Student Spotlight: Shadimere Coles C’21

Shadimere Coles C’21                        

What attracted you to Drew?

In several ways, Drew reminded me of my high school, George School. Both campuses are natural sanctuaries and I always feel solace being surrounded by the forest, especially because I grew up in a city environment. In addition, Drew’s intimate size attracted me because I knew I’d be able to make personal connections with professors and other students and easily become familiar with the campus. Another thing that attracted me to Drew is its proximity to New York. New York City is a mecca for art, which linked to my interest in media and photography.

Why did you choose Media & Communications as a major and photography and philosophy as minors?

I took four years of film photography in high school that sparked my interest in the medium, which later became a full-blown passion. While I was applying to colleges, I knew I wanted to include my high school portfolio, as well as apply to colleges that could nurture my passion. Along with photography, I was exposed to philosophy and other metaphysical studies in high school, which led to my minor in philosophy. I was sure that I wanted to keep working on my craft, photography, while continuing to define myself as an artist. While Drew does not have a photography major, I chose Media and Communications as it relates to my future career goals. I find Media and Communications studies capable of being viewed through the lens of my minors, deepening my understanding of media’s effect on modern society.

Did you have an idea of a dream job when you started at Drew?

I think my dream job when I started Drew was to travel the world, experiencing life in all its forms of beauty while taking pictures and creating art. If you were to ask me the same question now, I’m pretty sure you would get a similar answer.

Do you have any mentors at Drew?

I’ve been extremely lucky to have many people who have guided me and aided my growth as an artist, as well as a human at Drew.  Two of these people are Professors Danna Singer and Rebecca Soderholm. Dana was my Photo II professor where we focused on black and white film photography. Dana’s course welcomed me back to film and reminded me of my origins in photography. Along with Prof. Singer, Prof. Soderholm helped me understand myself as an artist. She was my Photo I professor and quickly became a mentor to me. Over my years at Drew, I’ve taken several classes with her and would have had the amazing opportunity to go to the Paris ShorTREC with her as trip leader. Unfortunately, our trip was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but she still provided us with an unforgettable semester, during which I was able to complete my first conceptual photobook, Passenger.

Still from Passenger | Photo by Shadimere Coles

Prof. Soderholm has directly aided to my knowledge and growth as an artist and with my final semester coming up, I’m extremely excited and grateful to be taking Professional Practice with her as I make the transition into the post-grad art world.

Have you studied abroad? Done any short or nycTRECS?

Last semester, I had the wonderful opportunity to be part of the Semester on Media and Communications with Professor Dr. Lisa Lynch. Although this semester was conducted online, I found it to be extremely helpful and one of the most beneficial courses I’ve taken at Drew. I was able to meet and talk with individuals in the media industry which allowed for a more immersive experience, provided us first-hand knowledge about the media industry, and how to navigate it as a career path. Learning about the diversity of opportunity within the industry opened my mind to possibilities I didn’t know existed before, as well as allowed me to network with individuals with similar career paths to mine. Although I wasn’t able to attend the Paris shorTREC, I did have the amazing chance to travel to the country of Nepal my senior year of high school for a service trip. We stayed in Nepal for 3 weeks while hiking, trekking, and building the Janapriya School for children in the Annapurna Conservation Area. (See “untitled”) This trip marked the culmination of my four-year study of film photography as I was able to shoot six rolls of black and white 35mm film while there. This service trip was completely transformative for my photography as well as my perspective on human existence.

What issue in the world means the most to you?

Unfortunately, it’s really difficult to pinpoint one issue that means the most to me. However, I can think of a few issues that need to be addressed nation- and worldwide. Learning about intersectionality my freshman year of college helped me better understand the complexity of individual identities and the way various challenges can arise in a heterogeneous society. I believe 2020 further highlighted many of these issues such as institutional racism, as well as the overall oppression and trauma experienced by minorities and the LGBTQ+ community. From black trans women being disproportionately harmed to our ice caps melting, there are many issues in the world that hold importance to me. Nonetheless, I remain hopeful and optimistic that humanity will create a world of justice, harmony, and peace for all.

