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Competitive exhibit gives students unparalleled experience
Student photographers are featured in a new exhibit at the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts

Competitive exhibit gives students unparalleled experience

A first-time event in the Bicknell Center Art Gallery is giving Pittsburg State University photography students an unparalleled experience: the chance to exhibit their work in a prestigious space after having been judged by experts. 

Such an opportunity might not happen for many photographers until they become professional, noted their instructor, Rion Huffman. 

Called "Student Perspectives," the competitive exhibit is comprised of 58 captivating images. It was installed just before the fall semester began. A grand opening and reception, to be attended by the winners and the judges, will be held Thursday, Sept. 14, at 3:30, with a program planned for 4 p.m. 

Huffman, an assistant professor in the Department of Graphics and Imaging Technologies, and Joe Firman, director of the Bicknell, first began discussing the possibility of such a competition and subsequent exhibit a few years ago.  

"It was a total pipe dream," Huffman said. "To create it would mean the professional printing of stand-out prints each measuring 20 by 30 inches — not cheap. We're talking somewhere in the neighborhood of $10,000." 

That obstacle was overcome thanks to a local business partner: Miller's Professional Imaging — the largest professional lab organization in the United States. 

"We have a fantastic relationship with them," Huffman said.  

Each semester, his students receive print credits from Miller's to ease their financial burden when they're assembling their portfolios.  

For the competition, Miller's also offered up three judges with professional experience and national credentials; PSU's official university photographer, Sam Clausen, was the fourth. 

Their choices, Huffman said, exhibits the breadth of skills of students in the Department of Graphics and Imaging Technologies — including majors and minors in all areas of photography.  

"Portraiture, commercial, product shots, advertising, nature, macro, and wildlife photography, all are very specialized and take a different skill set and different equipment," he said. "It's difficult for a lay person to understand how difficult it is to achieve lighting, contrast, exposure, composition – sometimes an hour or more in the studio setting up lights before shooting begins." 

Among the photographs judges chose out of 140 entries: A startling shot by Derek Livingston, a May 2017 graduate from Neodesha, Kansas, of two boxers — one of whom has just landed a punch. An aspiring sports photographer, he has since landed a job with The Joplin Globe. 

Another, by Marisa Page, a senior from Wichita, Kansas, who is immersing herself in macro photography, is of water droplets just about to fall from a rose after an April shower. 

"It was awesome," said Jaydon Wilson, a senior from Bentonville, Arkansas, of having two of his photos chosen. "Not many times can you say as a student — or even an adult — that your work has been displayed in such a grand place." 

It inspired him, he added, to do more. 

"It definitely gave me confidence," said Wilson, who has his sights set on owning a studio that serves large companies with product photography. 

Tara Henderson, a senior from Waverly, Kansas, who also had two photos chosen, said she enjoyed the competitive nature of the experience. 

"To see I'd made it — and there were so many good ones — it's reaffirming of my skills," said Henderson, who wants to pursue a career in graphic design that would utilize photography. 

Huffman said he's pleased that GIT students have won 54 awards at the local, regional, and national level in the past two and a half years — a testament to their dedication and talent, and to what they're learning at PSU. 

"We've had really, really great success," Huffman said. "It's astounding. And as for this exhibit, we're very hopeful we can do this again." 

The exhibit will be in place through the end of the school year. 

Learn more about Graphics and Imaging Technologies by visiting http://www.pittstate.edu/technology/departments-programs/graphics/?  

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