Emerson Scholar Sarah Felder '07 Photographing Local Farming Communities
As a double major in chemistry and studio art, Sarah Felder '07 spends much of her time on-campus in the lab and the studio. This summer, however, you will find her in a rather unusual location: local farming fields. The recipient of an Emerson Grant, Felder is working on a summer-long photography project on local farming communities under the advisement of Associate Professor of Art Ella Gant.
For her project, Felder is meeting, greeting and documenting the lives of farmers living and working in the area around Hamilton College. She is hoping the project will allow her to become more familiar with the local population. "I'm taking photographs of a local farm in order to become better acquainted with the community around Hamilton College," Felder explains. Felder travels to local farms almost every day to document their lives.
"At the end of the project I will have a body of work suitable to show to the Hamilton community," she states. "This will allow others to get a sense of the area around the hill."
Felder is no stranger to being on campus during the summer months. Last year she worked in the chemistry department under the supervision of Professor George Shields and Professor Steve Festin as a summer science researcher. She was experimentally testing compounds from the National Cancer Institute's database to see if they bound to the Estrogen Receptor. "Binding would tell if the compound had any initial potential as a Breast Cancer drug treatment," Felder explains.
Although Felder enjoyed conducting ground-breaking research, she found she had little time to get off the Hill. "Last year I was unable to investigate the vicinity because I was in the lab for so many hours during the day and I didn't have a car here during the year," she says. In the fall Felder took a photography class. She thought a project combining photography and her curiosity about the area would be a good way to introduce herself and maybe other Hamilton students to the community off the Hamilton campus.
Felder has enjoyed doing a new, different type of research. "I've never gone out on my own and been close to independent on a project like this," she says. However, she admits, the nature of the project has been taxing. She explains that it has been somewhat challenging for her to become comfortable around complete strangers, learn about their lives, and then ask to take their pictures. "I'm anticipating that the more work I do the fewer problems I'll have," she says optimistically. "The more comfortable I get with [my] position the more I'll be able to accomplish and the more significant my results will be."
Felder has enjoyed putting her time and energy into a project of her own design. "Every day I get to go out there and do something I really enjoy," she says. "In my mind that's pretty sweet!"
Created in 1997, the Emerson Foundation Grant program was designed to provide students with significant opportunities to work collaboratively with faculty members, researching an area of interest. The recipients, covering a range of topics, will explore fieldwork, laboratory and library research, and the development of teaching materials. The projects will be initiated this summer, and the students will make public presentations of their research throughout the 2005-2006 academic year.
-- by Emily Lemanczyk '05