I've been interviewing high school kids for college for almost 15 years and am about to start interviewing for next year. Here are a few general notes that might help interviewees. If you've googled your way here, you're on the right track, you're preparing.
Before beginning, be prompt and courteous when setting up a meeting time. Your interviewer is probably a busy person who is making time for you. Be respectful. Set up the interview yourself (i.e. don't rely on your mom). Don't be late.
1. If you're applying to a top school, odds are you're qualified to go there. Most of you, on paper, look pretty similar. You all have good grades and high SATs; you are all active in extracurriculars; many of you do important community work; in short you're all pretty extraordinary. But too many of you are applying for too few spots. Your college interview, like your college application, is a chance to differentiate yourself. What are you passionate about? What moves you? What gets you up in the morning?
2. You're probably better off applying to 3 schools than you are 10. Make each application count. It is much easier to focus on 3 schools than 10. I've had lots of kids start interviews by talking about other interviews and how tired they are of the application process. This is not a good way to start.
3. Learn about your interviewer. We google you. You should google us too. When we know things about each other, it's easier to have a real conversation.
4. I could care less about your grades, that's for the people in admissions to sort through. I want to hear your story. Think about your story. What made you the person you are? How do you edit your life into an hour? What stories define you? Practice telling your story. Practice telling it out loud (you might just learn something about yourself in the process). Record yourself w/ friends interviewing each other. Like anything, the more you practice, the easier the real interview will be.
5. People who are giving college interviews, tend to be people who love their schools and are protective of them. Learn something about the school. Every school has its own culture. How would you fit into that school culture (or disrupt it!). Read the school newspaper. Visit the school if you can. Be prepared for the question, "Why [school name]?"
6. A good interviewer will ask open ended questions that defy easy answers. It's ok to pause and think about your response. Don't be scared of silence.
7. Be honest. Don't try to be something you're not.
I enjoyed going through Yale MFA student Thomas Gardiner's project "New York Is Big But This Is Biggar" documenting small towns in Western Canada. As a Saskatchewanian friend always says, "You know we're the same, but a little different."
I went out on a walk with my 4 year old Gabriel yesterday. "Where are we going?" he asked as I helped him put on his shoes.
"Nowhere, "we're just walking."
"What do you mean?"
"We're going out to wander. It's a beautiful day."
"But where are we going?" he asked again suspiciously.
"Nowhere. Which way do you want to go?"
He pointed towards the river.
We walked and talked. And we talked and walked. We discussed ducks, Louis Armstrong, the nature of rocks, clouds, snowfall, wind, big brothers, blood, girls, trees and a few other things.
Gabriel directed me to take pictures of him standing on various rocks and benches.
At Brooklyn's Pier 1 park, we spread out on the empty lawn and looked at the blue sky. He ran up the hill, rolled down it. He put grass on my head. More talking. Then, a skinned knee after a second run down the hill ended up in the gravel. No. Big. Deal.
We circled back around by the Brooklyn Bridge and passed a neighborhood playground. "I used to go there when I was little." Gabriel looked through the fence, "We found a bone in there once. Maybe some kid died in there."
He wanted to walk by his school (Empty on a Sunday and deemed creepy. "I thought the teachers lived here... It is very quiet now.")
Soon we were back in familiar territory and then home. The four mile wander was over. He ran through the door to find his brother... they started playing/wrestling immediately. No talk of where we had been. No mention of the walk later at bedtime either.
But this morning on the way to school he asked, "Dad, can we take another walk soon? You know, one where we don't go anywhere."
I'm late in discovering Matt Eich's project Sin and Salvation in Baptist Town but I recommend checking it out as he tells a powerful story. This is a long form project exploring Baptist Town, a troubled neighborhood of Greenwood, Mississippi. Eich talks about his work and gives it more context in blog posts (here and here), and in an interview with Joerg Colberg. More images from the project can be found on photoshelter.
"What is the impact of the closing down of the Wilderness on the development of children's imaginations? This is what I worry about the most. I grew up with a freedom, a liberty that now seems breathtaking and almost impossible. Recently, my younger daughter, after the usual struggle and exhilaration, learned to ride her bicycle. Her joy at her achievement was rapidly followed by a creeping sense of puzzlement and disappointment as it became clear to both of us that there was nowhere for her to ride it—nowhere that I was willing to let her go. Should I send my children out to play?
