Photo Contest Brings the World to Rhodes

By Emily Clark ‘15

From Instagram to tumblr, to Facebook and Twitter, a Rhodes student can hardly go a day without seeing a photo of their own campus. It’s one of the perks of going to one of the most beautiful and photogenic colleges in the country—not many American college students can upload photos of their library at sunset with as much pride and frequency as those at Rhodes College. Yet for many students, the Rhodes campus is not the only place they learn during their four years as an undergrad. With 60% of students studying abroad before they graduate, many Rhodents call a different college, a different campus, and a different country their classroom for a few weeks or a few months. Many faculty and staff on campus do the same. The Modern Language and Literatures World of Photos Contest brings those experiences back to the Rhodes Campus, right in the first floor hallway of Palmer.

The contest is put on each year by Professor Laura Loth, assistant professor of French, and Professor Nora Jabbour, assistant professor of Spanish. The photo competition has been going on for over a decade, and the photos are representative of the growing diversity of programs that Rhodes students participate in during their study abroad time. She explains, “On the whole, the submissions are more and more diverse. This year, we had pictures from Iceland, Cambodia, Russia, Cuba, Madagascar, and on and on. I’d love to start creating a map that catalogs all of the destinations represented in the contest.” Professor Jabbour adds that the photo compositions and quality have also improved over the years. 

This year, there were more than 50 submissions from students and faculty, and ten photos were selected as winners. There are three categories for submission: People, The Natural World, and Urban Scenes, and a first, second, and third place winner in each category. There is also one photo selected as a People’s Choice Best in Show. For the past three years, all first place photos have been hung in a permanent exhibit on the first floor of Palmer. “It’s a growing gallery that we’re proud to share with the tour groups who come visit campus,” says Professor Loth, “and every day I catch someone—student, faculty, administrator, or staff—standing in our hallway admiring the photos.”

Because the contest accepts submissions from students, faculty, and staff, the photos represent a wide range of the Rhodes College experience. Submissions also aren’t limited to those taken on study abroad. Professor Loth explains, “While we receive a lot of study abroad photos, we also receive photos from volunteer trips, mission trips, and personal travels. I feel lucky that I live in such a well-travelled community, and it reinforces a sense in me that we have a lot of very curious, very adventuresome, and very globally minded people here at Rhodes.” The only requirements are that the photo must have been taken outside the United States and fit loosely into one of the three categories. Beyond that, photographers are free to let their imagination (and feet!) wander.

At the end of the competition, a reception is held to announce the winning entries. This event not only honors the winners, but gives all participants an opportunity to share their stories from their international experiences. This is Professor Loth’s favorite part: “I love seeing their faces light up when they begin to speak of their time abroad. Almost immediately, everyone smiles and gets a wistful look in their eyes. International travel makes us grow, challenges us, and transforms us. I love seeing how happy the participants are that they have had these experiences.”

This year, Lucy Right ‘17 won first place in both the Natural World and Urban Scenes categories with her photographs “Ta Prohm” and “Untitled,” respectively. Both were taken in Cambodia. In the category of People, Kate Taylor ’15 won with her photo “Recess in Costa Rica.” Summer Preg ’15 won the People’s Choice Best in Show with her photograph “Malacatoya, Nicaragua.”