More than a contest seeks real-world connections

Debora Van Brenk // Western News

About 60 student-submitted images line a wall of the newly renovated University College as part of a photo contest led by the Modern Languages and Literature department.

Like a parent pressed to name a preferred child, Constanza Burucúa demurs when asked to single out any one photo she likes most from among the 60.

“I have many favourites. I don’t dislike any of them,” Burucúa said of the submitted photographs that line a wall of University College as part of a display and contest led by the Modern Languages and Literatures department.

The photo contest was open to all undergraduate and graduate students, who were asked to submit images in four categories: literature-inspired; portraits of language; intercultural moments; and study abroad.

Since the photos went on display Tuesday, a steady stream of passersby has paused to reflect on images as varied as paper cranes in Kyoto, a penguin encountering parka-clad humans and a close-up manuscript entry from the Book of Kells.

While a jury is choosing winners from each category, anyone can vote for an overall People’s Choice Award. The contest ballot box had already been filled, emptied and filled yet again by Friday morning.

But the contest is secondary to the conversations taking place among strangers and friends alike, she said. “I overheard one student say to another one, ‘This is important, this is important.’ I’ve never seen anyone walk by and be indifferent to it,” she said.

And while it might have been easier to have given the images an online presence, part of the attraction is in how it builds real-world connection.

“We want people come and see what we’re doing, to encourage this kind of community-building. That’s the whole point, the main point. I read somewhere that face-to-face experiences have become a privilege; we have to do whatever we can to facilitate that.”

Voting ends at noon April 8. Winners will be announced at 3 p.m. that afternoon.

The exhibit will remain on display for several weeks after that.

“To me, it’s joyful. Everyone I worked with, everyone I’ve approached in relation to the project, has been so generous and enthusiastic,” she said.