within the College of Architecture, Visual Arts, and Design at the California Baptist University in Riverside, California explores the practice and theory of photography through a rich foundational curriculum. Photography students will grow in their technical understanding and methodology of the photographic medium and its digital applications while learning the critical principles of design. Through the introduction of narrative, conceptual development and Christian worldview - students will acquire a unique stylistic aesthetic. Within their concentration, they will construct a professional portfolio that is viable within their genre of photography and representational of their vision.
For more information about our program, please visit us on the web at: calbaptist.edu/photography or call us at 951.552.8150.