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"Then and Now" photo exhibit documents over a century on campus

Then and Now  Then and Now: Flash slideshow

– From demure to daring, in black and white and in color, the "Then and Now: Student Photographs of the Berkeley Campus" exhibit opening today (Friday, March 7) at the University of California's Bancroft Library documents campus life from the late 1800s to today.

Through these photographs, visitors can see the history of UC Berkeley.

There is the fraternity life of yesteryear, glimpsed through a black-and-white photo of young men hoisting beer steins around the piano, and a statement of contemporary culture and politics in a photo of a young woman leaning by Sather Gate with her lip ring and an environmentally friendly coffee mug. There are behind-the-scenes looks at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, student co-op life, construction workers, classrooms, campus coast live oaks, and more.

Some of the exhibition running through July 18 includes images and scrapbooks selected from university archives and The Bancroft Library's pictorial collection. Some of the exhibit's "Then" photos, but not all, were taken by students.

The contemporary material all comes from students in Janet Delaney's fall 2002 documentary photography class in the College of Environmental Design. It was a year ago when photographer Delaney and students in another course explored Bancroft images depicting student life from the 1900s through the student protests of the 1960s and '70s.

When Delaney asked Jack von Euw, pictorial curator for The Bancroft Library, for project ideas for her students, he had plenty.

"I told her that there is so much going on in and around campus that wasn't being documented; the changes to the campus environment with all the new construction was one idea, " von Euw recalled. "Another was just to see what life was like on campus at a certain point in time, from the students' perspectives."

So, while familiarizing the students with the documentary approaches of a number of photographers, including Eugene Atget, Lewis Hine and Robert Frank, Delaney prepared her students to photograph life at UC Berkeley in the early 21st century. The students also visited the UC Berkeley Art Museum, where some of the "Fiat Lux" photographs celebrating UC Berkeley's centennial were being shown as part of an Ansel Adams exhibit. They listened to von Euw talk about documentary photography in an archival context.

Each student produced 10 or more images and wrote text to document a specific aspect of the built or social environment of the university.

Von Euw said the work that the students were doing was "quite extraordinary" and he's pleased to have it on exhibit to contrast with the archival photos.

The Bancroft Library is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. during the school year.