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Creating a visual world: a preview of Symposium

MOORHEAD — A picture says a thousand words. Most people have heard this phrase before, but this message is particularly relevant in this day and age. With smartphones and technology widely available, people have the capacity to take photos at any time, and of anything.

Technology has changed the way society communicates, especially through photos and other visual media, according to professor Scott Olsen.

“We are thoroughly in this habit of now using images to as a kind of daily messaging vocabulary,” Olsen said. “(Photography is) how we are organizing our experience of reality.”

Becoming aware of this change is what inspired him to propose this year’s symposium theme, “Creating a Visual World.” The Faith, Reason and World Affairs symposium is an annual event that hosts influential speakers to encourage students to engage with topics relevant to the world today and beyond.

According to the Concordia College website, the goal of this year’s symposium is to “bring together experts in photojournalism and visual culture to explore the issues of ethics, accuracy, bias, entertainment vs. shock value, community standards, new technologies, using images as a way to promote activism, and more.”

Olsen’s goal for this symposium is for the campus community to slow down the discussion of photography. Considering it takes a mere second to snap a picture, he hopes students take away the ability to pause and think more critically about how they use photography.

Event Schedule

Symposium begins on Tuesday Sept. 19 at 7 p.m., with an opening plenary session held in the memorial auditorium. This session is titled “New Voices, New Visions” and the speaker is Whitney Latorre, former director of visuals and immersive experiences at National Geographic.

Wednesday, Sept. 20 is an all-day event that features a panel dialogue, plenary sessions and concurrent presentations.

The day begins at 8:45 a.m. in the memorial auditorium with a plenary session titled “Photojournalism in a World of Crisis” by Lauren Walsh, director of the Gallatin Photojournalism Lab at New York University and director of Lost Rolls America, a national archive of photography and memory.

The first round of concurrent sessions will begin at 10:15 a.m. and feature a variety of local experts in photography.

From sports photography to documentary filmmakers to local photographers, the purpose of the concurrent sessions is to address the broad spectrum of ways photography impacts us and how we use it, Olsen said.

The final plenary session will be held at 11:15 a.m. in memorial auditorium and features Ami Vitale, National Geographic photographer and founder of Vital Impacts, speaking on the topic of “Using Photography to Make an Impact.”

A second round of concurrent sessions will begin at 1:15 p.m. and will feature another set of experts in photography, with topics ranging from data analytics to documenting riots.

“Many of us are involved with images in 1000 different ways,” Olsen said. The variety in concurrent session

speakers is meant to reflect the multitude of ways society uses photography.

To conclude the symposium, there will be a panel discussion at 2:15 p.m. in memorial auditorium that will feature the three plenary speakers and moderated by college President Colin Irvine. Students will have the opportunity to ask the panelists questions and have them respond to visual posts by students.

The Immediate Record

A unique feature of this year’s symposium is a live photography exhibit, “The Immediate Record,” which will be running all-day Sept. 20.

Students and guests will have the opportunity to document the day live by posting photos they take using a hashtag. Using software to collect posts, student pictures will be displayed on campus monitors.

The purpose of this exhibit is to create an immersive experience for students to thoughtfully engage with photography.

Olsen’s goal is for the monitors to be flooded with images that students believe communicate what they feel captures the symposium or Concordia.

Olsen said the best 100 photos will be archived at the Minnesota Digital Library as remembrance of the symposium and as a demonstration of student engagement. Olsen is working in conjunction with library director Laura Probst to determine a way of evaluating the photographs. There will be no limit to how many pictures a student can submit, but photos will be minorly regulated to avoid any inappropriate messaging, Olsen said.

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