Often, the ones we love feel larger than life. In Small Solitary Giants, a new photography exhibit by Logan de Raspide Ross ‘23, the artist attempts to capture his family and friends in their enormity. The astrophysics major and film and media studies minor’s exhibition on the VCAM exhibition wall, on view until Dec. 17, features a collection of 57 photographs he took while spending time with loved ones in the United States and Europe last summer. The subjects in the photos guided him through their environment, highlighting details he’d never noticed before. Through photography, de Raspide Ross realized how large humans can seem despite our physical smallness in the universe, which helped him grapple with the love, admiration, solitude, and grief he experienced during his eventful summer.
The exhibition is split into four sections. The first selection of photographs shows the highlights of his time exploring Philadelphia with Bilge Nur Yilmaz ‘21. Nur Yilmaz appears in most of the photos, captured in the vibrant red, yellow, and blue tones of the city. The next selection is from his trip to France, during which he reconnected with his friend Edouard. The highlight of this collection is its soft color palettes.
The third set of photographs features images from his time in Vienna with another friend, Inés. The intimate, red-toned close-ups of Inés express the sentiments de Raspide Ross had been feeling at the moment. “She looks very sad,” he said of Inés. “She’s not a sad person, but it looks like she’s having a miserable time. I feel like I instinctively just captured those moments where she’s expressing something that I associated with. I think this relates back to the sort of subconscious mindset I had last summer.”
The final photographs, purposefully spaced away from the others, are even more personal. de Raspide Ross took those photos when he returned during finals week in the spring to be with his family for his grandfather’s funeral. His favorite photo of the entire collection is the one in the center of this section, which shows his father standing in the grave at the funeral. “It’s my favorite, I think, because there was an urgency to take that picture, which is not something I feel for a lot of them,” said de Raspide Ross. “I showed it to my dad, and he was also very touched by it.”
Mixed in with the colorful photographs in each section are black-and-white photos with wide discrepancies in their bright white and deep black lightings. (All were taken with a Leica M3 camera.) de Raspide Ross said this was an intentional choice. “I wanted a wide range, but I didn’t want anything in the middle,” he said. “I really love having this slight sliver of gray and then just black and white you know what I mean?” The black-and-white photographs were shot and developed with Kodak Tri-X film, which he explained has very poor mid tones.
When he returned to campus this semester, de Raspide Ross reached out to James Weissinger, associate director of the Hurford Center and operations manager of VCAM, who helped him find and organize the resources for an exhibition. He collaborated on the project with Hurford Center Post-Baccalaureate Fellow Henry Morales, who was a very helpful second pair of eyes. “By the time he joined the project, I already had all the pictures selected,” said de Raspide Ross. “We set them down on this large piece of cloth on the floor and organized them by section… Henry was just really helpful in reassuring me that I was making the right choice. He was very much a sounding board for me. I’d be like ‘Does this look right?’ and see what his reactions were. And when his reactions were good I knew that, I didn’t have to touch this thing anymore.”
Morales enjoyed helping de Raspide Ross with arranging the photos to create a flow of color and emotion throughout the exhibition. He was impressed by the way the photos expressed de Raspide Ross’ sensibility and vulnerability. “It’s never easy losing someone and having to process the emotions attached to such an event, so to have photography be part of the grieving process for Logan and produce such personal and lovely images was truly a gift to see,” said Morales.
Photography is more than a recreational activity for de Raspide Ross. It’s an opportunity to connect with family––his father and great grand-father were both photographers as well. It was their vast collection of old cameras and lenses that introduced de Raspide Ross to the art.
Photography has also allowed de Raspide Ross to capture sincere, beautiful memories. “My photography is really mainly spontaneous,” he said. “…I don’t think a lot about it. I really just try to get things that I think are pretty. I try to get things that are real, too. When I want to take photographs, I try to encapsulate certain moments or certain things that are meaningful to me.”
Most importantly, photography has provided a way of storytelling in a voice more natural to him. “I feel like the biggest thing I struggle with often is trying to make sure that I’m getting my point across,” he said. “My thoughts are disorganized, you know, I go in all directions. I don’t choose my words carefully enough. I just don’t know how to properly phrase them, which is why I really like pictures and films and stuff, because I feel like they often hit home better than when I use words. There, people usually get what I’m trying to express.”