In a long hallway located in a nondescript brown brick building, you can find what seems to be a sub-culture of students—most of them with cameras hanging from their necks.
This is Photo House.
Located on the fourth floor of Nathanial Rochester Hall, Photo House is one of seven specialty housing units at RIT. It’s a floor dedicated, but not restricted, to photography majors. It has 62 students living on the floor and 10 off-floor members.
Photo House is celebrating its 40th anniversary this fall. Alumni from all over the world will flock to that nondescript hallway just to knock on nostalgia’s door.
Jane Rickard-Danielson ’78 is one of the many alumni coming back to visit. She will be traveling from Chicago—just to say thanks.
“I truly credit what my housemates did for me,” explains Rickard-Danielson.
Nearly 30 years after graduating with a criminal justice degree from RIT, Rickard-Danielson was recently brought back to her roots at Photo House. Several years ago, her husband, a sports columnist in Chicago, needed images to accompany his latest column. Rickard-Danielson picked up her camera and after shooting, she liked what she saw. “I never looked back,” she says.
Instantly, Rickard-Danielson knew what she wanted to do with her life. After a life as a non-photographer, she suddenly changed careers.
Rickard-Danielson jumped in, with camera in hand, and is now a professional photographer providing content to a news website, www.wellesparkbulldog.com, she and her husband founded. She attributes the fact she is a full-time photojournalist to her time at Photo House.
“They would all pass me their photographs and ask me what I liked, what I didn’t,” she says. “I didn’t realize at the time I was getting a graduate-level course in photography.”
Rickard-Danielson is returning to campus for Brick City Homecoming weekend, Oct. 14-16. During her visit, she’ll most likely notice Photo House looks a lot different.
“The physical change of the floor has been pretty big,” says current member Ben Lubin, who is also the Photo House historian.
Although the atmosphere has always been engaging and open, Lubin admits he has seen a change in technology paint the face of Photo House.
“It’s been quite the challenge to keep up with the technology,” says Therese Mulligan, administrative chair for the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences. Mulligan, along with three other faculty members, advises the students. “We help them with their upgrades though.”
Photo House has expanded its physical size as the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences has grown. It has gone from a half floor to taking up an entire floor by itself. They have added a print-finishing lab. The studio was extended. With the decline of film, the floor has gone from having three darkrooms to one.
“We needed to catch up with that,” admits Lubin, who lived in Photo House his first two years at RIT.
Despite living off campus now, Lubin, a third-year imaging and photographic technology major, says he still spends a fair amount of time at Photo House. The atmosphere fostered creativity, he explains. “It was great living on a floor with other people who were all interested in the same thing —and liked making friends. It’s really a fostering atmosphere.”
Lubin built everlasting relationships at Photo House, as he is still friends with several other students who lived alongside him. In fact, Lubin met his current girlfriend while living at Photo House last year.
“My favorite part are the friendships,” he says. “I don’t expect to ever stop talking to them.”