Find your story through “Stories We Tell Ourselves”

The current art exhibit calls viewers to find their own narratives through black and white photography.


Russell Spacy and Adam Pigott

(This story was originally published in print on Feb. 14, 2019).

Everyone walks through life creating their own story one day at a time. “Stories We Tell Ourselves,” the exhibit showing in the Earl and Virginia Green Art Gallery until Feb. 28, explores this notion through the use of abstract photos that are seemingly void of narrative. According to the brochure, the exhibit “features over 40 works from the 13 artists of the Hartford MFA Photography graduating class of 2017.” Hartford MFA Photography is a prestigious master’s program that is highly regarded in the photography and art world.


Filled with mostly black and white photography, “Stories We Tell Ourselves” displays a myriad different abstract and minimalistic photos. While the actual stories told may not be entirely clear, the exhibit calls for art patrons to find their own. Although each photo is stunning, they serve as more than pretty pictures, inviting the viewer to truly contemplate the story being told.

Photos represent different stories and meanings to every student and art patron, because meaning is interpreted through the different personal experiences everyone holds. Gallery director and public art curator Jeff Rau believes humans interpret and understand images through story.

“In the absence of that information, we impose narrative and stories onto the images that we encounter,” Rau said.

This idea of superimposing stories on art and photography looks different for everyone, especially for photography students whose education focuses on telling stories through art.


Although freshman journalism major Hannah Nehrbass does not consider herself a photographer, her storytelling-focused major allowed her to connect, with the stories the dark and eerie tones told.

“I got the connection that when we see the protection or the walls people put up, we try to find out why they put up the walls and why they feel they need to be protected or what they are trying to connect,” Nehrbass said.

While Nehrbass believes these photos did not make her feel any certain way, she felt pride when she found out those photos came from her own photography professor, Seth Johnson.

Meanwhile, senior art major Brandon Steadman connected with the photos because they are similar to street photography he has done himself.

“[They are] these odd, intricate things that are happening that you kinda just look pass because you’re either driving or on your phone, and you don’t notice them,” Steadman said.

Furthermore, Steadman believes the photos use minimalism in the best way. He believes the minimalistic nature of these photos serve to draw art viewers deeper into the story, rather than appearing boring.

Ultimately, “Stories We Tell Ourselves” starts a conversation about how our experiences differ from others through our interpretations of art and photography. Rau believes the dark and light aspects of the exhibit speak powerfully through the photography, and that through the darkness and despair from some of the photos, one can still find the light.

“[There are] moments of beauty, moments of hope that sometimes come in unexpected ways,” Rau said.

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