"Sometimes you'll walk out of your door and see a life - sized mannequin," says Evan Ortiz, a second year advertising photography major and president of Photo House.
The mannequin’s name is Kenny. He is the mascot of Photo House. And according to Ortiz, he is “very creepy.” Yet walk up and down the halls of the floor, located on the fourth floor of Nathaniel Rochester Hall, and one will be witness to an explosion of color. Photographs, paintings, drawings, murals and other works of art lines the walls. Light dances on the walls as it reflects off the student equipment. It is truly a different floor. Not to worry though — visiting is safe, for Kenny is currently locked in the closet.
Last weekend, during Brick City Homecoming, Photo House celebrated its 40th anniversary, holding an open house for alumni and guests. Over time, the floor has grown to provide a community for RIT students interested in photography. Through their events and community service, they have left an impact on Rochester. Forty years and still together, the house now has over 60 on-floor and 20 off-floor members of all different majors, all bound by the love of photography.
FROM THE GREAT WAR OF 1994 TO THE MODERN ERA
Founded in 1972, little is known about Photo House’s first two decades. Documents from 1994 reveal that in October of that year war broke out with neighboring Computer Science House. Water balloons were fired. The damage was unknown. The war ended with a fire alarm.
One month later, Photo House briefly dissolved due to organization problems. However the new president Jason Mancine, with the help of the eBoard, rewrote the constitution.
In 2000, Photo House expanded to the entire floor and purchased a 4x5 camera for members to use. Two years later, members set out to modernize Photo House. Using fundraising money, they purchased brand-new equipment — including a Macintosh computer, mat cutter and 1280 printer donated by Epson — for the print finishing room (which later became an all-purpose computer room).
Over the years, Photo House members have continued to make the floor feel like a modern environment. Many of the facilities have been upgraded and repainted, and new equipment is constantly being purchased or donated. According to Ortiz, there are currently no plans for large renovations or additions to facilities for the next few years.
IN THE HALLS OF PHOTO HOUSE
Photo House offers tools for students of all levels. The floor is home to a studio complete with lights, strobes and blank walls, where photo shoots occur almost every day. The floor’s other unique facilities include a darkroom, which is currently under renovation, and a gallery featuring students’ work. Due to a flood of light this gallery is perfect for studying. The facilities are open to all on and off-floor members and alumni, and eager photographers use them daily.
In order to use Photo House’s facilities, some simple training is necessary. This training is one of the requirements to be a member. Each student is required to participate in community service events, as well as help with social events, fundraisers and lecturers. The house tries to give back to the community by collecting cans, organizing food drives and, currently, arranging a bingo night.
Each year, first year students are required to participate in the Freshman Project, a group building exercise that also benefits the floor. In 2003, first years installed display cases outside of each door for students to hang their work. Last year, they painted a filmstrip down the hall. The eBoard has not yet determined what this year’s project will be.
THE FLOOR FOUR EXPERIENCE
Photo House emphasizes a sense of community. Of the over 60 members, about 75 percent are photography majors of some sort. All of the different photography related majors are represented, including Fine Art Photography, Advertising Photography, Photojournalism, Visual Media, Biomedical Photographic Communications, and Imaging and Photographic Technology. There are an increased number of Film majors this year. The remaining members round out the spectrum of majors.
Photo House takes several annual group trips. Each fall, members load up into their cars and drive an hour to beautiful Letchworth State Park. The group also travels to Lake Ontario in April.
A majority of the floor also attends First Friday bus trips, which are hosted by the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences and visit galleries in the Rochester area.
Photo House works hard to not just build a network of friends, but a community in which people can rely on each other and grow together. Whether a student is studying to launch his or her career in photography or simply enjoys it as a hobby, they are part of one group. One group under the awe-inspiring art of photography. One group under Kenny.