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Sante’s featured photos, the subjects of which she often referred to as “you” in order to draw the audience into each moment, depicted people across a range of ethnicities and ages in various scenes and contexts, dressed up or dressed down. Showing a photo of a child peering curiously at the camera, Sante said, “When you were very small, you didn’t quite believe that photography was real. And in return, photography didn’t really believe you were real either.”
But what was real was a soldier smoking under a photo of his sweetheart; a baptism in a muddy river; farmers standing with livestock; a woman in the 1940s or ’50s in mid-pose, not quite ready for the shutter; a woman showing off her remarkably long hair; and a group in a 4th of July parade. Sante continued showing mundane and memorable slices of life—or death, as in a 1933 press photograph of Gus Winkler, a Chicago gangster and senior associate of Al Capone, in a casket at age 27. “And here’s a photograph of yourself you’ll never see,” Sante narrated.
“Perspectives on Photography” student Mia Webb ’24 said, “Lucy Sante gave a wonderful talk with insight into these kinds of photographs that enhanced my understanding of the times these photos were taken and why they are crucial to the history of photography and art.”
In the classroom, both Curley and Sante shared their wisdom on how to think critically about the images and how to curate and write, with intention, about the photographs featured in the exhibition.
Steiner said that the exhibition project gave the 22 students, ranging from first-years to seniors, “a rare opportunity to handle real photographs and real artifacts. And in a relatively short period of time, the students had to grasp the meaning and significance of a body of historic material that was mostly new and unfamiliar to them.”
Skylar Gould ’26 agreed that the project was a great learning experience. “Curating the ‘Labors of Love’ exhibition allowed me to deepen my understanding of the history of photography while getting hands-on experience in each step of putting together the exhibit, from forming themes, coming up with eye-catching titles and writing text panels, to carefully handling the photographs,” she said.
Gould’s classmate Bianca Falcone ’25 said she looks forward to applying what she learned through the “Labors of Love” project to future exhibitions.
“I was surprised to learn about the process of immense editing, revising and collaborative discussion that went into all the text panels,” she said. “The steps we took to collaborate, delegate and revise our exhibition are methods I look forward to utilizing within the All-Student Exhibition in the future.”
She continued, “Questions regarding to whom a piece of work is intended for and how that changes the reading and appreciation for the piece is something I find myself now referencing when viewing work on display in other settings of museums, galleries, libraries and articles. I have learned to appreciate and question the voices and stories shown in pieces capturing and preserving informational material.”
The Krane Guest Residency in Art History for 2023 will publish a 140-page book with all the photos from Curley’s collection that are in the exhibition, as well as all the student text panels, a collector’s statement by Curley, and an essay by Sante that will be a slightly modified version of her talk. Each student in the class will receive a copy of the book as a record of their participation and the culmination of their efforts in this transformative educational experience.