Student Spotlight: Parker Reinecker

Hello hello!  So I know we just did a feature on a photography major, but I simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to show you all this guy before he graduates, Parker Reinecker. I had a 2D class with Parker last year and loved his stuff then, but when I caught glimpse of what he does with a camera, I was absolutely floored!  So here he is, the man of the week, Parker.

Meet Parker:

portrait michelle beck

Portrait by Michelle Beck

Name: Parker Reinecker, Class of 2016
Major: Photography
Minors: Art History, English

I am majoring in art because…personally I think this question is absolutely ridiculous but I’ll just tell you what kind of happened. I ended up at Marywood because of a girl. I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do. I was just into reading and writing and had some sort of grandiose idea that I was going to get my English degree and go to law school. I always enjoyed taking photos of my friends skateboarding, so I picked up a photo minor just as kind of sort of something to do. To make a short story even shorter, when she was out of the picture I kind of had no idea what to do then. I switched my major back and forth between English and photo, which I lied on my entrance essay you needed to write to get into the major. I guess I said I had been making images since I was a kid etc., but I really had absolutely no idea what I was doing or what was good for that matter. Anyway I switched back and forth like three times, and I kind of sort of realized I would rather be happy than important, if that makes any sense. There’s more to it than that but that’s pretty much what happened. I was happy making images; I was happy making art. One thing a lot of freshman and sophomores don’t realize, and it’s sad to say but a number of juniors and seniors don’t understand it as well, but over the course of the past couple years something kind of clicked where I realized that learning about drawing and painting and additive composition really helped and tied in to the photography I was making. I throw quite a bit of clay, and I’m super into it, and I see how ceramics, which is a rather primitive and classic medium, ties into this “new” medium of photography. Studying the composition between the two is the same. All art in one form or another relates to one another. That was one of the biggest realizations I have had throughout my career at Marywood. I feel that if that doesn’t click for you at some point through your stay here, then you’re probably not going to make it very far.

The kinds of things that inspire me are, well, I’m super into social issues, poverty, blue-collar rednecks, the unemployed, alcoholism, religion, what makes America “America”, small town Americana, stuff like that. But it’s more than just those issues; it’s more about finding hope through struggle. Again, a short story even shorter, I had issues with crime and addiction, lived in an abandoned building in Harrisburg, ran around northwest Baltimore for a while, jail- been there, done that. So I find myself when documenting various social issues or working on projects or just doing street work. Recently I’ve been using light and heavy shadow not just to make a proper exposure, but as an element of composition—finding light through the darkness. I’m attracted to the lower class. I once said, in my general artist statement, “I love these people and this broken landscape with all of my heart, I love them because I am one of them.”

My favorite class so far was, hmm… Even though I do documentary and street photography in color, it was when I was taking a Large Format Black and White Photography class that I absolutely fell in love with the medium. Using the zone system for large format and then printing those images on matte paper in the darkroom, it was the first time I really felt I was in control of the medium. I think every image I took for that class came out exactly how I planned it coming out. I was able to see an image before I even pushed the shutter. Even though I consider myself, I guess you would say, a fast-paced person, shooting 4×5 film forced me to slow down and really study what I was shooting. Also, at that time I was taking The History of Photography courses, so I was really learning a lot of not just the how, but the why of the medium. Even today I have to be consistently studying theory. WHATEVER MY MEDIUM IS. I have to be looking at what other people have done and what other people are doing. AND WHY. That’s a whole different question, but when I was shooting 4×5, and I still do from time to time, that was when I really got into it. I remember the first environmental portrait I took was of my buddy Chris in his living room. I had him sit in this chair in the corner, and I went to turn this light on that was by him and like all but two light bulbs were burnt out of this lamp, trash was just scattered behind me, his house was a mess. I had four sheets of 4×5 black and white loaded up in the film holders, and the way Chris is, he doesn’t take many things seriously, and he thought it was ridiculous that I was taking his portrait. So I loaded the first sheet and asked him how his relationship was with his family, and I took the photo. He was laughing and said “Good?” I loaded the second sheet and asked him if he had any brothers or sisters, he responded, “Yeah?” and I took the photo. The third sheet I asked him if anybody close to him had died recently and he again responded, “Yeah?” He was still smirking and even let out a light chuckle when I took the photo. The fourth sheet of film I asked him, “Did you go to the funeral?” and he just responded “No.” And I took the photo. In that fourth image, you can tell by the look in his eyes that he was somewhere else. It wasn’t just about the subject it was about that subject being out of himself, almost a sense of isolation in his own house, being in front of the camera didn’t matter anymore. That fourth photo is the one I printed.

When I’m not in class I’m usually working. I work at a coffee shop in Clarks Summit. It’s a blast; taking photos, playing ice hockey, or screwing around on my motorcycle.

The coolest thing I’ve done so far is, hmm… There are too many cool things to name. Just speaking about recently, or within the past year, I’ve been able to do a lot of cool stuff. Last summer I had an opportunity to put a small body of work together in Tokyo and that, to say the least, was a really cool experience. I backpacked down to Kyoto which was cool, but the highlight of the trip was walking through the hot, humid, rainy streets of Tokyo over the course of eight days. Being by myself halfway across the world was awesome! I met a lot of cool people and shot like over 1400 images, and I have it edited down to I think like 54 images from the trip. It was a real challenge being thrown into a completely different culture and having to come up with a concept at the drop of a hat. A number of ideas ran through my head but two days into the trip I was looking through some images and I realized I was unknowingly at the time, using a lot of doors and windows, and framing within the frame as an element of composition, so you really kind of got the feel of an outsider looking in. This will be answered in the next question but I have had the opportunity to get into a number of grad schools I applied to, two of them being in the top 10 in the country. My feeling of gratitude for everything that has happened within the past couple years is beyond words. Not bad for a junkie who didn’t expect to live past 21. And super recent, I got into my first judged photo exhibition in Plymouth, Massachusetts. I thought I only had one photo accepted, but I actually had two picked to be in the exhibition. I framed and sent them one, drove up for the opening and didn’t realize I had two picked until I got the catalog on my way out the door, and both the images were in there. You win some, you lose some, but it was really a blessing because there were like 1,500 applicants, they picked 174 images, seven countries were represented, and thirty states. I was really stoked about that. Now I’ve been making an effort to try and hit the gallery circuit hard. I’ve been applying to exhibitions like crazy recently and have been going just about broke in just the entrance fees, but I mean if you put the hard work, good things will come.

