“A lot of people have never set foot in a darkroom,” says BFA photography student Zack Neuman. “Many other programs are exclusively digital.”
At Missouri State, however, Zack learned his craft on film. And this wasn’t just an exercise in photographic history, he says. “On film, you have to be more intentional. You can’t get that instant feedback. Going through film, you’re going to realize quickly what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong.”
“So developing those skills,” Zack says, “has helped me with digital photography, too. It helps me know how to look at the subject and understand how it will look photographically.”
As a senior, Zack was required to submit his work to a juried exhibition. He aimed high, entering his work in PhotoSpiva, one of the most established juried photography shows in the United States.
“There were 547 images submitted by 97 photographers,” he says. “Only 87 photos were selected.”
And two of the selected images were Zack’s.
“PhotoSpiva is a national competition hosted annually by Spiva Center for the Arts. Founded in 1977, PhotoSpiva has become the longest-running photographic competition of its kind in the U.S. As stated by the founders, the objective of PhotoSpiva is to ‘present an exhibition of excellence in photography, celebrating the scope and vigorous activity of today’s contemporary photographers.'”
Lewis Boxing Gym Series
Both of Zack’s selected photos came from his series about the Lewis Boxing Gym in downtown Springfield.
His search for an engaging setting first led him to the gym.
“It had its own atmosphere,” he says. “Being able to explore through the camera, I had the opportunity to explore this world I knew nothing about at all.”
Working on this series was an important milestone in Zack’s craft, and he values the time he spent building relationships with his subjects.
“One of the greatest payoffs was when I started to give them prints,” he says. “I was so grateful; they loved the photos and even hung some up inside the gym.”
One thousand words
The Lewis Boxing Gym Series also allowed Zack to apply his storytelling skills — a topic he says is often discussed in the photography program.
“If something’s captured in an image,” he says, “it’s easy for people to think it’s exactly like reality.”
Spending four years intensively focusing on his skills has taught Zack how easily this “reality” can be manipulated, though.
“People like to say, ‘A picture’s worth a thousand words.’ But not all of these words are true,” Zack says.
In reality, he says, photographers make any number of decisions — including certain things inside the frame, excluding others and sometimes intentionally distorting perspective. Each of these choices shapes the photo’s narrative and changes how the audience perceives it.
BFA Art Show
Zack’s work will be part of the annual BFA Art Show, which features work from students graduating from the Bachelor of Fine Arts programs in the department of art and design. The show opens at Brick City on May 4, and the opening reception will be part of First Friday Art Walk.
For the student exhibitors, the show isn’t just the culmination of their Missouri State experience. It’s also an exercise in project management as they design and produce the exhibit.
“It’s a lot,” Zack says. “Figuring out what works in terms of size and scale, what the best presentation process is. I see why we do this as students because we have to learn everything that goes into making a show like this a success.”
Key details of the event
- What: BFA Exhibition Opening Receptions
- When: 6 – 10 p.m., May 4
- Where: Work by BFA art students is at the Brick City Gallery; work by BFA design students is at the Student Exhibition Center
- How: See it all during First Friday Art Walk! Free and open to the public.
- Producers: Lucie Amberg and Jackie Crawford
- Videographer: Jackie Crawford
- Editor: Lucie Amberg