Thesis project dives into local waterway

Close’s project was chosen to recieve the CARAS grant, which will allow her to spend this semester photographing the Susquehanna River for her thesis project. | Courtesy HANNAH CLOSE
Close’s project was chosen to recieve the CARAS grant, which will allow her to spend this semester photographing the Susquehanna River for her thesis project. | Courtesy HANNAH CLOSE

Growing up in Havre de Grace, Md., a town that lies where the Susquehanna River flows into the Chesapeake Bay, Tyler School of Art student Hannah Close decided to transform this vital resource for her community into inspiration for her senior thesis project.

“The Susquehanna has been a huge part of my life,” Close said. “I used to cross the bridge every day to go to school. I have been swimming, sailing [and] kayaking on the river. I have a really personal connection and great access to this beautiful part of our country, and I have taken it for granted.”

Close had great success working on a similar project for her self-directed final last year, which focused on the way color reflects on water.

She decided to expand upon that idea for this project, which documents all 464 miles of the Susquehanna River.

The senior photography major has traveled across multiple state lines since officially beginning the project last September and is grateful for having had the ability to travel.

“The [Creative Arts, Research and Scholarship] grant that I was awarded was absolutely key in making this possible, because otherwise I might not be able to afford the traveling aspect,” she said. “I really do feel connected to [the river], and it is so incredibly beautiful.”

While Close said photographing nature is what she is most comfortable with, this particular project has forced her to push the boundaries.

“In a project this huge, I really have to think about how to make each image different, what concepts to focus on and how to tell a story successfully, so this project is pushing my skills to levels I have not been to before,” Close said.

It is also equally important to her to tie her personal connections to the river into the project.

“It’s not just about what I can show in pictures, it’s about me personally seeing with my own eyes every inch of this river from beginning to end so I understand it’s life that exists before it gets to my hometown,” Close said. “I doubt many people can say they have seen this whole river, as [parts of it are]  non-navigable by boat, but it was really important for me to see all of it.”

Close said this connection she is able to have with nature is one of her favorite parts of the experience, along with exploring areas of the river not many people are lucky enough to see.

“I wanted to show people something they had not been paying attention to, something that I love and have a deep personal and spiritual connection to,” she said. “Water is something that connects all of us, it supports all of us, and the Susquehanna was something that I had knowledge of and could use to show people how important our natural resources are.”

While her main focus was to photograph the river, from its beginnings in Cooperstown, N.Y., to her hometown, Close said she was so moved that she would love to be able to work on other projects involving environmental conservation.

“As [the Susquehanna] is one of the most endangered rivers in the U.S., I would be really interested in showing other, more desperate landscapes that need our attention,” Close said.

Alexa Bricker can be reached at alexa.bricker@temple.edu.

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