Photographer Thea Traff

Hadley Rahrig

“What attracts me to photography is that it captures the moment in a very simple, pure way. It’s a very tangible grasp of the fleeting world,” Thea Traff said.

Originally from Wisetta, Minessota, Traff was drawn to Colgate by the overwhelming sense of community she experienced during a reunion weekend. She began her college experience as a philosophy major, but realized that she could transform her studio arts minor into a major in order to pursue her greater interest in photography.

“It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Philosophy and studio arts work well together,” she explains.

Traff describes the amazing sense of community within the arts department, enriched by the close-knit group of friends she gained in her two-semester seminar. The department includes students that specialize across the different mediums but she asserts that the diversity keeps things interesting. Traff explains the benefits of the many art history requirements included within a studio arts major.

“Exposure to art history has really supplemented my art practice,” she said.  Thea Traff’s exploration of photography and art expands beyond Colgate. Her study abroad experience in Milan, Italy, was a music program filled with “quirky opera students.” It was through this program that she fell in love with Da Vinci. Furthermore, this past summer Traff worked as a photo intern for The New Yorker where she did photo research and worked directly with editors and photo commissioners.

“The coolest experience was being with the commission photographers that came into the office every day,” Traff said. “It was incredible to sit down with them and the editors to see how their work could be applied to the magazine. It was a really intellectual work environment.”

Next year, Traff hopes to apply her love for photography to a career as a photo assistant or within a photo department of the media.

This year, Traff employed these experiences to her own aesthetics in her senior project, featuring a series of minimalist photographs titled “Vast Landscapes.”

“I have a very minimalist aesthetic and a very formal eye, so my photographs are very very simple,” she adds.

 Her photographs include pictures of landscapes and a series of four show a long exposure painterly technique. This project depicts Traff’s affirmation of her specific artistic vision and style.

Traff describes her discovery through “Vast Landscapes,” by asking, “Do my photographs with little in them have any meaning?”

 “If I trust my gut in my aesthetic it will tell more about myself rather than I think about the meaning beforehand and let that drive my content. It will be less true to my eye and my intent.” 

Contact Hadley Rahrig at

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