RISD Photography Triennial Exhibition Returns to Woods-Gerry Gallery

Visitors look through Ethan Brossard's photo book in the woods gerry-gallery on opening night of the 2023 photography triennial

For the first time since 2017, current Photography students are sharing their work in the Photography Triennial, a collection of more than 60 pieces of all different shapes, sizes and mediums on view in the Woods-Gerry Gallery through October 29. The exhibition, I Dreamed, I Dream, showcases the work of 31 juniors, seniors and graduate students presenting everything from traditional printed photographs to sculptural work to a giant screen-printed fabric piece hanging in the entryway.

“One thing students in the department are interested in is trying to photograph the invisible,” says Photography Department Head Brian Ulrich. “They are trying to find language—whether that’s a visual or actual language—to describe feeling. It’s more of a sensory and bodily experience than it is a thing that exists out in the world.”

Ulrich was a juror for the show along with Graduate Program Director Laine Rettmer, Assistant Professor Eduardo L. Rivera and Senior Academic Technologist Brittany Marcoux-McGuire. “We really wanted students to be heavily involved in planning the exhibition from the get-go,” says Marcoux-McGuire. “Yuting Wang 24 GL/PH and Sydney Howard 24 PH, among others, helped every step along the way, including making the poster, curating the work and marketing the show.”

a large screen printed textile piece by Elena Bulet i Llopis hangs in the entryway of the Woods-Gerry Gallery
In a self portrait by Sydney Cohn, the viewer peers through a cabin window to see Cohn sitting on the other side and looking into the distance
Above, graduate student Elena Bulet i Llopis’ large screen-printed piece hangs in the entryway of the gallery. Below, Sydney Cohn's 60-inch self portrait was inspired by a “quarter-life crisis.”

“There are so many more opportunities when students work together, and this exhibition is indicative of that.”

Department Head Brian Ulrich

Among the artists whose work is on view is senior Sydney Cohn 24 PH, a department representative for RISD Student Alliance who works closely with Marcoux-McGuire. “I was lucky to be in a group of people who all just really enjoy collaborating and getting advice from one another,” says Cohn. “I really like to print and have done a lot of large printing myself, so I enjoyed being able to help with some of the last-minute printing for the show.”

Cohn has two pieces in the exhibition, including an eerie black-and-white photo of a landscape in Norway. “I like my landscape work to feel placeless,” says the artist. “I shoot pieces all over the world but make them look like they could have been taken anywhere.” Cohn also included a self-portrait that is 60 inches wide, which she says was inspired by a “quarter-life crisis.” In the giant color photo, the viewer peers through a cabin window to see Cohn sitting inside and gazing into the distance with a streak of sunlight across her face.

Working within the format of a book, on the other hand, is Ethan Brossard 25 PH. His work centers around mental health awareness, and the photo book he entered into the show includes photos of suburbia, interior and exterior shots of high school buildings and short sections of text. “Throughout my life I’ve often been asked to describe my anxiety and panic attacks, and I always have trouble finding words that do justice to how big it is,” says Brossard. “I can do a much better job explaining what it feels like through photos, and I make them into books to help tell the story.”

In one of his pieces, Brossard captures the front of Providence’s Hope High School from a skewed perspective. “I think hope is such an ironic word,” he says. “I love the way the building is looming in the photo. I use a large-format camera, and the accordion-like bellows allow me to move the film around to create this effect in-camera.”

A black and white, skewed looking photo of the front of hope high school by Ethan Brossard
Sarah Meftah's "Vertical Hallway" shows the base of a stairwell with blue walls and blue carpet
Above, Ethan Brossard's work speaks to mental health awareness. Below, Sarah Meftah visits estate sales to capture the lives and identities of people who once lived there.

Also part of the exhibition are two photos by graduate student Sarah Meftah MFA 24 PH, Vertical Hallway and Horsey. Meftah shot both pieces at local estate sales, which she frequents in an attempt to capture the lives and identities of those who once lived there.

“When I walk into these spaces, I lean into this ‘affective regime,’ which is what they call it in contemporary art,” explains Meftah. “What am I smelling, sensing and hearing that could help me imagine what kind of photographs I want to make? It could be the cracks in the wood floors as I’m walking or the smell of an old book.”

In addition to the triennial, the Photography department has hosted three visiting artists this semester as a part of the ongoing TC Colley and Gary Metz lecture series: Minneapolis-based photographer and author Alec Soth, portrait photographer and author Irina Rozovsky and Anglo-Australian visual artist and former RISD faculty member Odette England MFA 12 PH.

“Community for artists is incredibly important,” says Ulrich as he reflects on the well-attended exhibition opening. “There were students from all years and majors there, which was really exciting to see. There are so many more opportunities when students work together, and this exhibition is indicative of that.”

Isabel Roberts
October 25, 2023

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