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Notre Dame students select 1993 photograph as newest addition to Snite collection

| Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Museums are places of ideas, and the students of PhotoFutures 2019 had specific ideas in mind when choosing the new photograph for the Snite Museum’s permanent collection.

The photograph added to the Snite’s collection was chosen by a group of Notre Dame students. Throughout the fall semester, members of PhotoFutures — senior Sarah Harper, sophomores Abigail Patrick and Claire Stein, junior Cameron Sumner and senior exchange student Stanley Ying — focused on helping choose a photograph in line with the theme “American education.” (Editor’s Note: Patrick is a Viewpoint copy editor for The Observer.)

Emma Farnan | The Observer
The Snite Museum unveiled a new addition to its permanent collection on Tuesday. The Judith Joy Ross photo was chosen by a group of students as part of PhotoFutures.

Bridget Hoyt, curator of education for academic programs at the Snite, said PhotoFutures is responsible for selecting a photograph that “addresses a theme that adds value to the permanent collection of the Snite Museum, that is a good and important aesthetic object and that also supports the mission of the University.”

“So [the photograph] doesn’t just belong in an art museum, but it belongs in this art museum,” Hoyt said.

The photograph chosen was “Randy Sartori, 1st Grade, Mrs. Starkey’s Class, A.D. Thomas Elementary School, Hazleton, Pennsylvania” taken in 1993 by photographer Judith Joy Ross.

Sumner said members of the committee decided to choose the photograph in part because they felt many Americans could relate to it.

“The main reason that we chose this [photograph] is that we felt that it was just universal,” Sumner said. “So if you look at it, you can kind of see yourself in this boy. I think that a huge mundane aspect of education is that sometimes we are disengaged from what we’re learning. And it’s important to realize that and try to improve that within the American education system.”

The students considered photographs from several different eras, starting in the 1800s through the Civil Rights Movement, and finally landed on a piece that is a bit more contemporary.

“We wanted the focus to be on education itself and not on some movement itself, like the Civil Rights Movement or the Public Works projects that were going on in the 1800s,” Harper said. ”We really wanted the focus to be on a classroom and the students within the classroom.”

The unveiling ceremony took place Tuesday evening at the Snite. A crowd gathered around to see the acquisition that will now be a permanent piece in the museum.

“When you look at the photo, you’re at the level of Randy,” Patrick said. “You’re looking in his eyes, and you can place yourself in his shoes and the experience in that classroom. There’s something so momentary, like you’re capturing him in this moment of being in the classroom, being in that space. We thought it was really powerful and moving and made it so visually compelling and important to add to our collection.”

Each member of the group reflected on a different aspect of the piece, but all were pleased with the final selection.

“It’s a real joy that the museum can participate in something that’s innovative and something that’s important—and because it’s coming into a permanent collection—something that’s lasting,” Snite Museum director Joe Becherer said.

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