College Life by: sean Ryun

While working on the final project "The Thing Itself" I chose the subject matter of "College Life". When it came down to choosing a subject matter two aspects of Bill Jay's article "The Thing Itself" pushed me in the direction of College Life. The first reason was initially, because he expressed how he was amazed by the lack of representation by college students.

"in the past 15 years, and over 1,000 students later, I have never seen a photographic project based on what it is like to be a college student." (Jay 2006)

The second reason I chose this as my subject matter is, because I'm immersed in college life. It's something that I'm very passionate about. I love college life so much, that I work for the university through the OSA.

Food for Thought.

As a college student it becomes very apparent that cheap, quick, and easy are your new friends. Home cooked meals are far and in-between, and so are vegetables. The My College Food Plate has four main food groups ramen, pizza, fries, and coffee.

While doing this project, I tried to focus on several aspects of college life, rather than focusing on one subject matter. For most of the project, I also tried to stay away from having the subjects face, being the focal point of the image. I feel that by doing so made the project more universal. It is also, the reason I stood clear of using the universities logo.

Kickoff your shoes and open your books.

Early mornings and late nights are the reality of College Life. This image was taken around eight in the morning, and these students were already hard at work.

Before capturing the images that make up this final, it was apparent that reading was extremely important aspect of the project. It guided me in the right direction of how, I was going to capture and frame images. The second source of reading that helped me on my journey of documenting College Life, was "Traces of the Real". One aspect of the article stayed with me and it can be found bellow.

"capture fragments of that truth as it unfolds before him/her." (McCabe 2014)
Always on the go!

With students always on the go, the campus is always changing. Meaning, this image will never reoccur the same exact way again. The only way to reproduce this image, the exact same way, would be to recreate it by framing the image. To me to do so, would take away value from what the image represents.

I quickly discovered, that many of my images were going to be similar to that, of Snapshot. With students who are always on the go, I found myself always carrying my camera with me. I always had to be ready to capture an image at a moments notice. I didn't want to frame the images myself, because I think that it would have taken away from the true experience of College Life. I had to be part of experience to be able to capture it.

"The attitude of the snap-shooter was direct, spontaneous, and matter of fact, casually exploring the pleasures of everyday life" (Hirsch 138).
Standing up for what you believe in!

This image was captured, because I was in the right place, at the right time. There were about six other students who were advocating for Black Lives Matter. I think, as a photographer we have a duty to capture these images, we have a duty to document. Many believe that the revolver made man equal, but to me I believe that it was the camera.

Being a photographer and a student, you learn early on that you have to stand up for what you believe in. In College Life, it is very unlikely, that one can walk through campus without seeing someone standing up for one thing or another. For example, these past few years, many students have stood up for the Black Lives Matter movement. A photographer has the opportunity to expose those new ideas to an endless amount of people.

Breaking Social Constructs.

As I mentioned in the intro I work for the OSA or the Office of Student Activities. The position I hold is the Ideas and Issues coordinator. One of the activities I planed for, was "I Ain't got no Type" and it was about the affect of stereotypes on people. This image really embodies that project. I asked some fellow students to write on the "mirror" stereotypes that have been put upon them.

This is also the time to break social constructs. Students get to decide what the "norm" is in the future. It is this time in College Life that we push the limits, to create a more inclusive society. This also goes hand in hand with photography. Photography since its birth has constantly evolved, from the daguerreotype, to film, and now digital. Soon photography will move on to another medium, and photographers have to decide to be on the dying or the thriving side of time.

Finding what you love!

While taking this photo, I had the opportunity to grasp the work that goes into "what you love". I almost didn't take pictures of the subject, because I didn't want to be the weird guy taking pictures of a stranger. But, I finally got the courage and asked her, if i could take pictures of her, and she said yes. I'm so happy that she said yes, because I took dozens of pictures all in different angles and focal lengths.

I believe the real reason that "The Thing Itself" was written, to expose students to what they love. It is easy for a photographer to become burnt out, if they are producing work that they are not passionate about. This is something that students can learn in College Life as well. Students are choosing areas of study that will determine most of their lives. It is important now, to find what they're passionate about, while they still have time!

Learning from someone old.

I hope this professor doesn't see what I captioned this photo as. 

When I started this project, I was very reluctant and didn't want to have to work on my final for a better part of the semester. That said, I think I became more aware of the content I was creating after reading "The Thing Itself". This is also something that goes directly to College Life. Students go into college thinking that they already know everything, there is to know. Going into college with that mindset can be very detrimental and a waste of money.

Learning from someone new.

This image was of Egypt who's a public speaker.

In college life, opportunities to learn from someone new are endless. It just takes giving up a few minutes of your time, to gain knowledge that will last a lifetime. I've also learned through this final, that its okay to learn from new people.

You're not alone!

This image, was of two students collaborating together to learn how to use the custom white balance. 

The only thing, I would have changed about this project, was the lack of communication between other students. It's something that other students in College Life, can learn as well. On campus students aren't alone, and for many it's their first exposure to living with thousands of other people. I would have loved to collaborated with other students, but I was too afraid to do so. I think it's silly, we are all going through the same things.

Taking time to have fun

This image was taken Selmo Park of two student organizations having a summer bash.

One of the most important aspects of this assignment, that I learned was to have fun. Sometimes while doing work for professors we forget to work for ourselves. To take the pictures that inspire us. To do what we truly love. There are many niches of photography and when a photographer finds their niche, they thrive.

The End


Hirsch, R. (2009). Seizing The Light (Second ed.). (Pg. 138). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Jay, B. (2006). The Thing Itself. Retrieved November 10, 2016, from

McCabe, H. (2014). Introduction To The Photographers Eye – John Szarkowski (1966). Retrieved November 10, 2016, from

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