By Melissa Ponton
A single person makes up a small part of a large world, but what does it look like when each person’s life is placed before a photographer’s lens? From March 20 to March 24, Wenkai Ji, a senior photography major, displayed original photographs from his collection, “The Ants.”
The exhibition contained 15 prints that Ji captured with a simple film camera. The pieces showcased the everyday people in New York City doing things like riding the subway or having a meal outside. The collection’s name is inspired by, “The people who live in New York City, they are never taking a break,” Ji said. “In this charming and giant city, people do what they should do, I call them ‘The Ants.’”
Ji completed the project over the course of two semesters. The collection is a mix of both black and white and full color prints. He walked the streets of New York City and took photos of whatever movements and people interested him. “When people walk on the street, they just go forward. They don’t look around or think about very much,” Ji said. He was drawn to photographing people because only they can control their movements, and he enjoys the natural fluidity that the human body possesses.
Ji considers Allison Rufrano, an adjunct professor of art, one of his biggest mentors on campus, and he attributes his artistic growth to her support. “She gave me a lot of ideas to help me build up myself, not only [regarding] technical stuff, but with my ideas,” Ji said. Initially, visual art didn’t come naturally to Ji, he first found interest in the camera’s ability to capture eternal images of his closest family and friends. “I didn’t like art at all before I started learning about it,” he said, “The more and more skills I learn and galleries I visit, the more I can see art’s influence in life.”
Within the collection, the photograph named “The Girl” is Ji’s favorite. “The photo is not perfect, there is no focus on this woman,” he said. The piece was the first photo Ji captured as he walked the streets of New York City. “She was the first person I took a photograph of close enough, the result made me so excited,” Ji said.
Ji’s fellow classmates attended the show’s reception on March 22 to support Ji and his work. “Over his years at this school he has perfected his style; he has great photography and has showcased it,” Erin Bortell, a junior photography major said.
Overall, Ji is not sure what his path in life would be if he hadn’t chosen photography, but he feels that photography and art have improved his quality of life.