An eye for history

Students wander the "Then and Now" gallery in McConnell Library.
Students explore the "Then and Now" gallery in McConnell Library.

With photographs lining the Andrew W. Ross Student Gallery in McConnell Library, guests were treated to a viewing of Radford University “Then and Now.”

Radford students in Digital Photography 2 in spring 2018 and Contemporary Photography in fall 2017, taught by Assistant Professor Andrew Ross, looked at historical images of campus and the community and compared them to their modern-day counterparts.

When Keri Stegal from Henry chose her photo, she wanted a picture that would stand out from the norm – so she chose one of a skateboarder on campus.

“I knew people would photograph the buildings around campus or the fountain,” Stegal said. “While those are all great pieces, I wanted to choose something to stand out. I have friends that are skateboarders and as soon as I saw that, I knew I could put something in the show that people would think was different.”

That picture also represented a period of change at Radford University – it was taken in the 1970s, shortly after the university began accepting male students. Ross said that the historical aspect added another element to the photograph.

A picture of Reed Hall taken in 1939 was the focus of Annie Dongoski of Front Royal. The photograph, taken prior to the United States involvement in World War II, stood out to Dongoski because of the lighting and shadows.

Image of the Radford Theatre from 1940.

Image of the Radford Theatre from 1940.

“I show, within my own work, the disintegrating, or in this case the upgrading, of buildings,” she said. “I like to visualize the shapes, textures and contrasts in the buildings that have their own story.”

Dongoski enjoys photographing the changes that happen to buildings over time.

“This is something that I do on my own in my hometown,” she said. “I want to see the changes throughout history. I’m from a small town and it’s constantly changing. It went from a small town to almost a city.”

Now a staple of downtown Radford, the Radford Theatre evolved and changed throughout history, said Sarah Carriker of Alexandria. Carriker captured the changes to the structure over time and had her modern-day photo match the 1940 original by being black and white.

A challenge each student faced when replicating their photograph was matching the original angle to best capture the changes.

“I learned how to be patient,” Carriker said. “To get that shot, it took about two and a half hours of just sitting on Main Street. I’d be ready to take a shot and someone would pull in front of the theatre.”

Laken Dillow said that the reference photograph helped when trying to match the modern-day scene with the historical photo. Dillow photographed the Grove Street apartments. Dillow said that this is the first time she has had her work displayed in a gallery.

The gallery is on display until May 4 in the Andrew W. Ross Student Art Gallery on the third floor of McConnell Library.

Apr 12, 2018
Max Esterhuizen