When we started planning our team’s coverage of Indiana University’s commencement ceremonies back in March, I challenged my colleagues to “photograph the weird”. Things are weird. Document it. Document the history. My unit’s primary focus is marketing, but I have felt a big, self-assigned responsibility since the beginning of the pandemic to make sure our 200-year-old university’s history is captured. After all, I don’t anticipate much of a shelf life for marketing photos featuring masks and social distancing if the pandemic ends.
I photographed five commencement ceremonies this year. After two ceremonies here in Bloomington, I traveled to IU regional campuses in Kokomo, South Bend and Gary. The ceremonies were held without audience members in attendance making for a striking visual component to each ceremony. Commencement is arguably a university’s most important ritual – and typically one of the most photographed. By documenting it this year I hope my photos will stand in contrast to those taken in “normal times”.