Best Photos of 2021

Media specialist Rachel Holderman ‘18 curated our “Best Photos of 2021.” This annual tradition is an opportunity to reflect back on the cumulative work of documenting the life and times of the university community.

Also check out our “Top EMU News of 2021.

The collection includes scenes of nature and vistas highlighting the beauty of our Shenandoah Valley campus and touching moments of human connection (we love the fun group photos taken after the serious ones). Some photos also capture the impact of COVID-era protocols, such as the outdoor choral concert on Thomas Plaza with socially distanced singers and audience members.

One of Rachel’s responsibilities this past year was to take all of personnel portraits for university employees. She was the lead photographer on a special portrait shoot to mark the retirement of Dave Detrow, our registrar, and you can view one of those photos in this collection, with several others featured in the upcoming Crossroads magazine.

View the collection.

Here’s more from Rachel on the “Best of 2021” collection:

Culling through the nearly 5,000 images saved from the year for this “best of” collection was difficult. I spent several hours scrolling through our database, choosing what pulled my attention and what visually drew me in. I also had some specific images in mind that I remember taking or seeing from other photographers on staff or from our freelance crew. As I viewed the photos, I came across several events that I had completely forgotten about. This past year has felt more like three years than just one!

It’s apparent also that the way we photograph has changed. With fewer people at events and the expectation of being socially distanced and masked, our photographs generally show fewer faces and less spontaneous emotion. Now we have to keep six feet from our subjects and attempt to capture emotion in someone’s eyes when the rest of their face is covered in a mask. Those challenges make getting a great image feel even more like an accomplishment. 

One of my favorite images is from a Visual and Communication Arts senior show in the spring. At first the photo of two framed images on a wall seems mundane. But if you look closely, you can see the opposite wall reflected in the glass, showcasing a whole different body of work. I like the depth showcased in this photograph: The longer you look, the more you see.

When looking back at the photos I’ve taken, I often find myself remembering the physical position I had to be in to get the image. For the photo of the students collaborating together, I remember squatting down, back against a wall, squished between two desks. In another, facing an incoming snowball, I hoped the thrower has good aim and the snowball wouldn’t come smashing into my lens. To me, that’s the fun part of photography, having the insight on what all went into getting the image – the camera and lens, the inner camera settings, the scene itself, and even location of the photographer and their possible uncomfortable body positioning… it all works together. 

So what’s ahead for us? A new year brings a space for new possibilities. In the case of EMU Marketing and Communications, it brings a space for adding a full-time photographer back onto our team, a hole we’ve been “splicing” together for a year and half with the skills of our staff members. With this addition, I hope it brings a space to be more creative with our work, fun photoshoots, new creative marketing materials, and the capability to expand how we showcase our school. 

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