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Alumni Follow Passions for Photography in Post-Grad Year

March 3, 2013 at 7:13 pm
By Kaitlyn Gerber

Most students come to college planning to follow a traditional path: attend four years of classes, graduate, and either find a full-time job or attend graduate school.

However, for some Carleton students, college leads them down a less-traditional path. Such was the case for both Kathryn Schmidt ‘12 and Abby Han ‘12, two recent graduates whose post-graduate experiences have been centered around their passions for photography.

Schmidt, a former International Relations major at Carleton, found that after graduation, she did not want to head directly into the traditional workforce. “I wanted to take some time to be flexible, and travel more,” she said.

She had already been working sporadically for Witness For peace, an activist organization dedicated to justice and sustainable economics; this past December, as an Assistant organizer for the program, she traveled to Cuba.

While she was there, she also made sure to photograph her experiences.“Wherever I go, I try to document everything,” she said. “I really enjoy travel photography, so I’m hoping to do more of that.” She gave a talk about her experiences and presented her photographs in a talk last week at Carleton.

However, in her free time, Schmidt has also been dabbling in freelance photography. An avid photographer (and the Carletonian’s former Photo Editor), she has teamed up with her aunt, also a photographer, to do event photography. 

Han, a former Cinema and Media Studies major, has also chosen to spend her post-graduate year exploring photography, although it is a relatively new passion for her.  While she eventually intends to attend graduate school for photography, she has dedicated the better part of the previous year to multiple projects of her own creation.

“I’ve always enjoyed art, but had no opportunity to try it,” she said. While she originally intended to become an Economics major, she found herself falling in love with her CAMS class, which involved a lot of filming. Over time, she realize that she wanted to find an intermediate between filming and photography, because she liked using images to tell stories.

Since graduating, she has spent extensive time working on a personal project entitled “Invisible,” which profiles five women who have experienced sexual assault. The exhibit, which opens at the Weitz Center on April 29, 2013, uses photography to chronicle the womens’ stories.

Han’s initial interest in the project began when she took a class on the ethics of civic engagement. Through that class, she was matched with the Healing, Outreach, Prevention and Education (HOPE) center in Faribault, which provides support for victims of domestic violence.

“I found their stories compelling,” she said, “so I decided to make it into a larger project.” Her exhibit, which will run through May 10, is sponsored by both the Center for Civic Engagement (CCCE) and the Gender and Sexuality Center (GSC).

Han also does freelance photography and runs her own website, Faith Thru Art, documenting her experiences in art and in faith.

“It’s nothing like I ever imagined it to be,” said Han, “but it’s refreshing. It’s really hard, but really exciting to explore art without a set schedule.”

Similarly, Schmidt, a Political Science/International Relations major, never expressly planned on taking a year off to travel and do photography, although she admits that she also could not imagine herself working a traditional job.

“I didn’t really have a set direction,” she said, “but even [early on] in college I couldn’t picture myself just jumping into a regular job.”

Although she will soon take a position with AmeriCorps, Schmidt says she is “very grateful” to have had a year to plan her own schedule. “

“I have been so fortunate to have this time and flexibility to take time to work on art projects and see what makes sense,” she said.

Han agreed. “If you’re willing to live with less, it’s both doable and worth it,” she said. “It’s truly made me realize that what I do is what I love.”