The Wilson Gallery is showing a Homecoming exhibition featuring photos from the 1960s pulled from the Anderson University archives. This exhibit was put together by student Jo Harmless with assistance from his professor, Holly Sims.
The intent of the exhibition was to express student life from the time period, showcase memorable spaces and show that people “are still people.”
Very few of the people featured or the photographers are known. Both Sims and Harmless stated that their focus was more on creating a “visual experience” of AU students during the ‘60s. “We were less focused on who was in all the images and what all was going on necessarily, but more how we can show the everyday student,” Sims said.
Sims and Harmless started the brainstorming process for this exhibition by asking themselves, “What would make a good show?” Sims suggested taking photos from the ’60s through the ’90s before settling on just the ’60s due to the high volume of material.
The next step of the process for Harmless was to go to the archives and sort through the photos. Nic Don Stanton-Roark, the Anderson University archivist, assisted him with this. “He got out these old, big binders, just pictures that were taken that were used for year books or advertising,” said Harmless.
Harmless would then go through the “hundreds, probably thousands of pictures,” marking on a piece of paper the ones he liked the most. His focus was on finding photos that had a good composition and were appealing to the eye but also represented “student life, diversity [and] the different areas of study.”
From there, student volunteers scanned the film negatives, with the library printing them. Tim Swain installed the prints in the Gallery.
As an art showing, the visual experience was key.
The photos were printed large and placed close together to mirror a roll of film negatives, nodding to the era when they were taken. “Our main inspiration was the film—that’s why we printed them so large and put them so close together, so the whole space kind of feels like a roll of film negatives,” Sims said.
In photography, Harmless said, there are a few rules you can use to select good imagery, one of them being “the rule of thirds,” where the composition follows the two lines dividing a photo in three sections.
Instead, Harmless relies on his eye. “I think pretty much anybody can do it,” he said, descirbing his process. “You’d get different results, but images that really stand out to one person will hopefully stand out to other people, too.”
To see this collaborative show, visit the Wilson Gallery on the second floor of Fine Arts by Tuesday, Nov. 29.