World of One: School of Cambridge

School of Cambridge

School of Cambridge (from the series World of One)

Archival Pigment Print from 35mm Negatives
24″ x 38 7/8″ inches | edition of 5


This was the most straightforward and yet most labor-intensive World of One image I have produced thus far. There are 91 frames collaged into School of Cambridge (112 before the edits), which is roughly 3 times the number of frames that have gone into any of the other works in this series. This was shot at MIT behind the Strata Center where they have this cool outdoor seating area. I’ve wanted to do a picture at this location for a long time, but a theme never really came to me. Finally one day I just decided to go for it, and I worked out a composition from some scouting shots I had taken of the area.

Unlike many of the other World of One images I’ve been making as of late, I didn’t, going into this picture, have a clear idea of what I wanted to express. Instead, the composition came first and the meaning behind it came later. I knew I wanted the white figure in the center of the circle as well as a black figure in the foreground both staring into the camera. The image came together when I developed the scenario that the guy in white is the teacher and the guys in black are his students. The shot is taken from the perspective of a student asking a question, and the guy next to him turns towards him as he begins to speak. For me, seeing this image brings back long-suppressed memories of asking stupid questions in class, specifically the moment right before everyone turns to look at me in disbelief of my stupidity.

The name of this image is appropriated from Raphael’s School of Athens. I’ve often heard Boston referred to as the Athens of the United States because of the concentration of quality universities here. But the most prestigious ones in the area (namely Harvard and MIT) aren’t in Boston at all. They’re across the river in Cambridge.

As this is an image inspired by experiences from my own schooling, it also celebrates the distractions I found for myself in the classroom. As my friend Dave, the assistant for this shoot, put it, “Just because they’re all in class doesn’t mean they’re all paying attention to the teacher.”

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School of Cambridge behind the scenes 01

Changing the film on my old Minolta


School of Cambridge behind the scenes 02

Costume change


School of Cambridge behind the scenes 03

Lining up the shots


School of Cambridge behind the scenes 04

Prep before shooting the professor frame


School of Cambridge behind the scenes 05

Dave got smart and took this from the viewfinder of my Minolta, I never would have thought of doing this.

Behind the scenes photos courtesy of Dave Shi.

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