Imagine posing the Vassar men’s soccer team, in uniform, to re-create Leonardo DaVinci’s The Last Supper. Or dressing up a model to look exactly like Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring – except she has multiple earrings, some piercings and purple hair. Imagine posing some Vassar folks with their pet ferrets and snakes or using the platform of the Poughkeepsie Railroad Station for a fashion photo shoot.
Contrast, a student magazine that both celebrates and pokes playful fun at art, fashion and music, has captured all of these images in recent editions. It’s this blend of homage to art and fashion – while lacing it with plenty of satire and irreverence -- that is the essence of the magazine, editor-in-chief Emilia Petrarca ‘14, says.
“Some people call us a fashion magazine, but that’s not quite accurate,” Petrarca says. “Fashion has the connotation of being snobbish or pretentious, and what we like to do is kind of turn that around and have fun with it. We cover the things that define the culture, but that doesn’t mean you have to take them seriously all the time –- especially at Vassar.”
The spring 2014 edition carries the theme “Getting Off Campus,” featuring the photo shoot at the railroad station and another at a local roller rink. The roller rink shoot was inspired by Beyonce’s recent music video, Blow, and it’s an example of how the folks at Contrast come up with their ideas, says women’s style editor Olga Voyazides ’16.
“What I love about Contrast is the teamwork,” Voyazides says. “At our staff meetings, a couple people will mention something they’ve seen recently that interested them – clothes or music or art. We all start talking about it and by the time we’re done we have 10 other ideas. And it’s fun watching all those ideas that were thrown around come together at the end of the semester in the magazine.”
There’s some order to all this chaos. Since it was founded six years ago, the magazine has expanded its focus from fashion to include music, art and photography. It has some standard features, including profiles of a faculty member and a local artist and a humor column. The spring issue profiles urban and media studies lecturer Lisa Brawley and a Poughkeepsie artist who paints pictures of animals on wood. The humor column is devoted to the Senior Project.
Other articles include a story on Vassar students interning at the nearby Dia Beacon art gallery, Hip Hop Theater in Poughkeepsie, a photo essay by Imrul Islam ’17 on students talking about what they do when they go off campus, and a comparison of the academic schedules of students at Vassar and three other nearby institutions – Marist College West Point and the Culinary Institute of America. (The consensus: “All of them work harder than we do,” Petrarca says.)
Members of the Contrast staff come from all parts of the country and have diverse academic interests, but they do share a certain kinship, men’s style editor Chris Farrell ’16 says.
“We all seem to have many of the same ideas and attitudes about things, so when someone comes up with an idea, we’re able to pull it apart and find a way to make it work pretty quickly,” Farrell says. “A lot of things at Vassar take a long time to do because there are so many diverse opinions that it’s hard to reach a consensus. We don’t seem to have that problem at Contrast.”
Indeed, it isn’t only the folks who put Contrast together who are captivated by it. Thanks in large part to her work on the magazine, Petrarca will be working as a paid intern at New York magazine after she graduates, and she’ll be working for a well-known fashion blogger called “Man Repeller.”
Those in the fashion and media worlds aren’t the only ones fascinated with Contrast, layout editor and blog editor Lauren Garcia ’16 discovered recently. A biology and film double major, Garcia landed an internship this summer doing biochemistry research for the U.S. Army. Garcia says she and her Army interviewer didn’t spend much time talking about science when she applied for the internship.
“I was ready to answer a lot of questions about my academics,” she says, “but when I got there, all he wanted to do was talk about what I did for Contrast.”