Behind the Camera: Zoe Vayer, Class of 2016

For four years, Amherst student Zoe Vayer has been a mainstay at the Mead, working as a student lobby attendant and often photographing special events. She graduated in May with a degree in Environmental Studies and Art & the History of Art.

A month before graduation, many Mead staff members attended the opening of Zoe’s Studio Art Honors Exhibition at Eli Marsh Gallery. Her photo project, titled “Soil and Salt,” documented Long Island’s North Fork, where she and her family have lived since their move from Manhattan several years ago. Located on the tip of Long Island, this magnificent area is celebrated for its farms, vineyards, and views of Long Island Sound.

Zoe is back on Long Island this summer, studying for the LSAT and working with Cornell University’s Cooperative Extension. Here, she talks with us about photography and Amherst, and shares some stunning examples of her work behind the camera — in locations from Long Island to the Arctic Circle.

Photographers and other artists whose work inspires you: 
Richard Avedon (especially his photographs In the American West), Irving Penn, Ron Jude (his book Lago), Claude Monet
Do you prefer making photographs of people, places, or things? I love taking photographs of people. However, recently I have begun to enjoy landscape photography. Portrait photography has a very different purpose from landscape photography.

Butting Heads 8%22
“You can’t tell a goat to stay still.”  Photo by Zoe Vayer. Courtesy Zoe Vayer

I suppose I should add “or animals,” since I saw in your honors exhibition some photos of farm animals, such as goats. What’s different about working with animals as subjects? It’s almost impossible to communicate with animals. You can’t tell a goat to stay still.  Also, if they move a certain way, such as butting heads, or they look in a specific direction, you as the photographer can miss that moment. Then you just have to wait. Hopefully, if they do it again, you and your camera are ready.
Favorite camera: I would say my favorite digital camera is my Nikon D7000. However, I first learned photography using film cameras.
Own any analog film cameras? I have a collection of cameras, but my favorite and most used is my Nikon FE2.
Color or black and white? I like both; each has a time and a place. I prefer to photograph digitally in color. I can always convert images to black and white later.
Where you spent your semester abroad: I studied abroad in Sweden. One of my favorite trips while there was to the Arctic Circle where I met several Sami families. My grandfather was Sami so it was really important to me to understand my family’s history.

2014_Vayer_Zoe_Kiruna_Sweden_Things
“One of my favorite trips [while studying abroad] was to the Arctic Circle.” Photo by Zoe Vayer. Courtesy Zoe Vayer

Best part about working at the Mead: Seeing the new exhibits and watching the changes the museum has been going through. I’ve been particularly excited about the new photography appearing on the walls.

Zoe Honors Reception 2
Zoe Vayer (center) surrounded by Mead staff members at the opening of the Amherst College Studio Honors Exhibition, April 26, 2016. Photo by Vanja Malloy

What you’ll miss most about Amherst: I’ll miss living in a beautiful place with such vast resources.

 

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