JOLIET — The photography of University of St. Francis student Shannon Olsen, from Las Vegas, Nev., was featured in The New York Times’ “Readers Photos: School Is in Session” edition, published Aug. 28.
A contest sponsored by the paper was marketed to photography students by Chester Costello, chair of USF’s Art and Design program. It caught Olsen’s attention — not only because the topic was appropriate, but also because the opportunity to have work published in the Times was enticing.
Students were asked to submit a photograph that expressed their feelings about the college experience. They were asked to visually interpret and what they learned and how college might have changed them.
Olsen’s work is a “layered” photograph featuring fellow student Korie Andrews, who is depicted in several outfits while wearing a masquerade mask. Each view of Andrews represents a different persona during her college journey. The starting point is Andrews, far off in the photo. Her image re-appears closer and closer to the viewer, until the final, front-most image shows Andrews with the mask off and diploma in hand.
The photo statement revealed Olsen’s inspiration.
“Most entering college students are going off into a new world. They are entering a new school with new people. So, most people take that as a chance to start over. To completely ‘re-create’ themselves into someone more likeable, more fun, or even more daring. It is a mask that almost all college students put on that first time they step foot onto their new home for the next four years. Through their time there however, the college student starts learning. Not only in the classroom, but outside the classroom where life lessons are learned and where you start to truly mold into the person you will be for the rest of your life. Until one day, the mask can finally be taken off,” the statement read.
Olsen was in Ireland when Costello wrote to tell her that her work had been selected for publishing, having just arrived for a study abroad program that she’ll be participating in this entire fall semester.
The Semester at Sea program will bring her to various countries in Europe, Africa and South America via a cruise ship that serves as a floating campus. According to Olsen, when the ship is in port, students are able to go out and meet the people of that country, see the sites, and do whatever they want to do to embrace that countries culture and various traditions.
“Being a photography major, I felt it would be an amazing experience for me to take some great photos as well as meet some interesting people along the way,” she said.
“The reason I chose USF was because of the Art Department. The professors are the best and they truly care about what you are working on. Their doors are always open when they are there, and you can sit and talk to them about any problems you are having with a project. They will spend as much time as you need to help you. I know some people at the main campus think taking courses down at the Rialto is a challenge, but it is what pulled me to USF.”