"What I Thought I Saw" Discouraging Snap Judgements, One Photograph at a Time Megan Hulse

This week through Friday, Jan. 29, the Honors College is hosting a photography exhibit titled “What I Thought I Saw” in the lobby of the Donna Garff Marriott Honors Center. The theme of the gallery, according to descriptions provided by creators Peta Owens-Liston and Amy Albo, is the concept of first impressions and the process of shattering stereotypes. The Honors newsletter described the gallery as “challenging the way you look at things because sometimes you just don’t know.”

One might think that going into the gallery knowing that the photographs were created to challenge your perceptions of societal stereotypes might detract from the desired effect of the images. That is not the case. Owens-Liston and Albo considered every reaction imaginable, creating art that requires reflection from the audience. The artists further encourage this reflection by providing “first impression” cards for students to fill out and place alongside each image. This adds an interactive touch and requires viewers to consider how they perceive the image and thus how they will begin to change their perceptions of stereotypes in the real world.

Images at the what I thought I saw exhibit challenge impressions. TOP: an exploration in the concepts of disability and sexuality. BOTTOM LEFT: A young boy gives his brother blood thinner to assist his debilitated heart function, despite suspicious appearances. BOTTOM RIGHT: Highlighting that joy can be present, regardless of appearance.

One of the most striking images included in the gallery was a black-and-white photograph of two young boys sitting in a seemingly run-down pavilion, one shooting a syringe into the arm of the other. The angle and style of the shot, which blurs out the “shooting” boy in a suspicious manner, elicits judgments of delinquency. However, after reading the story alongside the photograph, we learn that the boy receiving the shot has fetal alcohol syndrome and a heart defect, and that the syringe is full of blood thinner to assist his heart function — it’s heartwarming rather than alarming.

Other approaches that the creators took include glamour shots of post-accident individuals. Near “boudoir” takes on overweight women, and snapshots of wheelchair-ridden men that take all focus away from the chair, portraying them in action rather than stationary shots. Each of the methods was thought-provoking in its own way.

Sylvia Torti, dean of the Honors College, said she is enthusiastic about this exhibit.

Sylvia Torti, dean of the Honors College at the University of Utah, hopes students will take time to attend the "What I Thought I Saw" gallery, and all of its subsequent events.

“The Honors College chose to host this exhibit because we think it is aesthetically beautiful and intellectually demanding,” Torti said.

Torti encourages students to attend the gallery, because the exhibit is consistent with the Honors College’s desire to “create an inclusive environment where diversity — in its exterior and interior forms — can exist, be respected and validated.”

Emphasizing that "age is just a number."

She hopes that by attending the exhibit, students will be assisted in “reconsidering snap judgments, to be more empathetic in the assessment of people’s physical selves and to look deeper at the ways our cultures predispose us to see and perceive the world.”



Zoe Rodriguez, Sasha Polak

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