Dan Nystedt '06
I am a fourth-generation Gordon graduate. I can recall thumbing through my parents' and grandparents' old Gordon yearbooks before I could even read, trying to decipher the stories that the photos had to tell. Now I have been given the opportunity to photograph the people and places of Gordon College. Whether my photos bring back memories for those who lived them, or move the people who are experiencing the scene for the first time, it is my hope that my photos speak to whoever views them, just as the photos in my parents' and grandparents' yearbooks once spoke to me.
I began photographing the college as a student. Following graduation, I have continued to take photographs for the school and as a freelance photographer. I have snapped thousands and thousands of photos for both public and private use. This is a collection of my best photographs taken on campus or for College purposes.
I was working as a student photographer when I took this photo. I received an urgent phone call in my dorm from the Communications Department requesting a vertical night shot of Frost Hall for the cover of Stillpoint, needed for the following day. However, I needed a tripod, a purchase I had been putting off for quite a while. This was the sort of assignment required to push me into making the investment. I sped off to Best Buy and quickly made the purchase. When I returned to campus, the sun was going down and turning the rain clouds a wild shade of blue, so I grabbed my equipment and rushed over to Frost Hall to capture it. Upon arrival, however, I discovered a large Physical Plant truck parked in the front with two workers unloading folding chairs into the Pendragon, the function room located in the basement. Knowing that I only had a few minutes of blue sky left, I politely asked how much longer they would be. The older worker responded that they would be done a lot sooner if I helped out a little. So I joined in until the job was done and then quickly sent them on their way, just in time to snap this photo while standing in the freezing rain. By the way, if you look closely, you can see the shadow of my umbrella.
In the spring of '06 the theater department asked me to photograph their production, Sueño. As the audience waited outside, the actors ran through a few scenes for me to shoot, just before their first official show. Sometimes when I photograph plays and other productions, the actors pose for me in freeze frame, but this was not the case here. It can be much more difficult to capture successful images while the actors move about in often less-than-optimal lighting conditions, but sometimes I am able to capture a moment that could have never been obtained if the actors had posed for me. Here, I was able to photograph the actor's fleeting over-the-shoulder glance, while the rest of scene swirls about her in a blur.
This is a photo of Emily Tjaden '06, a painting major working on her senior thesis. Her thesis consisted of scenes depicting dramatic clouds and weather. I asked if I could photograph her at work. When I photograph artists in their studios, I am entering into their world. It is my hope that I am somehow able to capture the link between their personality and their creativity.
Boy Reading Music
This photo is a reminder that even a misunderstanding can yield successful results. I was asked to photograph one of Gordon's singing groups, scheduled to practice in the Phillip's Recital Hall. I was under the impression that they were all college students, and was quite surprised to discover that the choir was made up entirely of children. The instructor was not expecting me, but that's not all that uncommon, so I checked my schedule and I had the right place and time. I ended up shooting most of their rehearsal. Here, the instructor had just handed out new music to all the children. Most discarded it almost as soon as they got it, but this particular boy seemed as if he were studying each note (I later discovered that I was indeed shooting the wrong choir: the intended group formerly met in the Phillip's Recital Hall, but had recently changed venues).
Robot Test Run
One of my ongoing photo projects for the Gordon Communications Department is to document the majors for the Gordon website. This sort of assignment, while open to some creative freedom, does not necessarily lead to stunning photographs. Occasionally, however, I am able to photograph an intriguing moment. This photo was taken on the last day of classes during a computer science lab. Students had constructed robots out of Legos and programmed them to compete in a contest of various tasks. In a room cluttered with many distracting objects (desks, chairs, book bags, and even other people), it's often hard to get a shot where these elements don't detract from the scene. Here, they had cleared a spot on the floor and laid out boundaries with tape. One of the members of team "Moose" performs some last-minute tests on her robot.
Jenny Drawing A Skeleton
I'd like to think this photo perfectly captures the life of an art major. As a product of the Gordon fine arts program, I often found myself burning the midnight oil to finish an assignment for the following day. I had just come from a classroom, photographing students' artwork, and on my way out walked by the door of another room from which a dim light radiated. I discovered my friend Jenny hard at work sketching the anatomy of a skeleton: an assignment familiar to most art majors. I snapped a few photographs, and continued on my way.
