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Photography: The Sociological Lens

By Karis Fuller
Contributing Writer

Senior year is a difficult time for all. What will I do next? Have I picked the right major? Am I moving back home? Before all of these questions can be answered, the college of liberal arts requires all students to submit a senior thesis which gives fourth-year students the chance to further explore and research in their field.

Photo Courtesy of Joshua Zelen

Many students struggle to settle on a topic within their major. For senior, Hannah Spiegel, senior photography major, it was a seamless construction. Spiegel has a minor in sociology, and many struggle to see the correlation between the topics.

For Spiegel, it was clear. Her interest in sociology, fueled by her enthusiasm for photography, helped her settle on her senior thesis. “My project focuses on interviewing and photographing people from all walks of life and asking them questions regarding their opinions on America,” she said. “I photograph each person during their interview in the hopes of capturing the emotions associated with the topics they’ve chosen to talk about.”

She plans to ask participants what they appreciate about the United States, what would they change about the United States and whether they are happy living here. “The three questions I ask are open-ended in order to give my subjects the freedom to respond in any way they wish,” Spiegel said.

The phrasing and style of Spiegel’s questions show their sociological influence. She provides the interviewee freedom to discuss topics ranging from changes to the socioeconomic status of the U.S., to what they love most about the U.S., even the restaurant chain Chipotle.

Spiegel claimed her topic to be slightly selfish. “I thoroughly enjoy hearing other people’s opinions as much as I enjoy trying to figure out why that person would have such a perspective,” she said. When interviewing, Spiegel wants individuals to consider the different viewpoints. “Our society today is very divided, and people are unwilling to listen to someone if their views are different,” she said.

Now in the process of acquiring her subjects, she has already faced some revelations that have made her rethink her perceptions. “I’ll go into an interview expecting to hear a specific opinion based on my subject’s demographic,” she said. “Then I get told something completely different.”

Although no date is set, Spiegel’s photography exhibition is set to occupy the Student Art League Gallery for a week during the spring semester, between February and March.

Her work can be found on her website,, and daily updates are on her Instagram @_hannahsp.

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