Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Jackie Presutti

In her senior honors thesis, Jackie Presutti examined two iconic war photographs, Robert Capa’s “Falling Soldier” from the Spanish Civil War, and Eddie Adams’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Saigon Execution” (aka “General Loan Executing a Vietcong Suspect”) from the Vietnam War.

Why Hispanic Studies? The Hispanic Studies program at Wheaton is not just a “Spanish” course of study, but very interdisciplinary. It combines history, politics, anthropology, language and literature in a challenging, comprehensive program. I also loved all the professors. Each one brings something unique to the classroom–whether it’s humor, personal stories, or mind-bending discussion of theory.

My honors thesis was the hardest thing I’ve ever worked on, but by far the most rewarding. I was first exposed to Capa’s “Falling Soldier” during Professor Fran de Alba‘s course, “The Spanish Civil War: Memory, Text and Image.” The photo captures the instant of death of a Republican soldier, and it became the most popular and iconic image of the war. I became most interested in the fact that technology permitted the capture of a moment that we can, in no other circumstance, stop and react to. In “Saigon Execution,” Adams again captures the instantaneous moment of death, and shows it to us not as a consequence but as a current action. Despite the ideological drive behind these two graphic and violent images, we, as humans, all react to them in the same way: we are forced to confront death itself and the finitude that makes us all human.

Digging deep: I spent over a year researching at Wheaton, the University of California at Berkeley, la Reina Sofia in Madrid, and the International Center for Photography in New York. My thesis was written entirely in Spanish and was defended in Spanish as well. It was an interdisciplinary study and a great culmination of all of my work at Wheaton.

Shutter love: I have had a passion for photography since a young age, always toting a camera with me. To me, making photographs is like practicing magic, and I love working in the dark room. At Wheaton, my photography really developed (no pun intended) with the guidance of Professor Andy Howard. I’ve joked on numerous occasions that I “minored in Howard,” having taken all of his photography courses, [participated in] the Arts in Ireland program, and completed two additional independent studies in digital photography.

What I loved most about Wheaton: The people. I have made some of the closest and dearest friends throughout my time at Wheaton, especially the girls in my a cappella group, the Whims, and my professors, with whom I have developed close relationships that will continue long after I have left Wheaton.