Rodney Smith, photographer:
" Two years of teaching to some 60 undergraduate students had taught me a great and important lesson. For the most part, Yale students made terrible photographers. Are you surprised? Because I was. I assumed they would excel at photography as they had at everything else. They were young and I thought unlike graduate students, not so jaded, intimidated or isolated. But I was wrong. These students were intellectually extraordinary, but emotionally empty and immature. They had sacrificed or sublimated their true feelings for thoughts. They excelled at ideas, but were rather ordinary in their emotional well-being.
Then in the second year of teaching (and I am greatly embarrassed to say I have forgotten her name) comes this one student.
She was a large African-American woman from Chicago, whose mother was a janitor, and had worked her whole life to educate her daughter. This woman never forgot who she was or where she came from. She was gentle, quiet and content. And oh, what a soul. Her pictures spoke of her life and her compositional sense reflected better than almost anyone I have seen. She had a sense of place and where she fit into it.
You know that composition is like rhythm in music. It’s how you fill the space, both with emptiness and with fullness. It’s knowing where to place something and when it’s best to leave it alone. It’s about confinement in a frame and finding enormous freedom within the confinement. It is learning how to be liberated by the edges.
There was energy love, sadness and forgiveness in her work. I know this is all so abstract and basically leaves you, the reader, confused with what I saw, I wish I could show you as well. But let me assure you, what I saw was a gentle, quiet woman with a very large soul, a woman who was not fearful of her emotions and allowed them to rise to the surface, but never without the constraint of the intellect. She was a perfect example of art giving form to feeling.
Oh where, oh where are you today? You were my pride and joy and I wish the world could know you too. Please don’t tell me you have become an investment banker."