There is a small grocery store around the corner, not over two hundred yards from our front door. Can I let her ride there alone to experience the singular pleasure of buying herself an ice cream on a hot summer day and eating it on the sidewalk, alone with her thoughts? Soon after she learned to ride, we went out together after dinner, she on her bike, with me following along at a safe distance behind. What struck me at once on that lovely summer evening, as we wandered the streets of our lovely residential neighborhood at that after-dinner hour that had once represented the peak moment, the magic hour of my own childhood, was that we didn't encounter a single other child.
Even if I do send them out, will there be anyone to play with?
Art is form of exploration, of sailing off into the unknown alone, heading for those unmarked places on the map. If children are not permitted–not taught–to be adventurers and explorers as children, what will become of the world of adventure, of stories, of literature itself?”
Feuerwerksbuch by Martin Merz details 15th century artillary, siege equipment, and battlements in a series of fantastic drawings. Scans of the entire book written in 1473 are available from the Bavarian State Library. I'm downloading the whole thing to print out for the kids. They'll love it. (via the always excellent BibliOdyssey)
Hsieh created a number of fascinating performance pieces including Cage Piece (1978-1979) where he locked himself in a cage and didn't allow himself to talk, read, write, or listen/watch media for an entire year and Outdoor Piece (1981-1982) where he lived outside in New York City for a year without shelter. Hsieh stopped making art in 1999. Read his Wikipedia entry to learn more.
I'm printing a new body of work and have to free up some storage space, so I'm selling a number of editioned 20x24, 30x40, and 40x60 prints from my Travels Without Maps series at deep discounts. Most are c-prints. If you are interested, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll send a price list of what's available.
Update: Thanks for the great response! For the last few prints I have a special offer. In addition to the discounted price I'm offering the option to donate half the cost to The Brooklyn School of Inquiry. That portion of the purchase is 100% tax deductible! Some of the final prints are large ones, so it's a great way to get a large photograph for not so much money. The Brooklyn School of Inquiry is one of New York's 5 citywide G&T schools. It's the only one located in Brooklyn and kids from all over the borough attend.
Most nights with my kids after we read books we have question time. Question time is an open forum. The kids have to keep their eyes closed and they can ask any question about anything. It's the favorite part of my day.
Gabriel: Will you die if you don't have a brain?
Me: Yes. You have to have a brain and a heart to live.
Gabriel: What about other things like stomaches and arms and eyeballs.
Me: You can live without arms and eyeballs and even a stomach, but life is harder.
Gabriel: What if you have no arms and no legs and no eyeballs?
Me: Then you would need a lot of help.
Gabriel: What about a sore?
Me: A sore? Like if you're leg is sore?
Gabriel: No inside your body.
Me: A sore inside your body, like if you are sick?
Gabriel (frustrated with me):Not a sore, a soua.
Me: I don't understand.
Gabriel: You know a soua that makes you a person.
Me: Do you mean a soul?
Gabriel: Yes. That word is hard for me you know.
[Gabriel knocked out his two front teeth last year and has a problem with hard Rs and words that end in L]
Gabriel: Do you have to have one to live?
Me: Everyone has a soul.
Gabriel: But what if you didn't have one would be a vampire or zombie or something?
Me: Vampires and zombies aren't real, but that's what we imagine people would be like if they lost their souls, but we all have souls even if we forget sometimes.
Gabriel: Where is it? Is it in your head or your belly?
Me: It's just part of all of you. It's what makes you you.
Me: A soul is what lets you feel what other people are feeling. It's what lets you think about other people instead of yourself. People with good souls are kind. Real kindness is hard.
Gabriel: Not for me.
Gabriel: Even Darth Vader had a soul, you know.
Me: I know. Even terrible people have souls, but sometimes they shrink or are hard to find.
Gabriel: What about parrots? Do they have them? Parrots are confusing.
Me: Some people think only humans have souls, but I think animals have them too.
Gabriel: Even parrots? Because sometimes they just say mean things all day.
