“Color of Time” opened in Westby Hall Gallery 207 this past Wednesday, showcasing various animals, environments and people in Cuba and Colombia. These documentary photos were all taken by Julian Zuniga.
The senior radio, television and film major has been working on this project for the past four years, traveling to Colombia and Cuba whenever he got the chance.
A native of Colombia, Zuniga moved to the U.S. with his father when he was 9 years old. During his freshman year of college, Zuniga decided to move back to Colombia and reconnect with his mother and other family members after 12 years apart.
“So much time had gone by and family is a big part in anyone’s life,” Zuniga said. “Knowing I was a freshman in college coming into my career, I figured it was the right time to take care of my family and do that before I settled in my career, which at the time I didn’t know what my career would be.”
After spending time with his family and getting to know them personally again, Zuniga felt inspired to travel the country he was born in and document what he saw through photos.
“I snowballed from doing nature – literally just things I would come across while traveling – and realized behind all these landscapes, all this nature and all this tourism, there are people who live in these places,” Zuniga said. “In those areas there’s different tribes, different cultures, and people around who you don’t typically take into consideration when you visit these landscapes.”
“That’s what I love about cinematography: you can zoom into a particular person and then step back to a community then step back to a country,” Zuniga said.
The exhibit is set up to represent Zuniga’s transition from taking photos of nature and landscapes to people living in those areas. He had people playing music important to the culture of the places he had visited, an effort to surround people in the Cuban and Colombian culture. His photos captured landscapes before and after a major drought, people living in poor areas who are selling items from shopping carts on the streets and people living in wealthy areas who are driving nice cars.
“That’s what I love about cinematography: you can zoom into a particular person and then step back to a community then step back to a country,” Zuniga said. “You realize there’s common threads why some places fail at a cultural level. It was a duty to myself, my family and my culture that I preserve all this and keep it alive.”
This exhibit marked the first time Zuniga showed the work from his travels and the explanations that go along with it.
“This is the first time I’m open about it,” Zuniga said. “I’ve been showing these pictures to family and close friends, but never the story of it. I’ve learned there’s more to a picture than just a pretty picture. There’s people behind it, conflict and so many other things that I wasn’t prepared for.”
Rather than feeling nervous, Zuniga looked forward to people seeing his work.
“It was more exciting than being nerve-wracking,” Zuniga said. “It’s work I’ve sat on for years so it’s more of a relief to get it out there so I can move on to new things.”
Attending the event were friends and coworkers of Zuniga as well as Rowan students who were unfamiliar with Zuniga’s work. Friend of Zuniga and fellow senior radio, television and film major Marc Delmonico had seen some of Zuniga’s photos previously, but enjoyed seeing his friend’s work as a whole product.
“It’s fantastic. You can see the talent in every single photo,” Delmonico said. “I absolutely appreciate my friend’s talent for what he does and it interests me to see his life.”
Zuniga’s exhibit appealed to those familiar with photography as well as those who had never considered it an art, such as junior mechanical engineering major Steven Magown, Zuniga’s coworker.
“I thought the exhibit was excellent,” Magown said. “It showed me that art comes in many different forms; it doesn’t have to be painted to sculpted. Sometimes, it can just be using a camera.”
Assistant Director for the Office of Student Activities (OSA) Melissa Ulmer, who overlooks Zuniga’s work at OSA through her special events and marketing specialties, looked forward to seeing Zuniga’s photos outside of those he takes for his job.
“So many of his pictures come from Colombia, which is where he’s from,” Ulmer said. “For us, we’re looking at these faces of people and nature and all these different things and thinking, ‘Wow, I can’t believe this exists,’ but for him it’s just home.”
“It’s an outlet for him to share a place that means a lot to him with the rest of us,” she continued.” Not only being able to understand the history and culture of Colombia but also what it means to him and his family is really fun.”
Zuniga’s ultimate hope is to expose people to countries and cultures they don’t experience or even think about.
“There’s so much out there that we don’t know and don’t care about, but we should,” Zuniga said. “If people walk away knowing there are other cultures and places at our reach that we can experience firsthand, rather than getting a glimpse through social media or T.V., then that’s all I really care about.”
“Color of Time” will be open through Nov. 7.
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