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2017: The year in pictures

December 18, 2017

Each year, J. Adam Fenster takes thousands of photos in his role as University photographer. We asked him to select his favorites and tell us what makes each one a compelling snapshot of learning and living at Rochester.

3-D model of a human skull

3D, or not 3D, that is the question

As part of a Rochester Review feature story on the medical applications of 3D printing, Fenster shot this striking image of a 3D-printed human skull with 3D-printed craniofacial bone graft substitutes. The photo went on to grace the cover of the magazine’s May/June issue.

Fenster decided to photograph the skull and other anatomically correct organs using black Plexiglas and a black backdrop for consistency, a technique he used previously on a shoot with leaf-tailed geckos. “I feel very fortunate to have editors that allow me to pursue independent photo stories. It’s fascinating to see what our researchers are doing with cutting-edge technology.”



student athlete running on an indoor track

Born to run

Laura Lockard ’17 was participating in a brain imaging study at the University’s Neuroimaging Center when the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) revealed a mass on the lower part of her brain. The scholar-athlete underwent major surgery and recovery before eventually returning to the track and field team.

In this photo, Lockard is training in the field house at Goergen Athletic Center. “It’s a panning shot, which means you set a low shutter speed that allows the background to blur and you hope to get enough detail in the subject,” explains Fenster. The end result is reminiscent of a watercolor painting. But in addition to the technical aspects of photography, “it’s the story that drives a lot of the best pictures, and Laura let us tell her remarkable story.”



two opera singers on stage, one instructing the other, pointing to her diaphragm

Of sopranos and straws

Eastman School of Music alumna Renée Fleming ’83 (MA) is one of the world’s most acclaimed opera singers and sopranos. In spring 2017, Fleming returned to her alma mater to teach a master class, during which she had soprano Daniela Camilleri sing through a straw to help improve her technique.

“It can be hard to get a good photo from these master classes,” admits Fenster. “But Renée was great with the students and luckily I was able to capture this endearing moment.”



two students hugging, crying, celebrating

A match made in medical school

One of the biggest annual events in medical schools across the country is Match Day, when medical students learn where they will be placed for their residency programs. Fenster photographed School of Medicine and Dentistry students Brittany Black (left) and Leslie Anderson during this emotional and pivotal moment in their medical careers.

“There are always authentic reactions on Match Day—usually tears of joy at achieving your dreams,” Fenster says. “Meanwhile, in the background you have other people celebrating or getting ready to embrace. You can’t make this kind of picture without getting in close.”



group of student actors in front of a mirror

Directorial debut

This year marked the first time a current undergraduate student directed a play for the International Theatre Program. Backstage at Todd Theater, director Aishwarya Krishnamoorthy ’17 (right) worked with Tori Powers ’18 (left) and Sara Crane ’20 on the spring production of Sam Shepherd’s Buried Child.

“They say you’re not supposed to center your subject in the photo,” says Fenster. Yet he suspected this particular photo could be used effectively as a double-page spread in Rochester Review because the printed magazine’s gutter space would create a symmetrical mirroring effect. That’s exactly what ended up happening, and the final result is a consummate backstage dressing room shot.



large crowd of students celebrate during commecement

Capturing commencement

The Arts, Sciences and Engineering commencement ceremony on the Eastman Quadrangle is a rite of passage for undergraduate students in the College, one that Fenster documents each May. “Usually it’s one of the other photographers, but this year I was the one who got the shot: the lead photo of our commencement coverage.”

The image also demonstrates what photographers call “layering,” a technique where they fill the frame—from left to right, front to back, top to bottom—so the entire image tells a story.



barge moving up the Erie Canal, carrying large tanks

225 miles on the Erie Canal

The Genesee Brewing Company, based in Rochester, is one of the largest and oldest continually operating breweries in the nation. As part of a modernization project, the company had several 60-foot-tall fermentation tanks shipped from Albany to Rochester on the Erie Canal.

Fenster waited on the Moore Road bridge near the River Campus in Genesee Valley Park and photographed the barge en route to its destination using—appropriately enough—a fish-eye lens.



outdoor exhibit at Memorial Art Gallery, with words projected in light onto the building

Light bright

In June, the Memorial Art Gallery debuted “Argentum: Double-Positive,” a new light sculpture by Jim Sanborn. The installation features two perforated bronze cylinders that light up at night and project text onto the façade and surrounding landscape at MAG.

