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MFA Photography & Integrated Media

A guide to research and thesis writing for Lesley Art + Design students in the MFA Photography & Integrated Media program.


Browse through the thesis descriptions below, or use Ctrl+F / command+F to search for specific keywords.

If you find a thesis you want to read, click the link to the Online Thesis Folder and browse by year and then name.  

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MFA Photography and Integrated Media Thesis Menu (2013-2018)

Cotton Miller – The Limbo of Loss -  2013

Our entire lives we spend counting, counting up and counting down. The good things we count down to, and the bad things always seem insurmountable. When we are young, we think more is almost always better. As we get older in age and experience we begin to realize less is almost always more. Counting isn’t always about quantifying; it’s about identifying patterns. Counting is an attempt to find order or structure to gain understanding about the thing being counted.
The myelin sheath is the protective layer of the axons in the brain, similar to the insulated coating on electrical wires, and in MS the immune system breaks down this protective barrier. When myelin is lost, and the brain-blood barrier is broken, the axons can no longer effectively conduct signals, which will manifest as a variety of symptoms including physical and cognitive disability. After the demyelination occurs, the symptoms that are experienced might subside, but never be fully extinguished.

The possibility of loss, the inevitability of loss, and the uncertainty can be equally as powerful and life altering as the actual loss. According to Kübler-Ross, who introduced the hypothesis of the Five Stages of Grief, “The limbo of loss is in itself a loss to be mourned. Uncertainty can be an excruciating existence. It is the loss of life, going nowhere or going nowhere slowly without knowing if there will be a loss.

This has become the foundation of my work, the idea that the mind is distinctly different than the brain.

Tommy Matthews 2013

Then I remembered driving through the blackness and realized that I had been slaying them throughout the whole spell. What a cost it had been. They were mutilated pieces of fur and it smelled of electric flesh. I felt impossibly responsible and alone. Something was surely wrong with me.
If I ever build a house I will make it very skinny and tall with all the rooms built on top of each other, strung together through each other’s dreams as we slept. What about the person on the bottom then? Who was holding me in their dreams? Maybe this is what it means to grow up, to care and to provide instead of to receive.

I grabbed the framed family photos and laid them flat on their backs, and carefully stacked one on top of the other till they made up a half-foot of thickness. Stepping on the frames I was conscious to keep my weight on the outside edges of the stack where it felt more secure.

With time enough to make one last move I followed Vitus to the path that careened down a dirt embankment and bottomed out in a small opening of trees. The forest floor was hidden by arching ferns rising as high as my waist. An old felled Douglas fir was there; having collapsed long ago it was now a nursery log. It was half hollowed out inside and I crumpled my body in its opening. Vitus wedged himself alongside me and curled up in the shape of a scallop. As consciousness began to slip away I was eased to know I’d wake here, happy to be held in the grace of this great nurturer of the forest.

Nikki Seggara - Thalassophobia: A Philosophical Narrative On Congenital Fear – 2013

Though I have no recollection of it, it took years for my mother to get me to willingly bathe. She recalls that, even as an infant bathing in the sink, I would scream to the top of my lungs - even harder at the prospect of getting my head wet to wash my hair.
It was the thought of deep water terrified me; the thought of what lies beneath - this trepidation of being pulled under, either trapped and unable to surface, or overcome by a creature where my vulnerable body, drifting in the vast sea, gave me no fighting chance. They could feel the pounding of my heart and the panic I struggled to contain for fear of giving myself away.  It was the thought that my body could forever be lost in the lower depths, never to reemerge.  I could never escape the feeling that this fate. 

This question of shared phobia has enveloped the deepest corners of my mind. As an artist, I choose to make work that is symbolic of my quest for reasoning behind my fear.

There are many who claim that innate fear exists, without any presence of personal history as a factor. These proclivities have been analyzed at great lengths for at least 50 years within the field of Ethology. Ethologists are particularly concerned with innate behavior, and believe that such behaviors are the result of genetics and in the way genes have been modified during evolution to deal with particular environments (Eibl-Eibesfeldt and Kramer)

Konrad Lorenz, often described as the ‘father of ethology,’ spoke about this V-shaped shadow as a releasing mechanism for an innate fear response.  The same fear response is witnessed in apes, who are all congenitally frightened of snakes, one of the few innate animal-based fears to also be widely present in humans.