Photo by Richard Corman
"I really think I write about everyday life. I don't think I'm quite as odd as others say I am. Life is intrinsically, well, boring and dangerous at the same time. At any given moment the floor may open up. Of course, it almost never does; that's what makes it so boring."
Richard Mosse's project Infra documents conflict in the Congo using Kodak Aerochrome, a discontinued infrared film. The film which renders foliage bright pink, heightens the surreally of an impossible to comprehend war (the Guardian reports 400,000 rapes in a single year and 5.4 million deaths over 10 years) and forces us to re-examine conflict images. When I first heard of this project (without seeing the images) I dismissed it, but the images are powerful—they would be without the exotic film stock. Mosse is a thinker who gives eloquent explanations for his choices. Ultimately Mosse does what good photographers always do, he forces us to look closely and reexamine what we think we know. (via Aperture Magazine)
Matt Couper is an artist who among other things creates modern ex-votos. This one reads, "To the Jesus of external hard drives, please fix the permissions on my drive so I can access all my files on it. There are a lot of corrupt files and psd files that won't open and I'm start panicking. 29th of November 2006" Explore the rest, they're super.
Over the past week I've twice heard twenty-somethings ponder whether kids growing up today—kids who were practically born with iPhones in hand—will still have the capacity for wonder.
Yesterday as a present for his first day of second grade I brought home an erasable gel pen for my iPhone savvy six year old. After a brief demonstration, he spontaneously hugged me, "I've been waiting for this pen my entire life!"
Not sure what the artist Park Dongseok wants to say here, but I found these portraits of Korean war gamers interesting and a little disorientating as they played on my (American) stereotypes of soldiers.
I put my kids to sleep tonight with a story as I do most nights. Tonight's story was to be about a boy who finds a message in a bottle from a shipwrecked sea captain. I often wing stories making them up as I go along, but this one had been gestating for a few days... it was a good one. The kids were in their bunk beds eyes closed and ready.
Me: Once upon a time, before you were born, there was a boy who lived in a little white house on cliff overlooking the sea. Every morning before breakfast, he would walk down the stone steps carved into the wall of the cliff to the a small beach to search for treasures left by the tide.
Gabriel: Did he ever find sea snails? I found one once.
Raul Andres: What about sand dollars?
Me: Yes he found lots of sea snails and sand dollars and even a starfish or two.
Gabriel: Starfish look soft but the are really hard. It's true. Was the boy wearing shoes?
Me: Yes that's true, starfish feel hard and he found a few of those over the years, and no the boy never wore shoes in the summer. Now this boy was walking down the beach when...
Gabriel: Did the boy have a bucket?
Raul Andres: He had to have a bucket to collect all this stuff.
Gabriel: He could just hold everything in his hands.
Raul Andres: But the sea creatures would die.
Gabriel: Dad what was the bucket like?
Me: It was a metal bucket. Anyway, one day...
Gabriel: What color?
Me: It was blue. Do you have any more questions about the bucket?
Gabriel: Did it have any words on it or pictures or anything?
Raul Andres: Gabriel! Let dad finish the story.
Gabriel: But I want to know.
Me: The bucket had a moon on one side. No words.
Gabriel: Was it a big round moon with a face?
Me: Thin crescent. No face.
Gabriel: Did the moon glow in the dark?
Me: Yes, it glowed for when he would collect things by night.
Gabriel: What about stars? Did it have a few stars?
Me: Yes. it had lots. In fact the boy called this bucket his star bucket.
Gabriel: I like that bucket.
Raul Andres: It doesn't even exist Gabriel. It's just a story.
Gabriel: We could make one.... Dad can you make us a star bucket?
Me: I'll try.
Raul Andres: That's no fair. Can I get one too?
Me: Yes, you can get one too, but you have to help paint it...
[at this point the conversation veered in another direction.... but later...]
Gabriel: Remember you promised star buckets.
Me: I said I would try.
Raul Andres: I'll help you paint the stars.
Gabriel: The bucket glows in the dark. Those are my favorite buckets.
