The basic black and white class I took in college had no restrictions on subject matter. However, there was an unwritten rule to align with an “art school” sensibility. If you didn’t know what that meant, your future was uncertain. I made the mistake of asking for an explanation.
Lots of beginners were drawn to the architecture of Faner Hall, a brutalist concrete structure in the middle of campus. The surface was “rough with countless relief impressions along with some concave flourishes.” Sorry, that’s art school talk for cool wall holes.
The professor could barely contain his disgust when he saw these “obvious” student photos of the concrete. In hindsight, I see that it was an artistic litmus test. Luckily for me, I never fell into the trap. After seeing a few classmates savaged in critique, I steered clear of Faner Hall even though there was an unmistakable appeal.
At age 18 I was unable to put words to my uneasy feeling about the treatment my fellow students received. I knew that this teaching approach was unjust but I kept my mouth shut. Maybe that’s why I only lasted another semester.
Is it ironic that I’m the only one from that class who makes a living with a camera? It’s impossible to measure. What I know for sure is that I never miss an opportunity to photograph a concrete wall.
This one in Orlando, Florida is as good as it gets. The holes remind me of a time when I should have listened a little closer to my inner voice.
About the author: I am Stephen Kennedy, an experienced photographer with more than 2500 completed sessions in all 50 US states.