In Focus: A love letter to light

Photography by Elisabeth McLaughlin

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Edited by Amelia Milne and Natalie Guerra

I cherish the period of tranquility on late afternoons before the energy of night begins. Crisscrossing Broadway and Amsterdam and eventually strolling through Columbia’s main campus, it is incredibly liberating to wander without a map or a motive. There is something empowering in disassociating from all the rush to solely “be.”

Spending this past year in Switzerland and growing up outside New Orleans, I cannot help but miss being in nature. I miss seeing the entire expanse of the sky. I miss sitting along Zürichsee or Lake Pontchartrain, being unable to discern where the water meets the sky. I miss the haunting stillness of reading under big beautiful oaks and watching the light shine through grey curtains of Spanish moss. Capturing how light paints landscapes and buildings, I have noticed that same ineffable feeling—the feeling that the boundaries between myself and all else have evaporated.

I once believed that buildings were static—confined to space—until I began to truly appreciate light. Capturing the interaction between our natural and man-made environments, light breathes life into our everyday landscapes, even when they seem absent of it. There is something magical in capturing a sensation of warmth, even in the chill of winter.

I love the clarity of colors. I love the contrast. I love the opposition.

I always enjoy asking people what grounds them and makes them feel most like themselves. For me, it’s wandering, noticing, and attempting to capture the day’s subtle hues and that sensation. And sometimes observing feels monumental, ethereal—as if mundanity means more because I was paying attention. Appreciating something as simple as light makes me feel wholly present and closer to the city and Columbia.

Auguste Rodin’s “The Thinker” from the steps of Philosophy Hall, 3:40 p.m.

Clement Meadmore’s “The Curl,” 3:53 p.m.

Strolling past Uris Hall, 4:17 p.m.

Alma Mater, 4:32 p.m.

Low Library, 4:40 p.m.

Reflection of St. Paul's Chapel from Low Library, 4:43 p.m.

Kees Verkade’s “Tightrope Walker,” 4:47 p.m.

Reflection of the International Affairs Building, 4:53 p.m.

Fire escapes of 117th St., 4:57 p.m.

The Law School, 4:45 p.m.

Looking back on 114th St., 4:50 p.m.

Returning to Uris Hall, 5:23 p.m.

Last glimpse of light on Earl Hall, 5:45 p.m.

A sliver of the moon over Dodge Hall, 5:50 p.m.

Outside Earl Hall, 5:52 p.m.

Lingering light between Butler Library and Lerner Hall, 5:55 p.m.