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Graven images -- RIT photographers capture the inner and outer cosmos

Jerry Uelsmann Kwaku Alston Julia Dean
Rachel Falk Dan Loh Katrin Eismann

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then photography is powerful stuff. Since 1839, when Sir John Herschel named the medium, we have come to trust captured images. Families no longer hand down their histories through verbal tales, but instead via photo albums, slide carousels and videocassettes. Since the televised Kennedy/Nixon debates, elections often hinge on appearance rather than substance, while some consider photojournalism to be the single most important factor in forming public opinion of international events like the Vietnam War.

Powerful stuff, indeed: since 1930, RIT has been supplying the world with the best fodder that feeds the image medium, by graduating highly skilled, well-trained and creative photo professionals from the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences (SPAS).

"No school comes close to what we have," says Howard Levant, professor of applied photography, SPAS alumni newsletter editor and unofficial keeper of the SPAS alumni database. "No school comes close to producing the numbers of trained photo graduates that we do." With 6,000 SPAS alumni, nine of them Pulitzer Prize winners and countless other award-and-grant winners, RIT has a highly regarded international reputation.

Pictures are still valuable, no doubt about that, but the technology of photography is now light years beyond what Sir John Herschel imagined. Rather than using Louis Daguerre's light, coated plate and salt formula, SPAS students experiment on networked imaging workstations, with scanners and color printers. No longer limited by DaVinci's crude Camera Obscura, students use color darkrooms, four-color paper processors and digital-capture studios with Sinar 4x5 cameras and digital camera systems.

"RIT alumni have made huge contributions to the photographic medium," says Therese Mulligan, curator of photography for the International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House. "RIT has been a lightning rod for photographers who are looking for a place to practice."

Of course, viewing RIT alumni photographs is worth more than a zillion words, but to show just one image from the works of all RIT photographers would take a set of encyclopedia. What follows on the next few pages is a quick look at just SOME of RIT's best.