Forty years of photos … of photographers

Karen Grubb creates permanent exhibition of photojournalism students

Karen Grubb

Karen Grubb

Since the early 1970s, class photos of NIU students enrolled in journalism photography classes have been documented and archived.

A recent project spearheaded by Karen Grubb, Department of Communication multimedia technician, has culminated in a permanent display of nearly 240 photographs featuring approximately 2,200 current NIU students and alums.

The collection of class photos winds its way through the hallways of Cole Hall basement, adjacent to a former print lab where, over the last 40 years, more than 3,000 students have acquired their photo processing skills while enrolled in one of several photography course offerings.

The photo display will be unveiled during a Department of Communication open house from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11, in Room 53 of the Cole Hall basement.

Grubb is hoping to get the word out to alums who took journalism photography classes – especially those who might be on campus that Friday for Homecoming – to encourage them to stop by and reminisce about their experiences in the photo lab.

Section 4 of Journalism 315 (Spring 1979)

“With the exception of a few semesters when classes were not offered or photos are missing, the collection features students who took photography classes starting with the fall 1971 section to spring 2013,” says Grubb, who, in her 29 years as a technician in the photo lab, has been responsible for photographing the majority of the class sections (first under the auspices of the Department of Journalism, whose programs were merged into the Department of Communication in 1996).

Realizing the significance of the photo archive, Grubb saw the value in taking on the project that required sorting through the department’s archives, digitizing, cataloging and tweaking the original images, and overseeing the printing, mounting and installation of the exhibit.

Section 1 of Journalism 315 (Spring 1989)“When I first started at Northern in 1984, photo developing was done in a darkroom with chemicals,” Grubb says. “That process has since given way to digital photography, and the print lab where these students spent hours perfecting their skills is no more. However, the classroom where these class photos were taken is still in use and that is the common thread of these images – most were taken in Room 53 of Cole Hall basement.”

“It’s important to remember and celebrate our own history,” said Gary Burns, chair of the Department of Communication. “I’m grateful to the people who posed for the pictures, took the pictures, saved the pictures, and put them on display. This is an obvious thing to do in photography classes, but we should do a lot more of this kind of thing throughout the department.”

Those who are unable to visit during the open house can contact Grubb at (815) 753-7020 or kgrubb@niu.edu for more information or to arrange a visit.

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