“Through the Lens of the Beholder: The Fine Art of Fashion” was open through December 7, 2017. The exhibit featured a stunning array of garments and accessories from the 1830s to the 1990s—including designer and global fashions—that epitomized the art of dress in the details and construction.
Large-scale and detail photographs interpreted and enhanced the artifacts on display, and they were the work of Dr. Michael Drager of the Communications/Journalism Department. He and FA&M community volunteer and retired professional photographer Barbara A. Hunt worked closely with SU student photographers to produce the artwork that accompanied the exhibit. The resulting photos represented the talents of Kayla Brown, Amanda Mehall, and Taylor Mason, as well as Drager and Hunt, creating a true “town and gown” partnership and mentorship of students. Graduate students from the new course “Material Culture and Museums” (History 505; see story elsewhere in this newsletter) wrote many of the exhibit labels. As future museum and archival staff, students appreciated that exhibit label writing is another skill they will need to apply in their future careers, and preparations for the exhibit presented them with the real-life opportunity.
Drager truly enjoyed embracing this chance for a fresh project. “The photography project with the Fashion Archives provided an inter-disciplinary opportunity for students who took photography courses in the Communication/Journalism Department to get hands-on experience. The students worked under real-life conditions, dealing with a myriad of demands, in photographing fashions from the 1800s and 1900s. I cannot think of a more valuable opportunity for students than the one provided by this project at the Fashion Archives.” He further added, “It was interesting watching the enthusiasm and care that students invested in the project. They worked patiently and skillfully with Dr. Karin Bohleke, the director of the Fashion Archives, and Barb Hunt, the professional photographer who provided whole-hearted assistance to the project as well. Barb was wonderful in working with the students, giving them advice and helping them understand the demands of such a complex photo shoot.”
Visitors expressed their appreciation for the photography and how it enhanced their interpretation of the garments, including making them notice details they had previously overlooked. “Most colleges and universities with a historic clothing collection,” Bohleke explained, “use it in connection with a fashion design program, or a theatre costume design major, or both. Consequently, the instructors have no particular need to look outside their own department and connect with other faculty. The FA&M’s origins in the sociology department set the stage for creative partnerships with other disciplines from the very beginning. The student and professional photography in this exhibit is a prime example of the FA&M’s other partnerships across the campus.”
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