Fenster recalls spending time securing access to the rooftop of the apartments across from MAG, initially thinking the best shots would come from a higher angle. Instead, his favorite shots were taken “low and close” during the blue hour.

“Photographers talk about the golden hour and blue hour,” explains Fenster. “Blue hour occurs during twilight when the sky is deep blue for a few minutes, but there is still some ambient light reaching your subject. This is a bit late in the blue hour, but if you wait any longer it all goes to black—and the sky is a key element in this photo.”



streaks of light made from fireflies at night in the woods

Spread your wings and fly, firefly

Fenster jumped at the chance to accompany Rochester biologists conducting field research along Tionesta Creek in Pennsylvania. “There aren’t too many other locations in the world where you can see this kind of firefly activity and this many species. It was magical.” The researchers went on to sequence the genome of the Big Dipper firefly while learning more about the genes that produce the firefly’s characteristic flashes of light.

This image is a composite of multiple exposures layered on top of each other, a photography technique Fenster was able to try for the first time as part of this assignment. “This photo was gratifying because it turned out the way I’d envisioned, helped tell the story, and I learned something through the process of making it.”



child playing under a colorful parachute

New horizons

Each summer, K–8 students from the Rochester City School District participate in Horizons at Warner. The six-week summer enrichment program offers instruction in reading and math, mentoring and a ninth-grade job skills program, workshops for parents, and family events year round.

Here, the narrowing panels of the backlit parachute draw your eye toward the subject. “Kids are always fun to photograph because they’re not self-conscious. They just get lost in their play,” Fenster says. While the playfulness of this photo seems to belie the seriousness of the program’s efforts, Fenster believes a photographer’s job is to find the best visuals to illustrate the larger story. “If an image like this is what makes people stop and read the piece, then we’ve succeeded.”



musicians practicing cello backstage

Front and back

Fenster photographed Eastman School alumnus Thapelo Masita ’17 in a “nice, intimate moment” warming up on the cello backstage at Kodak Hall before a rehearsal for this year’s Gateways Music Festival. The festival brings together classical musicians of African descent for a week of workshops and free performances.

“I like this photo because there are two things going on: You have this discrete backstage area, and then another musician leads you onstage and to the front of house.”



partial solar eclipse behind clouds

Partial eclipse of the sun

The great American eclipse—during which the moon blocked out all or parts of the sun—occurred on Friday, August 21. Although Rochester was not in the path of totality, viewers still convened on the River Campus to witness this rare astronomical event. Passing clouds obscured the eclipse at times, but also enabled Fenster take this shot.

“The best pictures I ended up getting of the eclipse itself were because of the clouds, which make the shot more interesting. Otherwise it’s just a bright sliver in a black sky.” Fenster’s only regret? “There was no way to get Rush Rhees Library in the shot as well.”



members of the track team running and jumping through large letters that spell MELIORA

Crisscrossing the quad

A new set of large, freestanding letters spelling “Meliora” debuted on the Eastman Quadrangle during Meliora Weekend 2017.

“Every other photo you see of this during Meliora Weekend is people posing on or against the letters.” Instead, on Friday morning Fenster encountered the men’s cross-country team running toward, over, and through the letters. “They came as a big phalanx, so it was definitely a right-place, right-time kind of photo.”


aerial view of campus

Our very own city of lights

In October, Fenster had the opportunity to take his first-ever aerial photographs of the University campus and the city of Rochester. He snapped over 3,000 photos with the above being his top shot. Taken from a single-engine Cessna aircraft, the photo shows downtown Rochester in all its glory during the elusive blue hour. Fenster was inspired by the work of photographer Vincent Laforet, who uses the latest in camera technology to depict nighttime city streets that end up looking like circuit boards.



large group of surgeons in operating room, with surgery visible on small computer monitor

Putting the “eye” in bionic

A URMC team implanted an Argus II retinal prosthesis, or “bionic eye,” into the right eye of a patient earlier this month. The three-hour procedure was the second of its kind ever undertaken at the Medical Center. It was also a rare opportunity for Fenster to document the action in an operating room.

“This photo ties back to the first in this series,” notes Fenster. Although radically different in terms of style, “both show how our researchers are using the latest technology to advance the medical field.” The image also reminds Fenster of the Accidental Renaissance meme, in which modern photographs feature compositions similar to those of Renaissance paintings.



Category: In Photos

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