The theater department asked me to photograph a dress rehearsal for their upcoming play, Holiday; I arrived to find the set was largely unfinished. Props from many scenes were strewn about: plywood, ladders, lights, and tarps dominated the room. I thought to myself, "Man, how am I going to make thiswork?" The actors ran through a few scenes, and it soon became apparent that I would need to use the props and other distractions to my advantage, instead of trying to avoid them all together. In this particular scene the characters were arguing about the tacky lawn ornaments in their yard, how they bother the neighbors and embarrass the children. I found it appropriate to confront the viewer with these ornaments, and made them appear as tall as the actors themselves. Applying a little necessary creativity saved this photo shoot from being a total wash.
I shot this photo during one of the biggest blizzards to hit New England in almost thirty years. The storm began to let up, so I put on my boots and set out to capture the newly fallen snow before the Gordon physical plant plowed it all away. I trudged my way about campus, snapping photos here and there, and eventually made my way to what's known as the Ferrin Parking Lot. At the end of a row of cars, the wind had carved the snow away to reveal the trunk lid of an almost completely buried auto. What I love about this photo is how the snow turns this normally familiar scene into an almost completely unrecognizable wilderness.
Girl with Test Tube
I arrived in the Emery Science building to photograph a chemistry class hard at work with lab research. Science labs almost always make for good photos, as students are dealing with colorful chemicals, fire and strange-looking instruments, but I did not realize how much of a problem this particular chemistry lab's unsightly gas pipes (resembling prison bars) would be. It was nearly impossible to photograph students through them without making it look as if a mad scientist had locked them all away to carry out his diabolical experiments. With this photo I tried to use the bars to my advantage and create what appears to be a small window. This way, it's as if we're being allowed a glimpse into the world of chemistry, rather than viewing the chemists as if they've been quarantined for radiation poisoning.
Gordon Road by Night
As an art major I spent many nights in the Barrington Center for the Arts working on my assignments. For years, as I left the building and began my walk back to my dorm, I looked up at this very scene. "I should really photograph that," I'd think to myself as I walked up the hill, but I never did because I was always too tired to go back out with my camera. One evening during my senior year, I had brought both my camera and a tripod with me to the Barrington Center. As I left that night with my equipment under arm, I realized it was now or never. I set up my equipment in the middle of the road, hoped for a couple of car-free moments, and took this prolonged exposure. It may not be the best photo I have ever taken, but represents the beauty that lies all around us. I must have walked up this hill a thousand times, as do all art majors, and I am sure most never think twice about the inspiration just outside the Barrington Center.
Bruce Herman in his studio
Occasionally I take a photograph and the moment I release the shutter, I know it's a successful shot. This was one of those times. Bruce Herman has been an art professor at Gordon College for over 20 years. He's also quite a respected painter within the Christian art community. It was my job to capture him at work in his home studio. When I arrived, he was laboring over a large crucifixion scene, applying and removing layers of paint: all part of his personal process. We tried a combination of candid and posed shots to get the desired image. Here he was standing on a ladder wiping at a layer of freshly applied paint. I focused my camera and realized that I had a very pleasing shot, but his head was turned away from me. I simply yelled, "Hey Bruce!" to get his attention. I think I might have startled him a bit, but he spun his head around, and I was able to capture the moment.
Light Spectrum Lab
The Science professors were nice enough to allow me to photograph their light spectrum lab. On this particular day, students were gazing through a spectrometer at various types of lights and identifying each one's unique light spectrum (I know because I took the class). In order to successfully perform this lab, the room needed to be completely dark: good for acquiring scientific data, but not so good for taking pictures. In order to attain this image, I had to put my camera on a tripod and take a three second exposure. The success rate for photos in this sort of situation is pretty low. If people move while the photo is being taken, the photo will be blurry, so I took as many photos as I could and hoped that I caught a moment where students remained still.
I was living in the Wilson dorm and quietly doing my homework one night, when one of my friends burst into the room. His mom had just called from Maine to tell him that the northern lights were out and the brightest she had ever seen--he was about to go see for himself. I grabbed my camera and joined him on the quad, along with a handful of other people. Although I have lived in New England all my life, I had never seen the Northern Lights, so to actually see them for myself was quite breathtaking. Once out there, however, I realized that I had forgotten to charge my camera, and I had very little battery life left. The camera had just enough juice left in it to take one photo at a time. I had to restart the camera after every photo I took, but managed to snap about four shots of the lights before the camera went completely dead. The lights only lasted about 20 minutes. .
Gordon Logo & Quad
I had just finished shooting an event when I passed by the Jenks Library balcony and saw this scene. A student wearing one of Gordon's many stylish shirts sat at a picnic table, studying, as the women's soccer team began practice on the quad. I am always on the lookout for shots like this: shots that show students going about their daily life, but could not have been taken anywhere else in the world except on the Gordon campus.