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With a Focus on Fine Arts, Senior Is the First in Her Family with Four-Year Degree

Pursuing photography studies has brought senior Brittany Ouellette’s life into focus. As the first in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree, she’s gained valuable commercial and fine art experience at UC – and learned to look inward.

Date: 3/24/2014
By: M.B. Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Brittany Ouellette
While she will earn a fine arts photography bachelor’s degree at the upcoming University of Cincinnati commencement ceremonies April 26, senior Brittany Ouellette, 22, says that what she really learned to do in her studies here was to develop a voice and a vision.
Brittany Ouellette
Brittany Ouellette

Ouellette, a student in UC’s top-ranked College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP), states that from her first year through to her recent thesis project preparations, she’s been challenged in the fine arts photography program “to find where my niche is. As a fine arts student in a rigorous program, you have to communicate through your work, articulating what you have to say and who you want to be.”

And, she admits, “I had no idea when I first came to the program.”

That changed over time thanks to the exposure offered to both professional experience and fine arts in the School of Art.

Ouellette, from Columbus, Ohio, explains that the coursework and faculty serve as practical guides for those who will work as fine artists while also pursuing a wide variety of workplace and career options: “The faculty prepare us for many creative opportunities and also how to apply for artist residencies and get a resume together. While we’re on campus working within an inspiring creative space, we’re also encouraged to get a breadth of experience by preparing to use our creative skills in commercial endeavors too.”

For instance, Ouellette has consistently worked throughout her years at UC both in Cincinnati and Columbus. She’s an assistant photographer for DAAP alumna Laura Fisher of Laura Fisher Photography. And Ouellette has also worked summers as a junior photographer at Kreber Graphics in Columbus. She recalls, “With Kreber, I was able to photograph all the images for CAT Footwear's fall catalogue. I came up with the concepts for the catalogue and styling the shots, working alongside other photographers, stylists, and directors at Kreber and with the creative team for CAT Footwear at global marketer, Wolverine, located in Michigan.” (Cat Footwear is a division of Wolverine World Wide, Inc. and the global footwear licensee of Caterpillar® Inc.)
Image from Brittany Ouellette
Image from Brittany Ouellette's thesis collection.

In tandem with this kind of experience and with a long-term goal of some day becoming a creative/art director for a commercial studio, Ouellette also pursues fine art photography. Currently, she’s focusing on her senior thesis, “Moonscape.”

The digital, black-and-white collection actually focuses in ultra-close views of Ouellette’s own skin and thumbs, which resemble a strange landscape or moonscape thanks to her lighting choices.
It’s a way of investigating her own habits “as a skin picker,” while also connecting with others via this common habit while also exploring the practice for its psychological meaning and purpose.

“The images have meaning on a number of levels. There’s the visible texture of skin photographed at such a level, the representation of internal anxiousness that the picked skin might represent, and also, an almost meditative quality in the images. That comes from what has been a hidden beauty when it’s viewed at close range. The skin becomes a moonscape or a mysterious landscape we’ve previously overlooked,” Ouellette explains.

Her dual focus on this kind of exploratory expression and her commercial endeavors will culminate at this spring’s commencement ceremonies when Ouellette is set to earn the first bachelor’s degree among those in her immediate family.
Image from Brittany Ouellette
Image from Brittany Ouellette's thesis collection.

And she credits her family with providing her needed encouragement to pursue and complete her studies. “I set this goal for myself, and they helped to motivate me and are really proud of me,” says Ouellette, who adds that her older sister and parents will be driving down from Columbus for April’s commencement ceremonies.