anna nozaki at B magazine asked me to photograph the incoming freshman on move in day at barnard college this past august. it's not often i get asked to photograph documentary/reportage style stories so i was super excited. it's a luxury to have all day to flesh out a story, instead of the more common hour or two for a portrait. i covered the full day from new students waiting patiently in the check in line with all of their possessions backed into suitcases and shopping bags from bed bath and beyond, the orientation welcome ceremony, the family lunch on the lawn, to the emotional farewells. the most intriguing part of the day for me was documenting the freshmen as they moved into their dorm rooms. the young ladies were clearly excited, anxious, scared, apprehensive, hopeful...all of it at the same time.
the scene i found behind every dorm room door was different. some came from far away with both parents, others came from queens or the upper west side and seemed to be moving in alone, secure in the knowledge they'd be going home for dinner that weekend. beds were being made, suitcases unpacked, furniture put together, decorations were carefully arranged on walls so visitors could see at a glance their allegiances, interests and passions. they were busy turning the blank canvas of their dorm room into an expression of who they were.
some observations: a record player. a ukelele. lots of brand new bedding. framed baby photos. bored younger siblings. one young lady's collection of stuffed lions, tigers and bears. another contemplating a farewell to arms and les miserables with a hand painted quote by albus dumbleldore hanging on a shelf in front of her.
i remembered my own move in day when i started college and feeling the pressure to define myself for this world of strangers while i was simultaneously trying to figure out who i was. it seemed impossible i would sift through all those people to find like minded friends. i could feel the same struggle going on with the new barnard students. many were unpacking a few feet from their new roommate(s) without any interaction. it's difficult to know how to intimately share a small space with a total stranger, albeit one that may be your future best friend.
every parent was required to sign in and wear a guest pass. i couldn't help but notice this significant reversal as the parents were now considered guests in their children's new residence.
i really enjoyed being in the midst of so many young women again. it reminded me of my years photographing the teenagers for my mendham girls project. i saw only potential and power in every lady i met and i was excited for them. as a parent it was touching to see the different degrees to which some of them were still hanging onto their childhood selves.
there are two other documentary style stories i have worked on that i'd like to share. more coming soon!