Undergraduate photo senior wins national Society for Photographic Education student award
calendar icon22 Apr 2019
Lincoln, Neb.—Megan Rhoades, a senior studio art major from Omaha, Nebraska, who will graduate in May with her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, was among six students nationally who received Society for Photographic Education (SPE) Student Awards for Innovations in Imaging.
“It was really surprising,” Rhoades said. “It was just something Dana [Fritz] had convinced me to apply for. I thought, why not? I have nothing to lose. It was really validating to have my work recognized in that way.”
Rhoades received a travel stipend to attend the annual conference in Cleveland in March, a conference fee waiver and a one-year membership to SPE. She also had her work highlighted during the portfolio walkthrough during the conference.
“I am amazed that we have had one or more students win this award every year since 2014, but Megan is our first undergraduate to win one of these awards,” said Professor of Art Dana Fritz. “This is especially notable since she was competing with graduate students from all over the U.S.”
Rhoades said attending the conference was a valuable experience.
“It was my first time going, so it was kind of a big shock,” she said. “The photography world is s a big place, and having a lot of people in one place and being able to network with people and meet people that you’ve heard about or you know their work, and just talking to them in person and meeting other students is a really cool experience.”
She also participated in the portfolio walkthrough.
“That was really exciting because as an award winner, I had a table all to myself, so got to show a really good chunk of my work,” she said. “You’re kind of out in the open and all these people come up and talk to you. I was surprised by the amount of people who had seen my work before and wanted to know more about it. I didn’t really imagine the reach of my Instagram or my website, so that was really exciting.”
She also attended a career panel led by professional photographers Susan Kae Grant and Mary Virginia Swanson.
“They talked about making it in the real world in school and beyond school and how to strategize to make your career, talking about websites, how to use social media effectively and what kind of jobs are out there,” Rhoades said. “With me graduating soon, that was really helpful.”
Rhoades’ work will be featured in the Capstone Exhibition, which is on display April 29-May 3 in the Eisentrager-Howard Gallery and MEDICI Gallery in Richards Hall. A closing reception will also be held on First Friday, May 3, from 5-7 p.m. in the gallery.
Rhoades’ work is an exploration of her and her brother’s experiences growing up as twins.
“I do that by examining our physical differences and also how gender expectations for us have changed over time and also our similar struggles with mental illness,” she said. “And it’s about how all these things have appeared and changed over time.”
Fritz hopes visitors to the Capstone Exhibition make a special effort to look at Rhoades’ handmade book of the entire project.
“Megan’s work is an especially thoughtful and visually rich exploration of her relationship with her fraternal twin brother, a subject that very few of us understand from the inside,” Fritz said. “Over the last few years, she has developed a sophisticated visual language that distinguishes her photographs from so many others.”
Rhoades also was recently featured in PDN-EDU magazine, in a feature titled “Singles.” They publish a single student work, along with a statement.
“That was really cool,” Rhoades said. “Also, at SPE that was one of the magazines included in everyone’s packet, so knowing everyone who got that got to see my work was really cool.”
Rhoades said her interest in photography began in high school when she took a photography class, where she started by learning the darkroom.
“Making an image appear with your own hands and watching the image appear as soon as you place that piece of paper in the chemicals, I think that really solidified it for me.”
She said there are many things she likes about photography.
“Everyone sees things, but being able to frame it the way you see it, and putting images together and making color relationships that no one else might see and making meaning of that is what I love,” she said.
After graduating in May, she hopes to take some time off from school, but plans to continue making art.
“I don’t want to grad school right away, but I think it’s something I’d like to do eventually because I think being in a community with other students and faculty is really rewarding and beneficial,” she said. “I’ll just try to keep getting my work out there and applying for shows and applying for jobs, trying to get what I can that’s related to photography. Overall, I just want to continue to make work.”
She also wants to continue making work outside of photography, too.
“I like to draw and to paint, so I think I might take a little break from photo and focus more on that for a while, too, since I’ve been doing photography consistently for the past couple of years,” she said.
Overall, she just wants to continue to put her work out there.
“That’s what is most important,” she said. “Just letting people also enjoy my work.”