By Justin Lafleur, Lehigh Sports Media Relations
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 12/10/14
Carli Sukonik assisted Lehigh’s game-tying goal at Boston University last season, helping set up a photo finish…
Come to find out, Sukonikis no stranger to photos. In that April 5 game, she was on the other side of the camera, but this semester, she’s used her creative talents to go behind the camera for her honors thesis.
“I had to think of a theme for this project, so I chose black and white photography in Philadelphia based on a project that I completed in my Digital Photography II class,” said Sukonik, a Design major from Harriton High and Quaker City. “One of the photographs is actually from that class and I built upon the theme. I took thousands of photos and picked nine others to go along with the original photograph.”
Sukonik’s photos are all themed around the quote “looking is not seeing,” which was also the title of her exhibition that took place on Friday evening, Dec. 5 in Girdler Gallery in the University Center on campus. The exhibition will remain open through January.
“It’s a quote I really live by and has totally transformed the way I see the world,” said Sukonik.
“When I took that initial photo and converted it to black and white, it was one of those jaw-dropping moments,” she said. “You can’t tell that cars are zooming left and right or a train is going over the tracks above. It’s as if the whole world froze in time for that millisecond when the shutter button was pressed.”
Professor and Department Chair Berrisford Boothe was quickly impressed with Sukonik.
“Carli is great to work with because she was very open to the ideas that we’d share with her, but in doing so, she was also very self-assured,” said Boothe. “She knew what she was looking for and took our observations, criticism and encouragement within the form of her own opinions, rather than trying to have us change them or backing off because we’re the professors. There was a really great plasticity of ideas, which I thoroughly enjoyed. By the second or third session, I became a huge fan of hers.”
Sukonik displayed 10 photos as part of her exhibition to cap off her honors thesis. There’s a depth and complexity to the photos that the inexperienced eye may not appreciate at first.
“You have to observe the space, in terms of the particular beauty or complexity of your surroundings,” said Boothe. “Everybody likes to think of art making as a magical incantation rather than the ability to be vulnerable enough to be aware of your surroundings.”
After Sukonik’s initial photo, she had trouble taking other photographs which emulated the feelings evoked in the first image.
“After hundreds of pictures, I was only able to find one that met my standards. With the help of several professors and the help of that quote (looking is not seeing), I was able to recognize the critical adjustment I needed to make,” she said. “I really thought about that quote for a second. Looking is not seeing is a quote I really live my life by.
“I realized that I was looking around Philadelphia. Instead, I had to see all of the elements in front of me,” Carli continued. “I learned to open my eyes and see in terms of textures, highlights and shadows, rather than cobblestone, tree, sunny this or pretty that.”
Notice any of Sukonik’s photographs and you see a cap, a ceiling. The photos were taken that way intentionally and not cropped.
“Throughout shooting, I learned that my most successful shots are those that leave the audience wondering what lies above or just outside of the frame,” she said.
The photos were converted to grey scale, but besides that, the photos are a product of what Carli saw.
“Including a large amount of sky in the photograph puts a limit to the composition,” she said. “I want the audience’s eye to feel uncomfortably constricted by adding a ceiling to each photograph that they will long to break through, while simultaneously compelled by the complexity, stillness or geometry of what lies within the frame.”
Sukonik’s honors thesis was a culmination of her four years at Lehigh. Carli’s area of focus is graphic design, but she always had interested in photography and this project has helped diversify her skills.
“My interest in photography has really grown throughout this project,” she said. “I’ve always loved taking pictures, but I think I’ve really figured out, and learned to appreciate, my own style throughout this project.”
“Carli’s work is beautiful,” said Professor Anna Chupa, Carli’s advisor throughout this project. “Her eye, her ability to see line and the quality of light and detail in these pieces is just beautiful.”
Each photograph has a card featuring a quote. Sukonik tried to match a photograph with each quote, all under the overall theme of “looking is not seeing.”
“I read and watch documentaries and collect quotes,” said Carli. “A lot of times, on the labels for photographs at shows, there’s a description of the photo. Instead of writing a description, I decided to pair a quote that I live by with the photograph that I think best represents the sayings.”
Quotes used in her exhibition include: “A big definition of who you are as a designer is the way you look at the world.” Another is: “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
The complexity of her project shows Sukonik’s ability to think critically, and effectively, skills that will translate well beyond this honors thesis. Sporting a cumulative GPA of 3.74, Sukonik is set up for success after Lehigh, no matter the career path she chooses.
“Carli has such diverse talent,” said Chupa. “She’s a graphic designer and she’s a photographer. You don’t always find those combinations together where somebody is both a designer and a fine artist at the same time. She’s got both skills. Carli is graduating with a major in graphic design, but she could also go into fine art photography if she wants. She has doors open for her if she wants to go in either direction.”
Friday’s exhibition was a culmination of all areas of Carli’s life. Her entire Lehigh women’s lacrosse team came out to support.
“I’m so appreciative that my whole team came out to support me,” she said. “It means a lot. It just shows how close we are as a team. We really do everything for each other and are there for each other in every way.”
Those teammates created the photo finish after Sukonik’s game-tying assist against Boston University last season. Carli was named Patriot League Offensive Player of the Week for her efforts in that game, which ended with an Allison LaBeau double overtime goal to hand the Terriers their first-ever Patriot League defeat.
“You go play lacrosse and have to run reps, then someone sees you do an amazing play and says you’re talented,” said Boothe. “They forget you put in all this work. The same is true for creative artists. Carli represents an ability to translate discipline and execution from the field to the forum as art.”