Share / Discuss

piano keys

Black & White

“Black-and-white in photography frees your mind from having to process all the colors,” says Ron Tarver, a visiting assistant professor of studio art at Swarthmore who cut his teeth as a newspaper photojournalist and earned a 2012 Pulitzer as part of a Philadelphia Inquirer team. “You actually see the image—the composition, the message. A truly beautiful black-and-white photograph, in my perspective, is a lot more difficult to make than a color one.”

Which is why Tarver introduces students to photography through a foundational course in black-and-white film. For each assignment, students are given just two rolls of 24 exposures, forcing them to slow down and consider each frame—a challenging task for a digital generation. By learning the importance of light and shadows, they become stronger photographers, period.

“When you shoot in black and white, you see in black and white,” Tarver says. “With my fine-art photography, people would sometimes ask, ‘What did that look like in color?’ And you know, I didn’t even see it in color—my brain had stripped it all away.” —ES


“White more or less symbolizes a blank slate in karate, and black represents knowledge,” says Max Chomet ’12, a high school biology teacher and longtime student of Seido karate who leads adult beginner classes in New York on weekends. “It’s important to acknowledge, though, that when you earn your black belt, this does not denote that you’ve learned everything.”

On the contrary, it marks the start of more advanced training. And to achieve it, students must first return to their roots.

“When in promotion for your black belt, you put your white belt back on,” he says. “This symbolizes ‘beginner’s mind.’ For about a month, you are functionally a white belt again and take all beginner’s classes, in addition to the testing you undergo.

“Going back to white is important—it’s an exercise in humility and reminds the karateka to work on the fundamentals.”

As Chomet enters his 18th year of karate practice, he remains inspired by the Zen phrase “ren ma.”

“The characters in Japanese literally mean ‘keep polishing,’” he says. “The concept is that there is no such thing as perfect—it’s not about getting to a destination. Practice is an active process.” —ES

Ode to Joy

Energy, diversity, optimism, change—how could one symbol embody so many themes?

That was the challenge in designing a logo for President Valerie Smith’s inauguration in 2015. Along with a committee of faculty and staff, College designer Phil Stern ’84 set out to create an emblem that captured the campus’s excitement over her arrival.

“The whole community was electrified,” Stern says. “For the design and colors of the emblem, it felt like an opportunity to rethink our staid image—to take our seriousness and transform it into something beautiful and expansive.”

“President Smith asked us to imagine a symbol that would inspire joy and forward motion,” says Nancy Nicely, secretary of the College and vice president for communications, who led the inaugural committee. “Phil’s design did just that, and so much more.”

His sketch on the back of an airline beverage napkin became the basis of the logo, which has since been adopted for the Changing Lives, Changing the World campaign.

“The emblem suggests positive momentum,” says studio art professor and committee member Syd Carpenter, “with the circular format indicating an inclusive strength shared by all.”

And the colors, she notes, are of a celebratory nature: Yellow, green, black, and bright red make up the major tones, along with Swarthmore’s garnet, which the committee decided should be just one note in a symphony of colors. A warm gray—symbolic of the campus’s stone buildings—forms the foundation upon which they all dance.

“To me, the central disc is like the College—all these people from different backgrounds living with one another,” Stern says. “And in the outer ring, they’re all going out their separate ways into the world.

“I’m really happy to see the emblem thriving,” he adds. “It’s special, and it feels vital. It’s Swarthmore.”