“Mentors,” an exhibition that showcases the work produced by students of BFA Photography and Video under the guidance of prominent figures of the arts community, opens on March 19 at SVA Chelsea Gallery. Curated by department Chair Stephen Frailey, the exhibition features the work of 70 seniors who were part of the Mentors program. The 2015 – 2016 mentors included photographer and filmmaker Jessica Dimmock; photographer Simen Johan (BFA 1996 Photography); Kathy Ryan, director of photography, T: The New York Times Style Magazine; and Caroline Wolff, photography director, W magazine, among others.
Established in 1992, the Mentors program gives final year students of BFA Photography and Video the opportunity to be mentored by a professional chosen by Frailey and is designed to cultivate relationships between established and emerging artists. For Ilana Di Marco, it was a dream come true to be working with her idol, comic book author and musician Gerard Way (BFA 1999 Cartooning), who was the lead singer of the rock band My Chemical Romance for over a decade. “Way has been an inspiration to me since I was nine years old. I’m a photographer and a drummer, and as someone who himself pursues two different passions he understood my conflicts and knew how to guide me,” Di Marco said. “Even though he’s not an expert in the field of photography, because of our shared concerns I learned a lot from him and I know that I can continue to look to him for guidance even after the program ends.”
An intuitive connection to photographer Adam Fuss‘ aesthetic is what drove student Idit Nissenbaum to request him as her mentor. “I saw his work for the first time when I came to New York to begin my bachelors at SVA. I was immediately drawn to how he finds a way to make visible, things that are invisible,” she said. For the Mentors exhibition, Nissenbaum went back to a body of work she had abandoned last year and worked with Fuss to shape it into an installation involving photographs, mirrors and light. “In the first meeting itself, he told me that my work was a sign to where I need to go. I was surprised by how perceptive and sensitive he was towards my photographs,” she said.
“When I saw Irving Penn: On Assignment, I was taken by Peter MacGill‘s skill as an editor and visionary,” said student Alexander Cassetti. As Pace/MacGill, the gallery founded by MacGill, is not far from SVA, Cassetti made it a point to meet his mentor every week since the mentorship program began in January. “It was incredible to see him edit my pictures. I was always blown away by the honesty of his critiques and by how he managed to make me see my images in new ways,” Cassetti said.
For MacGill, the experience of mentoring Cassetti was equally enriching. “You always gain from mentoring kids who are willing to work hard. You get the energy of somebody who is seeking to find their way and you know if you are lucky they do,” MacGill said.
While Di Marco, Nissenbaum and Cassetti embarked on their search, one common piece of advice that the three students received from their respective mentors was this: keep working, keep pushing, never stop.
Watch a SVA Feature on last year’s Mentors Show:
“Mentors” opens Saturday, March 19 and will be on view through Friday, April 1 at the SVA Chelsea Gallery, 601 West 26th Street, 15th floor, New York, NY with a reception on Thursday, March 24 from 6-8pm. For more information, click here.