By Shannon McCoy ’15, PCA&D Photography Major
Being able to participate in the Society for Photographic Education’s Mid-Atlantic conference (SPEMA) was an incredible experience.
Photographer Lydia Panas, one of two “Mosaic Project” artists (exhibit shown at PCA&D through Nov. 15), is shown with PCA&D's gallery director Heidi Leitzke (right). Panas was also a speaker at the SPEMA conference and the day before, during Lancaster's First Friday, she presented an artist talk and attended a reception for her two-person exhibit.
It all started around springtime of this year. I remember being asked by Chris Welch (Photography faculty member and former Chair of the Photography department) and Eric Weeks (faculty member in and Chair of the Photography and Fine Art departments) to take on the role of student organizer for this year’s Society of Photographic Education Mid Atlantic conference, which was going to be held right here in Lancaster in November 2014. I was honored, and here was where the journey began.
In the following months, I joined meetings with faculty from PCA&D, taking on assignments and projects to prepare for the quickly arriving event. I began collecting lists of student volunteers, as well as organizing the coinciding student photographic show.
Finally, the week of the conference arrived. I worked up until opening day, ensuring that all signage and hospitality materials were created on time. Friday morning was suddenly upon me, but I was ready for the busy night ahead. Not only was the student photography show at Coe Camera opening that same night, but senior photography students and I were also installing our video installation in PCA&D’s Art Garden. There was plenty to do.
The sun had set, and seven o’clock came around. I trotted off to the Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square for the evening’s keynote speaker and Guggenheim Fellowship recipient, Latoya Ruby Frazier. It was a brisk night, but welcomes were warm. I sat down, and was enlightened by Frazier’s words. I was taken aback by her passion for research, history, and photography. As a young photographer as well, I was impressed by her extensive, 12-year project. Other than this inspiring talk, I was also humbled by hearing my own name, along with other staff, in a commemorative thank you speech.
The following morning, I was up bright and early, to my surprise. Luckily for me, hot coffee was served at the conference hall, and I got a necessary boost. The morning and afternoon were filled with assorted artists talking about their brilliant bodies of work. The most memorable one, for me, was that of Stacy Renee Morrison. The wife of one of my favorite professor's from PCA&D, Stacy’s work has been an impactful inspiration for my own senior thesis project. I listened attentively to what she had to say, and afterwards had the honor of speaking with her about my own photographs.
I was elated, and the rest of my day was smiles and pleasantries with other internationally known artists, as well as intelligent students from other colleges. I later attended the SPEMA Members’ Show (at the Sunshine Art + Design Gallery) and experienced the level of work coming out of this organization. It was beautiful. I was impressed by the variety of print types and subject matter, and was motivated to continue creating my own work.
All in all, this entire experience was unforgettable. I feel incredibly lucky to have been chosen to be a key part of this conference, and helping to make it come to life. The connections I made are those that could lead my career into the workplace. I definitely intend to participate in as many SPEMA conferences as I can in the future, and continue to investigate the art of others during and beyond my college career.