At the midterm, after having expressed my interest and (brief) experience with cameras, I was pleasantly surprised to be asked to join the school’s small but mighty event photography team. After a semester of lectures and colloquia and panel discussions, yesterday I had the fortunate opportunity to photograph the IFA’s commencement exercises.
After a bout with a passenger getting sick on my morning train, I arrived downtown to the beautiful light and airy event space, overlooking Washington Square Park. The graduates slowly trickled in, a fusion of nerves, excitement and logistical frustration filled the room as intellectuals who have earned the highest degree in our field attempted to hook hoods properly onto their gowns and fluff their caps properly. I spent the first hour capturing the hugs, the laughter, the lipstick application, and the phone selfies. But soon, the waiting subsided, and the candidates lined up in alphabetical order (another hilariously daunting task for such brilliant humans) as I slipped out to the ceremony space.
The room was packed. Extra chairs had to be brought in to fit the latecomers who ambled down the center aisle a little too long before someone came to their aid. Soon after, the music began and the processional commenced. A stream of purple and black flowed down the center aisle, filling that chasm beautifully with billowing gowns and beaming faces.
I spent the better part of the ceremony adjusting my focus, peering through my sight-finder for the perfect shots that would commemorate this important day for students, faculty, and parents alike. But in the rare moments, the moments when I could afford to look up, I saw something far beyond the scope of that room or my DSLR lens.
Witnessing friends and colleagues cross that stage, hearing the dissertation titles read aloud, and watching the doctoral regalia process through, I was taken aback by the accomplishment and accolade of those around me. On my way back uptown, I walked through Washington Square Park where grads and there families were taking photos with the sweetness of numerous jazz trios busking nearby, providing the festive soundtrack. Reflecting on the morning, I walked. With my camera packed away and my duties done, I turned to my own thoughts. It was then that I looked down at my feet. A chalk drawing reading “Dream until it’s your realty” glowed up at me in bright fresh pastel colors… and I was forced to pause.
That’s exactly what I plan on doing.”Dream until it’s my realty”. The day’s pomp and circumstance reminded me that I’m already halfway done with my MA degree and well on my way toward my further. Thus, with the support of friends and family, and the institutions that have molded me, I will be applying into doctoral programs next year, for I realized my academic journey is long from over.
Photo Credit: L. M. Raitt, May 2017.