Photographs towards perfection

Artist of the Week


If you could catch a moment in a flash, capture a person’s being and presence instantaneously, how magical would that be? To Audrey Yan ‘19, these actions are daily occurrences — photography is both her passion and mission as her final year at Muhlenberg draws to a close.

“I’m a double major in studio art with a concentration in photography, and the other major is dance with a concentration in choreography,” Yan says, sitting beneath her hanging artwork.

“I was really intrigued with cities,” Yan gestures toward the circular works behind her.

“I really wanted to do panoramics. So originally I was just going to do that photo over there,” a photo of two rings of cities hangs in the left corner of Yan’s art wall, a giant pupil stares back.

Her first photograph was of two simple circular structures, one circle drawn within another. It was only a test, but a start toward her new project—that being enso.

Enso is a brushstroke…it symbolizes strength, elegance, peace … zen in a way.”

Yan presented more photographs of cities in circular formation, however, unlike the previous there were incomplete.

“Enso is minimalistic, one-maybe two strokes, and it symbolizes peace and strength… it’s also a little bit about perfection … the reason it’s not a closed circle is because it allows for room to grow. For everything to become perfect.”

Enso serves as both a symbol and philosophy within Zen Buddhist tradition. As Yan states, it is simply an incomplete, painted circle, which serves to represent Zen ideology.

Yan strives to find an interesting and creative balance within her photography between cities and enso itself.

“I chose to do that because I think it’s kind of ironic … cities aren’t often viewed as peaceful. I wanted to play with it physically looking like an enso sign, and then adding a liberty bell, and then I put in the Chinese symbol for love.”

Balancing between her dance and art studio majors, Audrey Yan ’19 explains her reasoning behind her interest in enso.

While researching enso, Yan began incorporating its teachings into her second major.

“I’m also choreographing this semester for Moving Stories, and the piece I’m doing refers back to enso. I wanted to try and merge the two together.”

With these two majors in hand, I couldn’t help but wonder about her inspiration.

“I never really pictured myself being a studio art major actually. I came to college thinking I was going to be a math and dance major — I took one math class and — no,” she laughed.

“I moved on to print making but I had an allergic reaction to the chemicals in the ink, so…” another laugh as Yan clapped her hands together, “Alright! Time to change that … and I ended up being a photographer.”

Yan initially began her photo career with portraits of those around her.

“I think people are really complicated … depending on how you capture them, how you edit them to look…the eyes are the window to the soul. I think you can tell a lot about a person by the way that they hold themselves in a picture. I think that’s really intriguing and people can always draw from it and interpret it way differently depending on how close they are to the person.”

She leaned in closer on her couch, her left hand gestured again towards me.

“Everyone can take photos, and I think that’s something very important to keep in mind: everyone has this technology to take photos with, but it’s like what you do with it and what you personally connect to that photo is what other people see.”

Yan’s photos achieve another level of understanding. Taking different philosophies and concepts, she brings them together for something new, spectacular and beautiful.

“Performing art, or visual art, can mean a lot for different people. It’s a great outlet for anxiety or anything like that…you’re allowed to express whatever you want, without even having to explain it.”


Lauren Mazur, member of the class of 2019, serves as the co-editor of the Arts & Culture section. Now a Junior, she is a double major in English and Music as well as a part of the Pre-Law program.


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