Portrait of a dream

Jonas Kahn '93 photographing from the roof of the old science center.The Mars Center for Science and Technology seems to put a spell on people. (It has even inspired Professor Sue Standing to write poetry and Professor Delvyn Case to compose music in honor of it.)

There’s a look people get when they talk about the building. It’s sort of this faraway, dreamy gaze that lingers. There is a breathiness in their voices as they seek the words to adequately describe what looks like a building but is so much more.

I’ve seen it and heard it in the months leading up to the dedication in September. President Ronald A. Crutcher had that look this summer as he sat in his office talking about the challenges that had to be overcome to bring forth the largest capital project in Wheaton’s history during such a tough economy. Professor Tommy Ratliff has that excitement in his voice in an online video interview, as he discusses the goals for the new science center.

Barbara Dill, our art director, recently expressed that feeling best as we talked in my office: “I arranged a meeting there just to be in the building,” she said. “When I’m there it’s just so…so amazing. I feel like the building has a pulse. It’s just so alive.”

So, naturally, when Barbara, David Laferriere (Quarterly designer) and I began to plan the cover image for this issue, we wanted the photos to truly capture the specialness of this grand new space in the light of day and the drama of night.

Who better than a talented alum photographer to do the job? We turned to Boston-area photographer Jonas Kahn ’93 (www.jonaskahn.com), who majored in sociology and minored in studio art. In his hands, the building became a carefully studied subject brought to life. He didn’t want to just shoot the building; he wanted to understand it.

“After we initially spoke about the shoot, I came to campus because I wanted to see it, get a sense of its orientation, and figure out what elements look best at what times of day,” he said. “I snapped test shots all around the building to see which angles were most flattering. I shot some images to digest the architecture and to understand it in the context of the rest of the campus. I also had a few cups of coffee in the new Diana Davis Spencer ’60 Café and soaked in the place.”

He revisited campus five times, day and night, before completing the shoot. Sunny breaks were rare. It rained on many nights. But he was patient.

“It was nice to have an excuse to spend time on campus again. The experience inspired me to reflect on my adult life. It made me remember my youth and reminded me why I chose to pursue the path I am on. Wheaton played a big role in my decisions. I wanted to make sure my photos reflected the pride I have in the college.”

They do, Jonas.

See the rest of Mars come to life in this issue of the Quarterly, which also features great images by freelance photographers Keith Nordstrom and Nicki Pardo.

Photo by David Laferriere