Alumni Photographers Return to Campus


Anne Day

As students stepped into Main Building this fall, pictures of a winter sunset at Fairfield Farm, a misty sunrise above Beeslick Pond, and other natural scenes greeted them. While Mr. Tom Blagden Jr. ’69 ’s photos of the school’s landscape at the entrance of the Main Building will be up through the year, a temporary exhibit of his photographs and works by two other alumni also grace the campus in other locations. Mr. Joe Standart ’69 ’s works are located outside the Griswold Science Building, and Mr. Stephen Toll ’69’s photographs are hung in the Main Hallway.
The school is featuring works by the three alumni to complement the 1969 class’s 50th reunion from September 27-29. Mrs. Caroline Reilly, director of constituent relations, planned these exhibitions. She explained, “These shows are an example of the powerful impact of legacy. Mr. Tom Blagden Sr. ’29, a previous Hotchkiss art teacher’s paintings [already hang] in the dining hall. Now, Mr. Blagden Jr., Mr. Standart, and Mr. Toll’s works are displayed around campus. Hopefully, these works will inspire current Hotchkiss students.”
Mr. Blagden’s other exhibit is displayed in the Rotunda. It is entitled “The Legacy of Landscape” and features locations across the nation, including Northwest CT, South Carolina, the Grand Canyon, and Costa Rica. In the introduction to his exhibit, Mr. Blagden writes, “If ecology is all about the diversity of living things and their inter-relationships, then nature photography is about the diversity of aesthetics that define our emotional response to Mother Earth. I photograph to evoke a landscape that is temporal, forever dynamic, vulnerable, mysterious, unbounded and, above all, humbling.”
Mr. Toll’s exhibition, “American Splendor,” lines the Main Hallway. His photographs feature a variety of landscapes, including hills, plains, mountains, rivers, and deserts.

It is vert important for viewers…to look at these photographic renderings of nature, to appreciate its beauty and not take [the] environment surrounding us for granted.

— Mr. Stephen Toll ’69

Mr. Toll first discovered the diversity of the country’s landscape when he moved from New England to California. He said, “Since moving West, I traveled more, and was able to capture more landscapes and scenery with photos. It is very important for viewers, such as the Hotchkiss community, to look at these photographic renderings of nature, to appreciate its beauty and not take [the] environment surrounding us for granted.”
Titled “WE ARE: A Nation of Immigrants,” Mr. Standart’s exhibit is displayed on the lawn between the Science Building and the Health Center. The photographs were formally exhibited on The Green in New Haven.
His large portraits capture the varied faces of immigrants to the United States. “I’ve had this idea for a long time,”’ Mr. Standart recalled, “I was inspired by the unique cultures I’ve encountered during my travels abroad, and I want to accentuate the same diversity of culture that is present in America, to highlight the importance of acceptance.”
The 50th Reunion brought many memories back to the alumni photographers. Mr. Standart said, “I was first exposed to photography when I was still at Hotchkiss. My friends and I would experiment with analog photography in the basement of the Science Building.”
The exhibitions have also ignited curiosity in many students. Jerry Qiao ’22 commented, “We were able to talk about [the new works] in our photography class. The photos are beautiful, and the diversity that’s present in the works is even more remarkable.”
Illene Park ’22 sees a resonance between the school’s values and these works. She said, “[They] are a great representation of the multifaceted beauty and diversity in today’s world as well as [in] the Hotchkiss community.”
While the photographs that decorate the Main Entrance will remain on the walls until the summer of 2021, Mr. Blagden and Mr. Toll’s exhibits will be displayed through October 16; Mr. Standart’s installation will remain until October 21.