Today: Feb 26, 2024

‘Southern Faces’ study captures daily student life in photography

Photo courtesy Olivia Richman
Senior Jahkeem Ohizep’s photo is displayed in the exhibit as the student who only received $11 for his textbooks

OLIVIA RICHMAN— General assignment reporter

Both students are excited to graduate. They share the same emotion, the same anticipation of the days to come. They won’t be Southern Connecticut State University Owls for too much longer. Even though both students are both anxious for the same event in their lives and share the same feelings towards it, their faces portray this emotion differently. This is the idea behind Sebastian S. Smith’s independent study, “Southern Faces.”

Smith’s black and white photographs were on display in Earl Hall last week. He had a reception on Thursday with choice images hanging on the wall and a slideshow on a TV as well, complete with a wide variety of appetizers, cookies and drinks, which Jahkeem Ohizep said he greatly appreciated.

“The food at the reception was good,” Ohizep said. “He did a great job with that.”

Smith had been working on the project leading up to the reception all last semester for his independent study. According to Smith, he got the idea a year ago and played with it in his head before he approached a professor about it as an independent study. “Southern Faces” consists over 117 photographs, all of different students.

“They were all different kinds (and grades) of students,” said Smith, a graphic design and electronic music double major, “that were randomly selected in front of the Student Center.”

Each of the 117 photographs portrays a SCSU student expressing a different emotion on their faces. Smith said that there was a list of emotions each student could choose from; whichever statement was closest to what they were feeling in real life that day.

“I first asked if they had a second,” Smith said of his process, “I had a list of 27 expressions they could be feeling. It was not 100 percent candid, but it was what they were feeling that day.”

The 27 statements ranged from “Finally…graduation” to more upsetting emotions such as “My teacher hates me.” Smith described these expressions as some of the things people were feeling last semester. Ohizep had his own black and white photograph on display that week. He had chosen the emotion “I only got 11 bucks for a textbook worth $185.”

“That day I happened to have exactly $11. The caption fit, so I chose it. It was a major coincidence,” said Ohizep, a music theory major. “I really like the picture because it’s so real. Even though I was having a happy day and it was nice out, I definitely agreed with it. Books should just be rentals. You know how much money goes into that nonsense?”

Although Ohizep said he likes color in his photography, he knew that his friend, Smith, had a reason behind the artistic choice.

“When you look at someone’s face in a photograph,” explained Smith, who had never taken a photography class, “the color takes away from their expression and distracts the viewer. Black and white has more emphasis on a subject.”

Ohizep and Smith, who are both music majors, met each other when Smith asked Ohizep if he wanted to collaborate musically with him.

“I didn’t think I was on that level where I was able to collaborate with someone at the time,” said Ohizep. “But last year we finally began collaborating and making music. It’s been a good time.”

Ohizep said he was excited to have his photograph on display and had fun rounding up other students for Smith to photograph. He thought that the final outcome of “Southern Faces” was enjoyable to look at.

“I think it’s really cool. Really cool,” he said. “No music, just images. It’s dramatic.”

Smith also chose to have the photographs in a slideshow that was also on display along with the photographs on the wall.

“I thought it’d be easiest way to show a lot of pictures in a short amount of time,” he said. “The pictures that I chose to be on the wall were hanging up because they showed the project off the best of all 117 images.”

Ohizep said he hopes Smith does another independent study because he liked “Southern Faces” so much.

“He should do a similar study,” he said, “but with professors’ perspective. It would bring both projects together. ‘I told my students we had a test today and half my students failed it.’”

Ohizep is in luck.

“The project is actually not complete,” Smith said. “My professor and I want to continue it next semester with a new crop of students. It’s not done as far as I’m concerned.”

Smith said he has a very busy semester ahead of him.

“The next big thing is a surprise at the end of the semester,” he said, being secretive. “It’s a musical group thing. That’s all I’ll say.”

Smith said if any student had their picture taken by him, they can contact him and he will give them a printed copy of the picture.

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