As a professor of photography, Linda Rossi has found the Arboretum to be a “powerful tool” for studying the natural world, and examining the relationships between different ecosystems. Professor Rossi said that when she first came to Carleton, she went out into the Arboretum with her camera daily, and the Arb has continued to serve as “a sketchbook” and a means to collect ideas. Her recent projects include using “bits and pieces” from the Arb office, such as a blind Barred owl and an owl skull, as a crossover of structures. She has also collected and photographed branches that had been worked on by Box Elder beetles. The Arb serves as “a natural resource to study as part of installations” and can serve as both a subject and a setting. For Linda Rossi, it is “a phenomenal study” that allows students to “learn to read complexity of visuals” and explore the natural world through photography.
Several of Professor Rossi’s classes conduct photography projects in the Arb as well. These include Color Photography, which has created installations in the Arb and documented them over time, Intro to Photo, in which one of the units is an exploration of landscape in the natural world, and Advanced Photography, which did a portrait of a tree over time and took a tour of the Arb led by Nancy Braker. Students have also done projects emulating photographers who work in natural spaces, made cyanotypes (capturing images with light sensitive material), and made pinhole cameras to take long exposure images. Rossi says projects in the Arb are “interesting for students who aren’t comfortable in the natural world.”
In Spring term 2014, Rossi is offering a new class that will also utilize the Arb: The Digital Landscape. This class will travel around Rice County and photograph various landscapes such as the Arboretum, agriculture fields, and landfills. The project seeks to “look a little deeper” and reveal the morality of land use practices, such as invasive plant management and farming practices.