What are a few of your favorite memories of Drew?

Some of my favorite memories at Drew involve taking art and philosophy courses, exploring the Arboretum, and finding ways to create and discover myself on campus. I will always remember having my perspective and mind expanded by courses like Environmental Aesthetics and Shattering of Reason where I saw intersections in the human experience and how we coexist with the universe. Being an artist, some of my favorite memories include my photography and art classes, including printmaking, which I found extremely hard. I found the Arboretum to be a sanctuary where I constantly went to clear my mind, connect with the dirt under my feet, and wind soaring through the air. The arboretum allowed me to escape and travel somewhere that was seemingly worlds away, despite still being in Madison, NJ. A specific, favorite memory of mine is standing still amidst a snow storm, listening to the silence, and witnessing the overall ambiance of the arboretum. Finally, creating art on campus involves some of my favorite memories. Taking pictures at different sporting events such as Women’s Rugby and basketball as well and Men’s soccer and basketball were always extremely important to me. Being able to support my friends in more ways than one, attending games and taking pictures, while being part of the Ranger collective was an unmatched feeling.

Wolves | Photo by Shadimere Coles

Aside from the sporting events, I also have special memories capturing various campus events, such as Spring Saturday of 2019. Capturing candid and posed portraits of the community filled me with joy, especially seeing the positive community response to the images I took. (See “Spring Saturday”) Finally, a significant amount of my favorite memories on campus involve the personal photoshoots I did on campus. In the fall of 2019, I began exploring studio photography as well as editorial portraits at various locations on campus, often with the help of some friends.

This point in time marked the true beginning of Auranism and my freelance photography career. Creating these sets on campus and completely transforming a space, was so fascinating and expanded my knowledge of studio photography and lighting. (See “David”) These photoshoots allowed me to further understand set design and reinforced my belief that you can create anywhere.

What advice would you give students who are just starting out that you wish you had when you started?

One of the strongest pieces of advice I can give to someone starting out is: you have time! As a freshman, I spent countless hours worrying and stressing about settling on a major and figuring out what I want to do with my life and career. While I had inklings about the decisions I would make, I felt a sense of deep urgency to figure it all out as if there was a deadline. This mindset was detrimental to my mental health and perspective on my individual journey. While this is something I still struggle with, I counter the urgency with practicing presence. This allows for a deeper awareness of the present moment and appreciation for the journey, instead of focusing on the end goal. I think this is a practice that many would benefit from and it has personally helped me countless times along my path. Time is a current and we drift along with it; always flowing at the right speed.

What are your career goals? Where do you hope to be in 5 years?

I want to achieve a level of success that is completely separate from monetary income. In 5 years, I hope to, although I have no doubt, still be creating art and making cohesive bodies of work. In 5 years, I wish to have my work in galleries whilst I travel the world collaborating with artists of various mediums. While I am extremely grateful for the reach I have on social media, I hope to be able to connect with more people internationally through digital and non-digital spaces. My career goals range from small to large, but true success, to me, is being able to produce extensions of myself that resonate with others, while exploring my understanding of humanity and existence itself.

Any Fun fact (s) you would like to share?

I bring my camera with me every time I leave the house and often feel like I’m missing something if I don’t. Also, believe it or not, Guitar Hero is my party trick and it’s always fun seeing my friends’ reactions to me playing on expert difficulty, often without missing any notes.

Untitled | Photo by Shadimere Coles

Liabilities | Photo by Shadimere Coles

Strangers Becoming One | Photo by Shadimere Coles

Mirrors Let you Move Through Time | Photo by Shadimere Coles

An Ode to Being Alone | Photo by Shadimere Coles

Spring Saturday | Photo by Shadimere Coles

David | Photo by Shadimere Coles

Workwear | Photo by Shadimere Coles

Rangers | Photo by Shadimere Coles

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