School of Built Environment & Development Studies

Exhibition of Photographs of Students in Informal Spaces of Higher Education

A photographic exhibition titled Students’ Reflection In and Of Higher Education Spaces: Post-Apartheid was held recently by South African Architecture lecturer Mrs Bridget Horner.

Horner’s exhibition formed part of her doctoral research into the meanings students derive from informal spaces they occupy on campus with the purpose being to initiate dialogue with them about these spaces.

The question posed by the exhibition was what do these images tell about being a student in higher education in a post-apartheid South African university.

In line with this question, people at the exhibition’s opening were asked to choose an image that resonated with them and then select a string from behind a board and place it next to the chosen image.

‘This action launched the conversations to follow by visually signifying the images that resonate with people in this space thus contributing to defining the space of the exhibition.’

Bridget Horner

This exhibition was the culmination of several phases during which Horner gathered information on the informal spaces of higher education.  Beginning in 2018, she started with a photographic competition with the intention of highlighting spaces on campus that were meaningful to students, followed by a series of chalkboards in strategic locations around campus asking students question about spaces they were in.

‘These projects gave me a sense of the issues on campus and also brought me in contact with the eight students represented in this exhibition. Towards the end of 2018, we co-produced many images related to food, accommodation and transport spaces as well as other significant spaces,’ said Horner.

The 24 images of the exhibition were created out of conversations with the students individually and then collectively to establish which images were most relevant to being a student in higher education. Each image was individually labelled by the student to reflect what they thought it expressed.  The sequence in which the images were laid out on each board was also decided by the student.

‘The images were arranged in conversation with the student next to them as a means to invoke contrasts and similarities in the reading of the images,’ said Horner. ‘The blank images were intentional – students exercised their ethical right not to be seen but for their voices to be heard in the text,’ said Horner. ‘Some students preferred their faces not to be clearly recognisable and this was also been acknowledged in how the photos have been framed.’

The exhibition, on for only a week, stimulated very interesting and insightful conversations with students from a variety of disciplines.

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