MSU Student Life: From the Dorm to the Football Stadium

SHOW DATES:  July 22 – September 13, 2019

RECEPTION:  August 10, 2019, 2-4PM

MSU Student Life: From the Dorm to the Football Stadium, features two bodies of work by Robert F. Crawford. Bridging 30 years, the photographs illustrate the lives and experiences of Michigan State University students. Addressing the changing complexities of life, as students search for direction. 

The black and white photographs taken in the early 1990s are portraits of MSU students. Along with the portraits, Crawford interviewed student as part of the Generation X: The Hopes and Dreams of College Students Oral History Collection held in the MSU Libraries – G. Vincent Voice Library. These interviews reveal both their backgrounds and reactions to life at Michigan State University. The challenge in both the black and white photography and the interviews was to capture a serious and contemplative side of college life. Both the interviews and the photographs preserve and address how individual students experience college, and how they search for and define their goals.

Taken within the last five years, the color photographs depict the pre-game spontaneity of students. Challenging Crawford to finding a way of interpreting constantly moving subjects in varying light conditions. These photographs feature students observed in front of the fraternity houses near Abbot Road and along Grand River Avenue, and the activities in and around Spartan Stadium. Capturing the colorful precision of the practice sessions of the Spartan Marching Band and the tailgaters covering the green spaces of campus. These images are of the collective and the aftermath. Despite the passage of time, the narration of these photographs has both changed and remained the same. 

Robert F. Crawford began his education at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. After two and a half years he resigned and transferred to Columbia University in New York where he majored in Philosophy. He then worked as a social worker in New York City both in Harlem and on the Bowery. In the 1960s Crawford studied still and motion picture photography at the Germaine School of Photography in New York and then found employment in the film industry as a sound recordist, color timer, and editor.  Crawford briefly taught the basics of film production and lighting at the City College of New York in Queens and later at Lansing Community College. During the late 1970s and 1980s, Crawford worked as a cameraman and editor at Michigan State University. His still photographs have been published and exhibited locally and in New York. Crawford’s short films have been screened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, at Columbia University and at the Ann Arbor Film Festival.

Black and white photograph portrait of a young man wearing a white t-shirt sitting at a table.
Robert F. Crawford, “Chris Carlisle” Gelatin silver print, ca.1990