Frame of reverence

Justin Kern's (AB’03, PhD’10) campus photos filter complex experience into concentrated emotion.

In college, Kern saved for a camera while working at Harper Library’s circulation desk—“back when there were still books n the reading room.” This spot became a frequent photo subject for Kern.

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To get this image of the main quads reflected in an inch of rainwater and melting snow, Kern hung his camera upside down from his tripod so it was almost touching the ground.

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With Mandel Hall vanishing into the distance and the Reynolds Club seal shining in the foreground, Kern captured one of his earliest views of campus as a visiting high-school senior in 1999.

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Ida Noyes’s carved benches are “one of those things you walk by every day and don’t pay attention to until”—as when Kern dropped in—“someone moves it 20 feet to the right.”

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Kern shot this image of a nearly leafless tree in front of Swift Hall in late October. “Fall and winter are my two favorite times on campus,” he says. “The light is beautiful.”

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This Rockefeller Chapel staircase is part of what Kern calls his “University of Chicogwarts” series: campus images that recall Harry Potter settings. This one is titled “The Chamber of Secrets.”

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Like so many Chicago students, Kern first came to the Chicago Theological Seminary for the Co-op bookstore. But he returned for its lamp-lit staircases and Gothic corridors.

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