Earlier this year we published Illini Loyalty: The University of Illinois, a beautiful collection of photographs by UIUC alumnus Larry Kanfer, with accompanying text by Alaina Kanfer. Larry and Alaina discuss the process of assembling the book and reveal some of their favorite images from Illini Loyalty.
Q: Larry, you are a graduate of the University of Illinois. How do you think that being an alumnus influenced your selection of photographs for the book?
Larry: Having been an alum and a townie for over 30 years I had an understanding of the emotions swirling around an image beyond just the composition itself. For instance, the undergraduate library, I wanted to photograph it at night because that is when it is populated. I remember the long nights studying there, and meeting my friends. I got my degree in architecture so of course I wanted to show buildings associated with that, and the Ricker Library. I’ve always admired the mosaic.
Q: Alaina, your previous book Barns of Illinois had very personal stories attached to each building in the book. How was writing the text for Illini Loyalty different than Barns of Illinois?
Alaina: I really enjoyed the process of research and writing for both books. For Barns of Illinois I spent a lot of time talking with people, learning the stories behind their family barns and often during the conversation, the main point I wanted to highlight in the book would be clear. But for Illini Loyalty it was a like a treasure hunt. In addition to talking with people about campus, we’d research at the library and look online to find as much information about the UI buildings and history and stories as possible. In a way the writing for Illini Loyalty was harder than for Barns of Illinois because it has many more historical facts that needed to be accurate.
Larry: There are some images that I always wanted to include in a book, and those fit perfectly. The rest I created specifically for this project. For instance, I had a beautiful photograph of Harker Hall in the snow that I always wanted to show, and it turned out to be a great layout together with a photograph of Kenny Gym in spring in a section about Nathan Ricker, who designed them both. On the other hand, I really wanted to convey the world-class nature of the Electrical Engineering program at UI, and none of the photographs of Everitt Lab I had were as stunning as the department itself is. For the book project I was able photograph the interior of Everitt that I feel does justice to the department.
Q: The Press is located near the football arena, Memorial Stadium. I see this grand structure every day on my way to work and have started taking it for granted. Given that you live in Champaign, was it difficult for you to view the campus with fresh eyes when you were shooting for Illini Loyalty?
Larry: I understand what you mean about taking what we see for granted, and I must admit that I sometimes do that myself. But, once I started working on this book project, it became more about communicating what I know and love about the University of Illinois to others, than about seeing the beauty for the first time for me.
Q: Do you have a favorite building on campus?
Larry: I’d love to say the architecture building but in fact it is Altgeld Hall. The rich history of Altgeld with its many different facets, the visual textures, the bells, the chimemaster, the detailed math library, the ceiling, the mosaics, the light fixtures, the architecture and materials of the exterior of the building, I could just go on and on. (I think I just did).
Alaina: For me it is about the feeling I get being inside a building. I absolutely love being inside Altgeld Hall. It is a beautiful building with such a long history, a richly detailed library and it excites me that there are math journals dating back to the 1700s. I also love stepping into the Seibold center for computer science becasue it feels like all my science fiction fantasies from my childhood coming true. But then my favorite experience is to be inside the Illini Union, where we got married.
Q: Do you have a favorite image from the book?
Larry: I’m afraid I’ll have a different answer on any day you ask me this question. Today, I like the photograph of the movies on the quad because I think it shows the excitement and energy of life on the University of Illinois Campus, and you can imagine what it felt like when the sprinkler system went off during the first Quad movie – Jaws. It brings me back to my wonderful life as a student at the University of Illinois.
Alaina: Hmmm. That is a hard one because each image was selected to show something particular about the campus. I love the energy on Quad Day, I love the moodiness of the arboretum image. But I guess my favorite would have to be the Alma Mater on the last page of the book. Larry shows her from behind, a view we don’t often pay attention to. And it is accompanied with the most meaningful words in the book: To those of the past, we happy children of the future send our gratitude.
Q: I have seen some of these photos as original photographs for sale at your gallery. Is there an obvious public favorite so far?
Alaina: There is such a wide range of response. People love the aerial images, and photographs of the icons, but they are also are thrilled to see their individual units represented artfully.
Q: What project are you working on now?
Larry: We are putting finishing touches on our Chicago book project with the University of Illinois Press. This is exciting. And right now I am working with photographer Karyl Wackerlin to create a visual accompaniment to the Champaign-Urbana Symphony’s upcoming performance of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. It will be a moving evening on February 24, 2012 at Krannert!