Two UNL photography students win SPE Student Awards

Laura Cobb (left) and Jamie Ho at the SPE annual conference. Courtesy photos.
Laura Cobb (left) and Jamie Ho at the SPE annual conference. Courtesy photos.

Two UNL photography students win SPE Student Awards

calendar icon05 Apr 2023    

Lincoln, Neb.—Two graduate students in the University of Nebraska–Lincoln School of Art, Art History & Design have received the Society for Photographic Education (SPE) Student Awards for Innovations in Imaging. 

Laura Cobb and Jamie Ho were only two of five recipients nationally for the awards. Awards are offered based on merits of submitted portfolios and include a travel stipend to attend the annual conference held March 16-19 in Denver, an annual conference fee waiver and a one-year membership to SPE. 

“I am very honored to be recognized for the strength of my creative work,” said Ho, a third-year Master of Fine Arts student in photography. “The 2023 SPE Student Awards for Innovations in Imaging is especially important to me because it acknowledges an expansive definition of photography and lens-based work since my art practice is not only lens-based but includes time-based media, new media, and installation.”

Cobb, a third-year Master of Fine Arts student in photography, was appreciative of the recognition.

“It’s very exciting to be selected for this award and to be recognized for my work within such a prestigious organization,” she said. “The support I’ve received within the photography community is tremendous. This award really shows how much I’ve grown as an artist during my time at UNL.”

Hixson-Lied Professor of Art (Photography) Dana Fritz said their winning two student awards this year was particularly meaningful.

“We have a great record of students receiving these awards, but the 2023 awards are, perhaps, more meaningful since Jamie and Laura have had so many aspects of their graduate study impacted by the pandemic, including the fact there were no national SPE conferences in 2021 or 2022,” Fritz said. 

In addition to their awards, Cobb and Ho were also each selected to give graduate student presentations at the conference.

“Their presentations were incredibly powerful and extremely well received,” Fritz said. “I got so many positive comments about our graduate program, in general, and about their presentations, in particular. I encourage folks in Lincoln to attend their presentations associated with their MFA thesis exhibitions in April that will be similar to the ones given at the conference.”

Ho’s MFA Thesis Exhibition, titled “magic mirrors,” is on display through April 7 in the Eisentrager-Howard Gallery in Richards Hall. Artist talks will take place on Friday, April 7 from 4-5 p.m. in Richards Hall Rm. 15.

Jamie Ho Comb to the End

Jamie Ho, “Comb to the End,” (still), GIF, 2022.

Ho’s exhibition “magic mirrors” engages with GIFs, photography, sound and installation to explore the long-term impact of assimilation through references of historical Chinese traditions and objects. Her work reimagines connections to her ancestral roots and builds an alternate world where Chinese American femmes can exist outside of a patriarchal society and thrive.

Ho is an interdisciplinary artist from Fort Myers, Florida. Her art practice engages with photography, new media and installation to trouble history of display and public spectacle of Chinese-American femme bodies. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of New Mexico.

Cobb’s MFA Thesis Exhibition, titled “am I another you?,” is on display April 10-14 in the gallery. Artist talks will take place on Friday, April 14 from 5-6 p.m. in Richards Hall Rm. 15.

Laura Cobb my mother's hand

Laura Cobb, “my mother’s hand,” archival pigment print, 2022. 

In “am I another you?,” Cobb documents a personal search for meaning as she explores her identity as a donor-conceived person. Intimate portraits reveal her search for herself in her family, half siblings and biological father. Paired with the Platte River, water becomes a metaphor for birth and becoming.

Cobb is a photographer from Overland Park, Kansas. She has been an artist in residence at Ucross, Jentel and Brush Creek Foundations. Her work is in the permanent collection of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. 

Fritz said UNL was well represented at the conference with two faculty members, four current graduate students, one non-photography graduate student, nine undergraduate students and eight MFA alumni were in attendance.

In addition to graduate presentations by Cobb and Ho, Teaching and Learning presentations were given by MFA alumni Amanda Breitbach and Zora J. Murff, and Fritz gave an Imagemaker presentation about her new book, “Field Guide to a Hybrid Landscape.” 

“This conference was especially competitive because there were two years without conferences so each of these presentation slots was hard won,” Fritz said.

Fritz said the SPE conference is important for the photography program.

“While we have some excellent resources for learning about photography here through campus museums and visiting artist lecture programs, there is nothing like meeting with photography students and faculty from across the country to share work, see exhibitions and presentations, and to build and strengthen a network of colleagues,” Fritz said. “I am certain that our presence and student presentations at the conferences generate interest in our graduate program and are partially responsible for the strength of our applicants.”