When I graduate, though it was a tough decision, and I was even debating whether I should go for my MFA at all, but I did make the decision to go to Savannah College of Art and Design, which I’m really excited about. The original plan was to kind of follow in Niko’s footsteps and go to SVA in New York, and I actually got in which I didn’t think I was going to, but throughout the whole process I applied to SCAD, which I didn’t think I was going to get into either because I just recently started showing work and I can pick apart my portfolio till the cows come home, but I secretly kind of hoped that I didn’t get into SVA and got into SCAD even though SVA was like my first choice. It was a hard decision and I got some amazing offers from some good state schools as well, but I went to Savannah and checked the program out, and mainly was looking at work that was coming out of there, and it just felt right in my heart I guess. I had been to SVA and NYU and the whole vibe was just so cut throat which is cool, I can accept a challenge but that was one thing I really enjoyed about Marywood, you never really felt you were working against anybody here. Granted, art, especially photography, is super competitive, but seeing some of the chic, New York, elitist stuff coming out of SVA, and all the art programs up there, I just couldn’t get into that. I’m also a Red Sox fan. They are also doing a lot of video stuff, which is awesome and super big as a medium right now, but I can’t get down with it, at least not right now with my own work. Besides, with the direction I’m kind of trying to push with the concept of my work, this small town America, it would be really hard to build on that in the big city. A few weeks ago I flew down to Georgia to check out the program. I got out of the tour at SCAD and sat in one of the town squares down the street from the admissions building and just like started to cry. I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t. What’s also really cool about going for a goal is when you actually achieve it. I feel like a lot of times, however, you reach your goal and then you’re like “Now what?” I have yet to get to that point. I’m still in awe I guess, and I feel like I really didn’t do anything. I just did what I love and enjoy, and the staff, beyond words, has helped me. My father was never around and over the past however many years I feel like Sam Olfano has been the closest thing to that. I talk to that man about everything, and I’ve been friends with Niko Kallianiotis since he was a grad student here, before he went to SVA. Those two are two of my best friends, and without those two, and nearly all the staff really pushing me, and questioning the work, and molding ideas, none of this would have been possible at all.

I’d recommend the Art Program at Marywood because within the department you always feel a part of something. I mean, there’s a lot of people who don’t take it seriously and and you can kind of see it in their work, and it’s really sad, but that’s the way the world is. If you can’t swim, you’re going to drown. With that being said, I’ve had awesome people in the beginning and throughout who have taught me how to kick my feet and hold my breath, if you know what I mean. I’d recommend Marywood for a hundred reasons, it’s been really great to me, but you get out of it what you put in, or at least what you’re willing to put in. I would mainly recommend Marywood because of the people. That something you feel a part of is more than just a likeness in the arts, it’s a collective of creators, thinkers, and problem solvers in the grand scheme of things. Its awesome, there’s a lot of love. Speaking for photo, but I’m sure it’s like that within the other departments, we’re like a little family. You’re constantly looking and working with your peers, working in other mediums, which as I said in the first question, relating the mediums together is really important and more influential than you could imagine. And throughout all of these ups, downs, and all the in betweens, I think it’s an experience. If you choose to go this way, you shouldn’t miss out on it, and be sure to do it right. Throw yourself into the work. It’s a commitment, but I mean that’s what art is. It’s not about the materials as much as it is a commitment to an idea, a concept, an experience. Marywood has done me so well. I’m not talking about money when I say I feel like I’ll be in debt for my time here for the rest of my life, and the only way I can even begin to try and pay it back, especially to the faculty, is by just following my dreams and goals and moving forward. This has been absolutely nothing but awesome, and I can’t say thank you enough.

Some of Parker’s Work:

Parker, I just want you to know just how inspiring your story and your words are. So many of these things you’ve said here, they should be textbook quotes on surviving life and what being an artist is about. You’ve truly touched me as a young artist, and I’m sure you’ve reached the many others reading this. After reading about the motives behind your work and where you draw inspiration from, you’ve inspired me to become more in touch with my own art again.

You an check out more of Parker’s work on his website and on Instagram at @in_the_park_photo.

What a perfect way to end this chapter of the Student Spotlight here on Where Creativity Works. I know art school is tough sometimes, and it can feel like you’re just going through the motions some days, just completing projects instead of really creating them, but at the end of the day, you have the best major in the world. You’re an art major. I hope you all go out this summer and get real inspired, and fall madly in love with yourself and your work again. Let the sunshine rejuvenate your creative spirit, and if you haven’t already, I hope you discover your cause. Ya know, that thing that’s buried deep under the skin, deep in the guts; that thing you can’t quite explain to people. That thing that makes you an artist.

This is Maddesen Paige Wright saying “peace out” and have an inspirational summer. To all the graduating seniors, you will be dearly missed. Now get out there and show ’em what you can do, and what Marywood taught you. Love to all.

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