2023 VPA Photography Annual

January 17 – March 10, 2023
Hallway Gallery

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Reception: Thurs., February 23, 5-7pm

Light Work presents the 2023 VPA Photography Annual of photographs by seniors from the Art Photography program in the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University. We will host a reception with the exhibiting artists on Thursday, February 23, from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. The in-person reception is free and open to the public and includes refreshments.

The exhibiting artists are Ryan Ally, Gavi Azoff, Grace Anita Beckwith, Lillian Benich, Sophie Buchanan, Natalia Claas, Yongxin Deng, Rosely Htoo, Alex Moore, Xylia Xu, and Sophie Walter.


Artist Lydia McCarthy served as juror, selecting Ryan Ally for Best of Show.  McCarthy’s work has been exhibited at 106 Green, Essex Flowers, Sardine and the Scandinavia House in New York, NAU Gallery in Stockholm and A-DASH in Athens. Her book Vision 5: The Vibratory Waves of External Unity was published with Silent Face Projects. Lydia lives and works in Rochester, NY, where she is pursuing a Master of Social Work. Reflecting on Ally’s work, McCarthy notes,

As the world continues to knock us around (and attempts to knock us down), these young artists look inward, to find their way through. Each body of work here shows the courage to confront what is and an attempt to embrace a messy, complicated, multifaceted reality. Not only joyful, playful, and beautiful—although yes, these too. There is also loss, struggle, longing, and quiet acceptance. Making art and being vulnerable in these times are radical acts that seem to be the only way forward—an opening up when it is easier to close down. Things fall apart and come together, and we are left making sense of it all. Ryan Ally’s work mines the past and traces bloodlines. He looks again and again: looking at his own history as a first generation American, looking at his parents’ history between two worlds, and looking at his relatives looking at the fantasy of America. We see his sensitive, careful looking in how he composes each image, finding quiet balance in the chaos of living. It is a reminder to pause in this moment.

Associate Professor Laura Heyman, the coordinator of the Art Photography BFA program, says of this important yearly exhibition:

The annual Light Work exhibition is always an important experience for students working toward their senior thesis projects. These projects are year-long (and sometimes longer), in-depth photographic explorations of a self-chosen topic. In the process of working through their ideas, students often experiment with form and concept, and the projects change considerably over the course of the year.

The Light Work exhibition is both a moment students begin to more concretely materialize their research and a professional opportunity to present their work in a widely known and well-respected setting. It’s also a great demonstration of the relationship between the art photography program and Light Work, as students have spent a good part of the past three years there, working in the lab, attending exhibitions and artist lectures, and often working with the artists-in-residence.

Art photography student have covered an incredible range of subjects with their thesis projects, from deeply personal explorations of self and family, to topics like local environmental disasters and our current political landscape. This year is no different, but the Light Work exhibition feels more important than ever as a marker recognizing our students’ amazing work.