9 Views: A Day in the Life of Vassar

November 3, 2009

The Vassar Quarterly invited nine alumnae/i photographers to campus to view the college in their own way over a 24-hour period and in an exceptionally beautiful season.

We wanted the photographers to cover a broad swath of campus, visiting old haunts and new spaces alike to capture the variety of stimulating interactions and activities that occur on a typical day at Vassar. The photographers Evan Abramson ’00, Benjamin Busch ’91, Nancy Crampton ’56, Ryan Muir ’06, Lauri Robertson ’75, Ben Rutkowski ’09, Todd Shapera ’79, Dixie Sheridan ’65, and Francis Smith ’87 were selected for the variety of styles and specialties they would bring to the project — among them are portrait, landscape, interior and architectural, documentary, dance, and theater photographers.

After the shoot, the artists related highlights of their experience. Dixie Sheridan considered her ability to roam the campus and photograph whatever interested her a “gift.” She had photographed Vassar’s people, places, and activities countless times during her years as editor of this magazine and later as vice president of College Relations. In her role as an administrator, however, she had been obligated to make a “deliberate consideration of content in photographs.”

Many of the photographers, especially those who had graduated more than a decade earlier, found that returning was not at all as they had expected. As Todd Shapera recalled, “So much of Vassar is unchanged — the landmarks, the buildings, the philosophy — but a lot of it felt really different. I expected to feel very nostalgic, walking around throughout the day, and, instead, I felt like I was discovering an entirely new place.”

Similarly, Benjamin Busch related: “I had come thinking that I would capture ‘my Vassar’ again but found, instead, that it could not be photographed. I realized, seeing the campus in a later time, that Vassar is truly a landscape of students at the moment of their awakening.”

Most of the photographers — even the ones who had recently graduated — recalled their own Vassar “awakenings.” As Lauri Robertson noted, her on-campus experience was formative. “[Vassar] became an enduring and durable part of my identity,” she says, though she could not have known it would become so at the time.

As Busch so astutely observed, those who walk Vassar’s hallways today will never know the campus as he had known it, just as he will never know the campus as those who came before him had, but each remembers the personal and unique revelations inspired by their experiences here.

In the pages following, you will see a sample of what these nine alumnae/i observed when they turned their cameras on today’s Vassar and saw it through a different lens.

Photo credit: Evan Ambramson '00