COMD 3530 Advanced Photography Studio

Kwame Anthony Appiah argues in his article, What Is the Point of College? published in the New York Times Magazine on Sept. 08 2015, that college has two visions: – Utility and Utopia.

Utility, in economics, refers to the total satisfaction received from a good or service. Is a path consumers will strive to maximize their utility.

Appiah states that “college can be useful – to its graduate, to employers and to globally competitive America”, meaning, that college is the modern vision of how to achieve the American Dream; work hard to rise your standard in life no matter what you have to sacrifice. Make money is the main motivation to assist and invest in college under this vision.

On the other hand, the term Utopia is based on John Stuart Mill theory  “experiments of living.”  Understanding Utopia as egalitarian principles in a fair society. Appiah’s Utopia refers to a “Liberal Art” vision; go to college to enhance knowledge and feed the soul. As the author claims, “the pursuit of happiness.”

But how a photographer, in this changing society and college environment, could resume these two visions in a couple of single stills?

The first idea is about isolation-distance to escape-hide of our own self. Technology is the answer to reach the new American Dream.

The picture will have, as its main subject matter, a technological presence in its composition. The picture will be take in a college room with modern computers on tables that resemble production lines from the industrial revolution. The human factor will be present, will be distant, absorbed by technology. Technology that promises too much but takes much more.

The Utopia U picture will a reverse view of the room. It will talk about freedom and knowledge. A partial body image of a girl in the foreground, getting ready to ride her bike. It is a free space, contrasting with the oppressive environment of  the classroom full of computers. She carries a backpack, symbol of freedom and rebellion. In the bike’s handle bar we see an empty food container inside a bag.

Lines in the Utopia picture composition, contrary to the Utility picture, project to infinity. In the Utility picture there is a wall in the background that stops them, creating a trap to the subject in the picture.

As we see, Appiah’s vision of Utility U and Utopia U are two interesting but challenged subject matters.


Gabriel Flores

August 28, 2017




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