Arts and Entertainment | Art

International exhibition puts student photography skills on display

A ruined cathedral, a Shanghai commuter, and a casino can all be found on campus thanks to a new exhibition in the International Affairs Building.

Twenty-five photographs taken by Columbia students traveling through East Asia were brought together by the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University Photography Society, and the Office of Global Programs to create an exhibit that will travel to Brooklyn, and then to the Global Center in Beijing this summer.

The photos are all winning entries in the Institute’s contest, with the theme of the environment and cities—part of the Institute’s mission to “give students the opportunity to think about global issues in more than one context,” as Weatherhead director Madeleine Zelin said in her opening remarks at the exhibit’s opening.

As with most photography, the stories behind the images bring the exhibit together.

Serena Piol, CC ’13 and an East Asian studies major, was studying abroad in Asia when she took her photo “Shanghai Bicycle”­—which was the most-liked photo of the exhibition on Facebook.

Her photo captured a man on a bicycle in the middle of rush hour in Shanghai on a crowded street corner across from her school. She was inspired by the “huge chaos between the cars and the bicyclists.”

Mark Choi, CC ’14, who went to China with the Global Scholars Program, explained that he spontaneously took his photo “The Persistence of Modernity” while on a day trip to Macau. The photograph features an incense pot belonging to a Taoist temple and the ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral against the backdrop of the Grand Lisboa casino.

He explained that he wanted to “incorporate some sense of the tradition of the East and the tradition of the West,” noting that “Macau is the epitome of East-West fusion.”
Pointing out the casino in the background, he admitted, “It is a little saddening when the fusion of East and West lies in the creation of a money-minded casino.”

Connie Chen, CC ’14, took her photograph “The Intersection” while leading a Habitat for Humanity field trip in Sichuan Province, where there was a catastrophic earthquake in 2008. The picture captured one of her students helping rebuild a house.

“This trip was about building earthquake-safe houses in this valley, sort of in a very mountainous area where it was very inconvenient for residents to go up and down the mountain,” she said.

While the photos were diverse, they came together “to make the real world applicable to students within Columbia.” as Kim Palumbarit the Student Affairs Officer at Weatherhead said.

Update: The article has been modified to include mention of co-sponsors Columbia University Photography Society and the Office of Global Programs, in addition to the Weatherhead Institute. Also, the director of the Weatherhead's name is spelled Madeleine Zelin, not Madeline. Spectator regrets the error.


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