Artists speak: "First Comes Trust"


The seriously moving work of 13 senior RIT photojournalism students is currently on display in the William Harris Gallery (Gannett Hall, third floor, Rochester Institute of Technology, 70 Lomb Memorial Drive). The exhibition, "First Comes Trust," is the capstone event for their study in the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences, celebrating a year-long documentary project.

Each of the students (Donny Bajohr, Heather Casey, Zack DeClerck, Kyle Hofsass, Alyssa Hunter, Sarah Ann Jump, Rugile Kaladyte, Maureen MacGregor, Evan Ortiz, Kelly Jo Smart, Elijah Walker, Niki Walker, and Dan Witkowski) have spent the last year concentrating on one theme, honing not only technique, but also the ability to form respectful relationships with their subjects. Over time and through focused practice, the students learned to intuit when to give space and when to seize the moment. The project's blog documents key epiphanies in the students' own words, and previews some of the stunning photographs.

Subjects include a 12-year-old girl who struggles with the normal growing pains while her vision steadily degrades, the country-western culture surrounding a bar-as-microcosm in Henrietta, the daily life and struggles of a transgender woman, a case study of chronic homelessness, suicide in Lithuania, and a teenager who strives to find balance between school, motherhood, and the complicated relationship with the father of her son.

Sarah Ann Jump followed a refugee family from Congo for one past year, from the minute they stepped out of the airport to the present. Jump's work was recognized with a Student Award of Excellence by the Alexia Foundation.

During her first year at RIT, Kelly Jo Smart met a group of Malaysian students, sponsored by their government to study at the school, and continued to work with them throughout her studies. Still engaged with the progression of their story, Smart created a Kickstarter campaign and raised the money to travel back to Malaysia with the women.

The students themselves selected the exhibition title, which is taken from a quote by the late Michel du Cille, who was a three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist for the Washington Post. "No pictures yet. I haven't taken my camera. First comes trust, then the work," du Cille said to his editor in 1987, during a months-long project photographing life inside a Miami crack house.

The students chose this quote as it represents a central theme in documentary work: "the necessity of establishing the level of mutual understanding with a subject that ultimately leads to visual candor," per the press release.

The students will discuss their work this Thursday, at 7 p.m. in the same gallery where it is exhibited. "First Comes Trust" will remain on view through Friday. For more info, call 475-2716, or click here.

For more art events, visit CITY's calendar!