Thirty-four residential communities. Almost 8,300 undergraduates. From Carman to the Quad, from East Campus to Cathedral Gardens, from special interest housing to Greek-life brownstones.
How do people treat the modest square footage allocated to them while they’re at school?
Before arriving at Columbia, some of us had envisioned the exact twin XL sheets we would fit onto our beds, the most unique arrangement for our standardized furniture, and whether we would shun our high school photos in favor of concert posters. And some of us couldn’t care less about these things, knowing that the space is ours for only a few months before it is relinquished in May, stripped clean of our possessions and in need of a fresh coat of paint.
Yet the sheer volume of conversation that accompanies the housing process is a testament to its importance in our lives. In “A Room of Their Own,” photographer Vanessa Hollander explores just how much our spaces become manifestations of ourselves—or, at any rate, of who we are at Columbia.
“Shooting this made me realize how important rooms are as means of expression,” Hollander says. “People use clothing as a daily method of communicating the mood they’re in that day, but rooms can’t be changed as frequently.”
“Most people I photographed collected pieces of the most significant aspects of their lives as decorations,” she adds. “It feels like we must feature photos and art from our best friends, letters from home, posters of our favorite bands, and souvenirs from travel on the walls of the tiny space we’re given.”