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BU Photography Club: Capturing Life

Students learn to paint with light


Night has fallen by the time a group of a dozen students meets on the banks of the Charles River. The Boston skyline looms on the horizon, throwing bits of illumination into the dark sky. But down near the river, swirls of light suddenly begin to fly, followed immediately by the snap of a camera.

The BU Photography Club strikes again. On this evening, members are using flashlights and flaming bits of steel wool in an exercise designed to teach them how to paint with light. The students manually adjust their shutter speed (anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes) and direct light near things they want to highlight, exposing people posing in the process. Then someone takes a flashlight and quickly draws whirling shapes and writes words in the air. The photos show whatever light was exposed in the total time the shutter speed was set for, revealing words like “love” or “BU” scrawled in messy white letters.

Many of these images are on display in the club’s Gallery Showcase, held in April in BU Central. The two-week student-run show highlighted the work of amateur photographers from across the University.

BU Photography Club photo by Yi Lin Hung

Photo by Yi Lin Hung

The Photography Club prides itself on offering instructional support for amateur photographers, says group president Almond Dhukka (ENG’12). “We’re one of the largest groups on campus, and we attract students with lots of different workshops,” he says (the club has a mailing list of 450). “We make it a priority to make sure our members grow as photographers.”

Current members believe the club started in 1997, but Dhukka recently discovered a photograph in Barnes & Noble at BU (along the escalator between the fourth and fifth floors), of an incarnation of the club dating back to the 1950s. Optional dues of $25 give members special access to the darkroom in the College of Communication basement (the only one available to non–photo majors), paper and supplies, and priority in signing up for the club’s popular photo walks around the city.

The group does not discriminate between digital and film photography, teaching workshops on both darkroom technique and digital editing software. Students are welcome regardless of their experience or proficiency.

The club’s bimonthly photo walks offer some of the best teaching and learning opportunities. Besides trying their hand at light painting along the Charles, members have also traveled to Boston’s waterfront, the Financial District, and MIT. Club officers lead the walk and answer questions, but the point behind the walks is to get members to look at familiar landscapes in an original way. The club also hosts speakers to talk about issues like copyright law and photography’s place in the art world.

Shooting the Sun photo by Albaraa Falodah, BU Photography Club

Photo by Albaraa Falodah

“The Photo Club members have a wide range of knowledge, from students who have photographed their whole lives to those who just use their iPhone,” says Kal Zabarsky (CFA’69), the club’s advisor and a longtime BU staff photographer. “In terms of advising, those teaching really try to nurture others’ excitement without overdoing the technical aspects. But for those students who want the extra instruction, the club can teach them.”

The Photo Club has collaborated with the College of Fine Arts Arts Live blog for a project called Reveal Your BU. The recently announced Tumblr page will be an open forum for members of the BU community to upload their photos of life at BU. Anything and everything is accepted.

In the days leading up to the April show, Dhukka could be found in the COM basement helping students prepare their prints for the show. He was on hand to advise, but students had to choose and crop their own images. The showcase featured 48 color, black-and-white, and monochrome photographs from 31 undergraduate and graduate students.

White Sand Dunes, Plate II

White Sand Dunes, Plate II. Photo by Almond Dhukka

Dhukka, a self-taught photographer, had two pieces in the showcase, “White Sand Dunes, Plate II” and “White Sand Dunes, Plate III.” Both are black-and-white images of New Mexico’s White Sands National Monument. The two works are a study in contrasting shades of gray, and at first glance seem featureless.

“My intent with those photographs is to show the stark relationship between the vast sky and these seemingly out-of-place formations below,” Dhukka says. “I intentionally decided to make the photographs smaller, around four inches by four inches, to force the viewer to really get close with the piece.”

For Dhukka, leading the group is a way to connect with other people interested in photography. “I define myself as an engineer by trade and a photographer by passion,” he says.

Sherry Prasad joined the group because of her love of black-and-white photography. She has selected a digital black-and white-photograph of her mother for the club show. “I’m a premed major and I’ve always liked taking pictures, but obviously don’t get to do it often with my major,” Prasad (CAS’14) says. “I like that it is an open club, and that if you need help or critiques, they are there for you.”

BU Photography Club silhouette

Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

“The show varied quite a bit, as we left it up to the members to submit whatever they wanted,” Dhukka says. “Some opted to show their best work of the past year or so, some opted to show their best work of all time, and some just chose something they thought was interesting. We’re not curating the show, and it’s completely up to the members. This is just as much their creation as it is ours.”

The Gallery Showcase opens tomorrow, April 6, in BU Central, 775 Commonwealth Ave. Tomorrow’s grand opening, with hors d’oeuvres, drinks, raffles, giveaways, and a performance by the BU indie band Frank and Dependent, is at 8 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Robin Berghaus

Robin Berghaus can be reached at berghaus@bu.edu.

8 Comments on BU Photography Club: Capturing Life

  • Almond Dhukka on 04.05.2012 at 8:48 am

    Excellent piece, Robin and Amy! Thanks again for doing this!

  • Laurie Pohl on 04.05.2012 at 11:42 am

    Great piece, and beautiful work! Would love to join you guys sometime!

    • Alexandra Howton on 04.05.2012 at 11:02 pm

      Thank you so much! Great piece! It’s nice to share what we do.

      And Professor Pohl, you’re welcome to join us anytime!

    • Almond Dhukka on 04.07.2012 at 1:51 am

      You should join us! Our next photowalk is April 21st. We’ll be exploring MIT’s amazing architecture. We’ll leave from Marsh Plaza at noon.

  • Jennifer Lacroix on 04.05.2012 at 1:29 pm

    Great photographs. I particularly like the photograph by Albaraa Falodah. It’s breathtaking.

  • Val Hamblin on 04.06.2012 at 8:03 am

    A fascinating project–apart from the novel concept of painting with light, I admire the idea that the club welcomes all-comers. So many clubs are elitist and thus discourage beginners–here, they appear to be embraced and nurtured.

    Great photography and great (as usual) filming.

  • Darryl Hofer on 04.06.2012 at 8:55 am

    Very nice!

  • LO on 04.06.2012 at 12:14 pm

    I took the MET Photography class back in 1988 to learn how to do more with my camera. The most fun I had was with the night photography. Creating ‘ghosts’, playing with lights, and testing out long exposures. Back then, we couldn’t see our results until we developed the film and printed our shots! Now you can see what you get on your viewscreen!

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