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Why was My Photo Exhibited in a U.S. University Art Gallery?
Writer: Francesca Tang   From:You May   Section:Special Column   Publish:2015-01-12   View:645

(Photo exhibition in Grunwald Gallery of Art of Indiana University)

I am a newlywed from Hong Kong who immigrated to the U.S. at the end of 2013. I was not a Fine Art major in college nor a professional photographer. However, in my free time, I like to use my point-and-shoot camera to document everything I like. Therefore, when my photography work was chosen to be exhibited in the art gallery of a U.S. university, I was truly astonished.

At 6 p.m. on 18 July 2014, when I stood in the Grunwald Gallery of Art of Indiana University, my excitement was beyond description. My photography was exhibited in the featured section of the gallery. When I looked around, the gallery was filled with Americans. There were only five Chinese, all of them were my family and friends. I still have very fond memories of every detail of the opening ceremony as if it just happened yesterday. I am proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone in the U.S. and joining the big family that is the Bloomington Photography Club (BPC).


(Francesca and her selected work in the exhibition)

Taking photos is one of my hobbies. I have taken a photography class and gone on field trips with my classmates and teachers when I was living in Hong Kong. So I would say I am quite familiar with the activities of a photography club. A month after I arrived in the U.S., I was feeling bored and decided to join the photography club in Bloomington. I found the BPC website after a few clicks on the Internet. There are various focus groups in the Club: Street Photography, L.A.W.N. (Landscape, Architectural, Wildlife, and Nature), Sport and Portrait, etc. I felt excited for what I had learned from the website. However, when I told my husband about all these in high spirits, he said matter-of-factly, “Photography club is probably for professional photographers, you won’t fit in as you are an amateur.” I was angry and rebutted at once, “It is a photography club, not a photographer club.”

In order to prove I was right, I sent an email to BPC to ask if I was suitable to join the Club. Unfortunately, I did not get any reply from them, probably because it was close to Christmas. Nonetheless, I did not give up and browsed BPC website again. I found that there is a monthly meeting which also welcomes non-members, so I decided to go to the next monthly meeting. However, the monthly meeting was cancelled due to a heavy snow storm. My journey to the photography club did not start easily.

Interestingly enough, these frustrations made me want to join the Club even more. Among all focus groups, I like the Street Photography Focus Group most. I found their next meeting date and time on the website and decided to give it another try. “The website says focus group meetings are for members only, you are not yet a member. You’d better be a member first,” my husband said bluntly. What he said did not convince me so I sent a private message via Facebook to the person in charge of the Street Photography Focus Group. “I am interested in BPC and Street Photography Focus Group. Yet, I would like to join the meeting first to see if the Club suits me before I pay 30 dollars of annual membership fee to become a member. I hope I can have your permission.”

In a couple of minutes, I got his detailed reply. He welcomed me to join the focus group meeting, and also told me how to go to the meeting place—Bloomington Police Headquarters! It was hard for me to believe that I would go to the police station within two months upon my arrival of the U.S. When my husband and I arrived at the police headquarters, BPC members thought we came to report cases as they had never met us before!

(BPC monthly meeting)  

In my first BPC meeting, I found out most of the members were American men of mature age. I was told that I had been the only Chinese in the Club in recent years. Thus, the members were curious about me. They asked me a lot of questions about Hong Kong. Jeff, the Vice-president of the Club, introduced himself and gave me his business card. He is the Communications Manager of the Bloomington Police Department; at that time I understood why we could have our focus group meeting in the police headquarters. He was very kind to me and my husband; and encouraged us to join BPC. “If you like the Club, why not become a member of BPC?” My husband said and I was surprised. At that night, some members invited me to join the Creative Techniques Focus Group meeting on Sunday. To my surprise, the meeting would take place in a funeral home.

(Break at BPC meeting )

I have fallen in love with BPC since my first focus group meeting. Every month I look forward to meeting the members and sharing our photos. Four months later, I realized in the BPC newsletter that the Club would have its annual juried exhibit in the Grunwald Gallery of Art at Indiana University. I had never joined a photography exhibit, not to mention the one in a gallery of a university. Therefore, I would like to give it a try. In the end, I could not believe that not only was my photo selected, it was also one of the best six out of more than 80 selected photos. It turned out that I was too excited to fall asleep that night.

Next, my husband and I went to the art and craft shop to get a decent photo frame. And I picked the most beautiful dress in my closet for the opening night. One day, my friend emailed to tell me that she saw my name and photograph on The Herald-Times, a local newspaper. “[We] focused on photography that showed the traditional vision of the photographer, and not the use of technology to take the photo,” said Betsy Stirratt, the Director of Grunwald Gallery of Art, in the interview. “[My] favorite photo is one by Francesca Tang, called ‘Solitude’.” I eventually understood why she liked my work. In fact, back to the basics was the key.

(Local newspaper featuring Francesca's Photo)

I asked my husband who grew up in the U.S. what he thought about my photo getting selected for the exhibit. “You have a sincere heart on photography,” he grinned. “You are eager to ask and you are not daunted by failure.” Currently, I am busy with selecting photos for the next BPC exhibit in December, 2014. In my New Year resolution, I plan to join the field trips of BPC in the Spring of 2015. It is delightful to meet the Club members, take photos altogether, and share the photo-taking experience. I cannot wait to join the Club’s meeting again next time.

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