CMC virtual photo exhibit displays art created by 2020 graduates during Covid pandemic |

CMC virtual photo exhibit displays art created by 2020 graduates during Covid pandemic

"Saguaro cactus with bud," is the photograph artist Deborah Shannan presented for CMC's virtual portfolio exhibit.

The lack of a final gallery exhibit back in April 2020 of their capstone projects didn’t just leave them without a tangible celebration for the work they’d put into their degrees; the exhibit usually works as a good networking site for recent graduates seeking out their next steps and applying for jobs.

“It was very emotional for this program because it’s like us, our artistic everything, all of our work was just building up to this day, you know. And that day creates a lot of opportunities for jobs or just getting the word out about this is who I am, this is how I make my work,” Hannah Johnson, Professional Photo Program graduate, said.

CMC still wanted to give credit to its graduates so for the last few weeks photographs from the capstone students were, and still are, on display in a virtual gallery. The online exhibit was a long time coming for Johnson and Deborah Shannan, another graduate from the Professional Photography program. Johnson said when her coursework came to a close and she received her diploma it was all very emotional. At that point in time when the COVID-19 outbreak was still fairly new, subbing in a virtual option for the real thing wasn’t something people were accustomed to yet.

“We were supposed to have our portfolio exhibit April 29 or something, and really Covid was totally new and people didn’t know…we didn’t have any alternatives…we did the best we could given the situation. Nobody felt like okay could we swing it together to make an online version, you know, people just weren’t working that way at that point,” Shannan said.

The title of Johnson’s photograph that can be seen on display here is “Auggie” and part of a portraiture series. Johnson said she always had a passion for writing poetry so the work she did for her capstone was accompanied by different poems.

"Auggie" Photo by Hannah Johnson

“My work is kind of based on my background in creative writing. So the first part of it is fine art portraiture…the goal of it was to show them through my style of seeing people in a more subconscious way. So my portraits are kind of ethereal, delicate and sometimes melancholy…and then the second part of my portfolio is fine art self-portraiture…each of those photos is based on a stanza in my final manuscript,” Johnson said.

Shannan, a former Biology teacher, gathers most of the inspiration for her work from nature. Her photographs tend to be close up shots that focus on the lines, textures and patterns found in the wild on various plant specimens.

“My personal photography is really about what can be referred to as intimate landscapes…for me it’s the intersection between art and science for me,” Shannan said.

Shannan uses an alternate processing method to develop her photographs. This means she uses an emulsifying process, her preferred medium is with liquid forms of Palladium and Platinum, on a photographic negative to create what she described as “handmade photographs.” She is the first student to graduate from CMC’s photo program who completed an entire portfolio solely of emulsified photos.

“As a consequence the prints that you produce have a gorgeous quality to them…that was what I chose to do which was I’m going to say a lot more work than actually just printing on the inkjet printer. Because each print had to be made into a negative and then printed in the darkroom,” Shannan said.

What’s next?

Johnson said COVID-19 posed a real challenge to her creative process since subjects became less comfortable meeting in person. It also was an end to the program that felt empty, Johnson said, without the feedback of other students in the classroom.

“I think my only thoughts on going through it during COVID is…it challenges you in a way that, you know, normal things get in the way of being creative, but this has really shown just how social creation is,” Johnson said.

Johnson is currently working as a Public Information Assistant at CMC. She says she wants to continue to expand her website and online store where she sells prints of fine art. Another element she hopes to cultivate in her web presence is an interactive patreon community where artists can come together for a sense of community in a virtual setting.

“I’ve launched my fine art print store which I wanted to create because I was kind of tired of an elitist view over fine art. I wanted to create just a space to access fine art without having to go anywhere. Kind of just a modern view of being engaged with your customers or your fans,” Johnson said.

Shannan on the other hand is following a more traditional path for a photographer. She plans to head out to Highlands, North Carolina in mid-February for a 3-month artist residency program at The Bascom Center for the Arts. CMC had a 2019 graduate from the professional photography program, Ben Bookout, in the same residency during 2020.

“The Bascom is an art center that is not unlike Anderson Ranch, it’s been around for a good while. It has visiting artists come and stay, and help out by doing some teaching as well as I will be having my first solo show at the center opening mid-April through the end of May…That’s very exciting to be part of that,” Shannah said.

To view the photographs from Johnson and Shannan’s portfolios visit the online gallery here. If you’d like to purchase pieces from the individual artists or learn more about their process, Johnson’s website and online shop is here, and Shannan’s can be found at this link.

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