We the University of Utah

Please download the complete photo essay at http://chroniclearchive.com/main.cfm?include=customPage&name=pdf

Portraits are one of the most common types of pictures a person collects. Everyone has a portrait of his or her grandmother when she was five, one of his or her great-grandfathers whom they never met.

We cling to those photos not because they show what dresses our grandmothers wore or what haircut our grandfathers sported, but rather the sense of the person that portrait portrays.

Everybody can tell when a portrait captured that sense of being a person exudes. Those are the photographs that hang in our front rooms, pass from generation to generation and make us take a step back and reflect on a loved one we miss.

While we cherish the portraits of an aunt or a grandpa, the pictures that hang in our dorms and apartments are different-they describe our heroes, our fantasies and our lovers.

But those pictures are also the same. In them, we find that same meaning that we get when we dust off a picture of Grandma. They convey more than just what that person was, but also who that person was at that moment. We add meaning seeing them in our moment, in our context, in our time.

While a bad portrait is the kind that shows only what a person looks like when light bounces off of him or her and is caught in a machine, the great portraits capture people’s lifetimes in single instances. They don’t define their subjects, but rather allow the viewer to see who, in that split second, that subject is, where he or she has been and who he or she hopes to become.

We bring so much meaning to good portraits. And they bring so many different people to us each time we look at them.

As difficult as it is to encapsulate that sense from a subject, doing so for an entire community seems impossible.

A photographer could walk across the U community and shoot a collection of demographically proportionate photographs. He or she could capture people in action to highlight what people do on campus, or take photographs of classrooms all in an effort to accurately sample us.

But that would not describe who we are. It would only define us on a superficial level.

Chronicle staff photographer Stephen Holt chose to present the campus in a deeper way. To him, the campus is not the buildings, the teams, the mascots, the walkways or the roads. The campus is the people, and Holt chose to show us at that one instant that defined who we are, and who we hope to become.

In the footsteps of late famed photographer Richard Avedon, Holt began in August with a camera, a tripod and a large roll of white paper. He began to ask people on campus to step in front of his white background and just stand there. About 225 agreed. Only two declined. Holt shot about 20 pictures of each person, enough to be sure he saw what he needed to see.

While the tens of thousands of us walking around campus every day pass on the sidewalks, sit next to each other in class or ride the shuttle together, we rarely get the opportunity to really see each other-ourselves.

These 26 portraits allow us to see a few of us in a way that only a still portrait allows-to stare deeply into someone’s eyes, notice the shift of someone’s hip and the position of someone’s hands, and to create that ethereal sense of the person.

The diptych of Rose Mary Kelley and Stephanie Stephens shows us similarities through differences. Kelley, at one time, was likely much the same as Stephens, and one day Stephens might be like Kelley.

They carry with them a dignity and pride of having their life experiences to back them up, and they are happy to be on their path to gain those life experiences.

One might know where she has been, while the other might have no firm idea of where she is going.

The most fascinating and frustrating part of these four pages is how viewers will interpret what they see and decide who it is they are looking at.

While these photographs may not cause the same reaction a person has to a photograph of his or her grandmother, they will allow all of us to take a step back and really understand who we are.

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