Second annual Big Print Show celebrates student work


Jason Shaw

Big Print Show contestants pose with Culinary Arts professor Patrick Stewart's ice sculpture.

Dana Vollmer, Staff Writer

Eight cloaked canvases hung on the exposed brick walls of the Spartan Terrace restaurant on Nov. 12. Beneath them, images of mushroom caps sprouting through the cracks of tree bark, water droplets collecting on the pointed tips of fiery petals and starbursts of light illuminating a distant island span five feet wide.

These eight images are the winners of the second annual Big Print Show, a photography contest in which students submit their work for the opportunity to have a mural size print made. Selected artwork is displayed in the Spartan Terrace for one year before the contestants get to take their print home.

Photography professor Travis Linville developed the Big Print Show’s sophomore year alongside Shannon Quinn-Lasota, adjunct professor and director of events for the culinary arts and hospitality department.

The Big Print Show serves as a representation of the diverse bodies of work created in the photography department, Linville said, and allows students to to see their work in a format they may not otherwise have the opportunity to see it in.

“In a lot of ways it’s similar, if not the same, to some of the skills you might need if you’re going to pursue an entrepreneurial path,” said Linville. “It’s also a way to encourage students to engage and celebrate their classmates, so I intentionally didn’t want to reveal the winners until the event.”

Linville added that the Big Print Show was intended to acclimate students to the competitive nature of the fine arts industry and encourage students to recognize the accomplishments of their peers.

“You have to be a self-starter, you have to be a motivator and you have to kind of put yourself out there,” said Linville. “You have to be comfortable with rejection. I think this is a really gentle way of introducing students to that,”

Current photography students were allowed to submit up to three works for consideration. According to Linville, 35 students participated with 74 total entries. Of the eight winning pieces, two were selected from a beginner’s category, one from color photography and five from a final miscellaneous category.

The competition was juried by Brad Pogatetz, a former ECC student and working photographer in Chicago. The only criteria given for Pogatetz’s judging was that the images must  be fitting for the event’s restaurant venue.

“There may be certain things that, while exceptional in their nature…wouldn’t be as appropriate to put up next to someone who’s dining, that in a gallery would be totally acceptable,” Linville said. “We would hope that we encourage an approach to art that is going to challenge people, but that might not be the venue [to do that].”

Last year, the Big Print Show was held in ECC’s photo gallery and was a pin-up show paid for out of the department’s own budget. After the event, students rolled up their prints and took their work home.

This year, Linville and Quinn-Lasota worked cooperatively with the ECC Foundation to

apply for a mini-grant to produce the mural size prints and to cover the expenses of the Spartan Terrace hosting participants and their guests.

First-year student Brianna Caputo was one of the winners from the beginner’s category. Her photograph, an aerial shot of floor tiles lineated by shadows from adjacent window blinds, was selected from one of her first collegiate photography assignments.

“I was in complete shock,” Caputo said. “I didn’t even know I was going to print it.”

Lance Lagoni, one of the contest’s most seasoned photographers, submitted a work from his developing series, “Elgin After Dark.” After retiring last year, Lagoni said he took up the hobby of night photography, accepting the challenge of achieving beautiful imagery with limited light sources.

Lagoni utilized a tripod and 30-second exposure technique to produce his winning image, a distant shot of Elgin’s Walton Island.

“The light is actually behind the level of some of those trees, so the front branches of the trees are backlit so they stand out,” Lagoni said. “It’s kind of like studio lighting, but I didn’t have to set up the lighting, I just had to maneuver around until the lighting was where I wanted it.”

Andrew Zirk, the sole winner of the color film category, is using photography as a supplement to his primary artistic passion: painting.

Zirk said that although certain design elements carry over into both mediums, photography is more restrictive in terms of the space available in a frame and the way lighting contributes to the color palette.

“It’s quite opposite from my painting,” Zirk said. “I take a very deliberate approach for painting…very time consuming, very detail oriented. But for photography, you’re so limited, especially with film with the number of shots you get to shoot. For me, it’s a lot more freeing. It’s nice to have that duality while you’re working: being very focused and then being a little bit looser. Photography fills that void for me right now.”

Looking ahead to next year’s Big Print Show, Linville said he would like to continue his partnership with the Spartan Terrace and open the competition up to all ECC students, not only those participating in a photography course.