Photography major discusses online presence through BFA exhibit

BY ELLEN ROSSOW
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Ashley Strazzinski stands with her collection of photographs entitled “Social Objectification” at the BFA reception on Nov. 21.

Ashley Strazzinski stands with her collection of photographs entitled “Social Objectification” at the BFA reception on Nov. 21.

Like many excited MSUM students, photography major Ashley Strazzinski will be graduating this December.

In part of saying farewell to her MSUM life, Strazzinski’s work, along with some fellow art majors, are currently being displayed in the Roland Dille Center for the Arts Gallery.

According to Strazzinski, the exhibition is a part of the degree requirements.

“Everyone that is enrolled as a studio art major will have to create work that will be in an exhibition,” Strazzinski said.

Strazzinski is very passionate about her work. Her collection in the exhibit is titled “Social Objectification” and discusses a plethora of ideas.

“I started examining identity and internet culture in 2011,” Strazzinski said. “I was looking at people who share the same name as me – Ashley – and I became interested in the various associations people have with names and stereotypes.”

Strazzinski used one example in particular that helped her spark another interest.

“Oftentimes, the name Ashley is used to depict the popular cheerleader type in TV shows and movies – whereas a name like Agnes generally has a negative connotation of a ‘homely nerd,’” she said.

Strazzinski then began scanning various social network services for images of people named Ashley, which is what helped spark her interest in “the notion of public and private information, as well as the way photography is used in social media to construct one’s identity as per the user.”

“I began working with selfies and hashtags… and eventually found myself trolling through a sea of images that all tend to fit into a handful of categories, and then found myself sifting through subcategories of images,” she said. “It was/is neverending…”

It was this idea that gave Strazzinski inspiration for the collection she has being shown in the exhibit. As she began work on the collection in 2012, she narrowed the focus of her research to look at people’s portrayal of themselves on Facebook.

“Specifically looking at the quality and quantity of photographs online, as well as the desire to share photographic information with others and the public or private environment it is shared in,” she said.

The way people choose to display themselves to others is very interesting to Strazzinski.

“I find it interesting that people have a choice to make certain things public or private, and even in some situations damning images can still end up online without one’s censorship,” she said. “I didn’t have Facebook for almost  four years, and I knew that I was in my friends’ albums and that I  had an online presence even if I didn’t want one. I think that’s something people need to be aware of and acknowledge.”

Through her education, Strazzinski began to become aware of formal aspects of the images she found online, which further inspired her collection.

“After studying art and creating images myself, I found that I had taken my art education for granted. From things like composition to the ability to edit images in order to strengthen your portfolio (or in the context of this work – to strengthen ones personal narrative) … it blew me away to see some of the images that are posted,” she said.

Strazzinski’s collection not only shows her obsession with these images, but also the fact that many images like them are found only online.

“Also, as someone who studies and creates photographic images, I am concerned with the fact that many of these photographs (if any at all…) do not exist in in our physical world,” Strazzinski said. “Most images on Facebook, especially mobile uploads, exist purely as data online. If there were to be a devastating technological failure of some kind, our photographic culture, as prevalent as it is today, would be greatly reduced as the number of images actually produced and printed are less and less.”

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