In his Oasis Hotel project Nicolo Degiorgis documents life on the Xinjiang highway that stretches across the Taklamakan. I've travelled the highway a few time and Degiorgis' project gives you a sense of the place. It's often grim. I wish more work was available. This feels more like the beginning of project than something that is fully realized. I hope more is coming...
Monday, June 13
Monterrey: Man hung from a busy overpass and burned
Guadalupe: Butchered man in taxi left at Police Headquarters
Guerrero: 4 gunmen killed in firefight with army
Tabasco: Police confuse famers with gunman, two dead
Chihuahua: Pregnant woman killed by gunman
Acapulco: Man tortured and beheaded
Nayarit: Pregnant woman found badly tortured
Morelia: Executed man discovered Sunday, June 12
Generan Teran: 3 skinned heads discovered in bags on busy street
Monterrey: beheaded man found in park
Sinaloa: Man tortured and executed in Sinaloa
Canatlan: Father and 2 sons executed
Montemorelos: Armed men open fire in front of Police Station
Excobedo: Violent gun battle, 3 dead
Campesina: 3 men executed at a rehab center Saturday, June 11
Guerreo: Men killed and skinned, left on highway
Tijuana: Human head discovered
Monterrey: Two men hung from overpass
Monterrey: Man tortured, beheaded
Sinola: Man executed
Nuevo Leon: Butchered man dumped by school
Chihuahua: 3 men gunned down
Guerrero: Warning to Police. Two men skinned. One videotaped before death Friday, June 10
Sinaloa: Man gunned down in restaurant
Hualahuises: Heads of 3 policeman found
Monterrey: Grenade thrown at State Investigation Agency
Acapulco: Six unmarked graves discovered
Acapulco: Young woman executed
Michoacan: 21 executed
Monterrey: Handcuffed man chased and killed
Vera Cruz: Tortured body of navy man discovered Thursday, June 9
Guanajuato: Scores of trash bags found with human body parts
Cadereyta: Dismembered woman found
Monterrey: Prison break after grenades are thrown
Monterrey: Police kill two gunman
Chihuahua: Gunman kill three men
Sinaloa: Two young men executed in stolen car
Coahuila: Arsenal discovered
Durango: Police ambushed and executed
Monterrey: Rotting corpse discovered under a bridge
Guerrero: Young Man tortured and burned
Michoacan: 21 bodies found
Santiago: Army attacked by assassins, several dead
Monterrey: Young man executed on busy street Wednesday, June 8
Monterrey: Woman's Head left at popular restaurant
Victoria: Remains of 30 people found in fuel drums
Chihuahua: Hitmen attack police
Monterrey: Two men hung in broad daylight
Guerrero: Armed group ambush police
Monterrey: Gunbattle in Monterrey
Sinaloa: Armed group attacks and kills three
Guerrero: Two people chased and gunned down
Coahuila: Homemade tank discovered buried in a cave Tuesday, June 7
Torreon: 11 dead by gunfire.
Guerrero: Body of brutally tortured man found
Tamaulipas: Grenade thrown
Mochicahui: Bullet riddled body of man found
Cadereyta: Bodies of dead men found being eaten by animals
Guadalupe: Two men executed
Monterrey: Beheaded man foudn on street.
Chihuahua: Bodies of two beheaded women discovered
Monterrey: Young man executed in his bedroom
Sinaloa: Policeman and son killed.
Nuevo Leon: Three headless bodies found on the highway
Nuevo Leon: Three heads discovered
Michoacan: Man quartered fond on side of road
Morelos: Running run battle. At least two killed.
Juarez: At least 7 found dead in shallow grave
Monterrey: Officer surrounded and attacked
It's estimated that since 2006 when this drug war ramped up between 30,000 and 40,000 people have died in narco related violence. This is roughly double the total number of estimated deaths (civilian and military) in Afghanistan since 2001.
These headlines were taken from a single blog that covers narco violence. If I were to include accounts from major newspapers and other blogs this list would have been many times longer.
Update: Two days after this was posted between 33-39 people were killed in drug violence in Monterrey. This went largely unreported in American media. To give this context on an average day in New York City which is more than double the size on Monterrey, 1.4 people are murdered.
If you want more background on the drug war in Monterrey, Nik Steinberg's piece The Monster and Monterrey in the Nation is excellent.