Life of a campus

The life of a campus

North Dakota State University, Fargo, 2008

Students in my photojournalism class prepared images based on their documentary project designed to reflect the experiences of students at North Dakota State University. In this project, students have chosen work representing classes and study, relaxing, volunteering and campaigning, and other experiences students encounter during their time at university in Fargo. Following the ethical tradition of photojournalism, these photos are not posed or manipulated. They reflect an honest, truthful portrayal of lives, sliced into images frozen by a camera.

The photojournalism tradition of documenting daily life based on rigorous standards of realism and honesty dates from the beginning of the twentieth century. Early photojournalists believed that the power of photography lay in its ability to capture the truth without the filters of brush or pen, and in doing so encourage society to better understand itself and perhaps to change. These photo stories grew to dominate the mass media by mid-century, reflect uncompromising standards of objectivity and image quality. Life magazine became most famous, publishing some of the greatest documentary photography of the century. Its photographers enjoyed great prestige and worldwide distribution.

The golden age of photo documentaries has passed, but still popular today are book or magazine projects documenting daily life of a society or group. The day in the life theme has become an icon of photojournalism in the last 20 years or so. Our photographers have borrowed from this theme to produce this small slice of the students' world. These NDSU students were not able to produce all their photos in one day, but they did work consistently throughout most of the semester. From a series of student-generated themes, the class produced images that were critiqued as a class. The class voted on images they believed worthy of inclusion in the final presentation.

I am pleased that this beginning photography class could produce many high quality images. Some of these students had never taken photos beyond the casual snapshot. But they produced strong images reflecting the culture they live in. I think their work shows honesty and truthfulness, in a world where so much photography nowadays is manipulated or contrived. Digital photography has made it easier to manipulate an image, I know. But it's also made it easier to make honest, unposed images of real people doing real things on a college campus.

- Ross Collins, associate professor of communication, who teaches photojournalism at North Dakota State University.



These photographs were taken by:
Caitlin Dancer | Cassandra Kiecker | Melody Neer | Amy Vangsness

The full exhibit is at www.ndsu.edu/communication/collins/242photojournalism/documentary08.html