It is a grandiose notion, that my fears were ingrained into my brain from ancient genetic blueprints, passed down from generation to generation. 

She paradoxically loved what she also feared, as do I.

Angelina Kidd – Imagining the Unknown - 2013

I believe there is a soul and that it is energy manifested as light.
We are connected to the cosmos through the very calcium in our bones and the iron in our blood, which originated from stars that died billions of years ago. My belief is that the earthly body is separate from the soul and that our light energy returns to the cosmos. Energy will not cease to exist, as it cannot be destroyed according to Laws of Thermodynamics. Therefore, if the soul is light energy, then it does not disappear and is instead transformed.

Twenty-three years ago, my mother’s life was transformed by cancer. As I approach the same age of her departure, I am constantly aware of my own existence. This is why my investigation into the unknown is relevant and personal. I have no evidence for the human soul or the afterlife, as my research does not set out to prove this. Instead, my consciousness chooses to have faith in having a soul and this leads me into an artistic investigation of how I perceive the afterworld. With my light constructions, I do not seek to exploit this emotion; rather, I aim to provide a visual salve and to encourage my viewer to consider that after death, life will be unknown.

Anna Yeroshenko - Enduring Peripheries

An analysis of 1980’s architectural aesthetic and a physical thesis portfolio of re-photographed folded paper abstractions of architecture in the Boston area.

Anne Eder – Myth as a Semiological Language

Thesis dealing with nature, myths, magic, talismanic objects accompanied by a physical portfolio consisting of an outdoor installation in the Emerald Necklace featuring her giant moss-men made of objects and materials found in nature.

Danielle Ezzo – The Intentional Object

Thesis focused upon the concept of intimacy and its relationship to her professional work as a re-touching artist. This was supported by large scale photographs of only the actual re-touched elements of fashion model portraits and bodies.

E V Krebs –

A thesis that is a total interactive experience, different for every “reader” depending upon the links the “reader” elects to follow. A traditional thesis felt too static, whereas the Tumblr venue allowed her to create avenues for exploration through the use of hyperlinks; developing a sense of depth as the “reader” clicked, going deeper and deeper.

Lanai King – Clot: A personal Exploration of Blood as Myth and Medium

Thesis analyzing candidate’s personal psychosis and fear of blood and her exploration of using blood as a medium in artistic expression. Thesis was supported by a video illustrating short vignettes of her explorations.

Natalie Rzucidlo – 2,364 Cuts

A these that explored the relationships and differences between hand-made and industrial objects by mirroring the automatic repetition of a machine through the process of paper cutting and realization through lithography. Physical work were monumental paper abstractions graphically illustrating sound.

Nicole Carriere – The Big Picture

Thesis dealing with the dissection of family photographs through visual language, symbols, and performance of gender.

Tabitha Sherrell – Untitled

Thesis focused upon three generations of women within a single family and supported by large scale photographs of tableaus illustrating reconstructed domestic spaces. Writing dealt with the analysis of posing, and the way photography is used to represent the self and family.

Taylor Singmaster – My Father’s Daughter

Thesis written as an autobiography to document values instilled through childhood and realized in adult life. The thesis was supplemented with a video of the candidate’s work with Down Syndrome afflicted children and how her future career would be dedicated to a foundation dealing with this disease.

Tomi Ni – Wu Xing

Thesis about the lives and existence of illegal aliens, living in building and room-sized communities and their sacrifices to pay off the fees for smuggling them into America and keeping their family healthy, educated, and hopeful. Physical work in the form of photographs of this life.

Crystal Foss – Seeing the self Through the Forest of Judgement: Self Portrait & Power

Thesis engaged in a representation of her life being judged by others for being an overweight young woman. The visual work supplemented the writing and consisted of video, music, and uncompromising mural sized self-portraits.

Katie Doyle – 13 Ways of Looking at X

Thesis analyzing Wallace Steven’s poem, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird. The thesis deconstructed the poem and then reconstructed it in the form of a journal to represent how the identical sentiments related to her present life. Physical work existed in the form of a video illustrating the relationships of words and images.

Kwangtae Kim – Soul Scape

A thesis discussing non-representational forms of photography as an invitational bridge into a state of meditation. The physical work took the form of massive scaled photographic abstractions of natural objects, such as his child’s hair, or water, seen in a way to obstruct identification. These works were painted upon in the style of a Sumi calligrapher.

Maryam Zahirimehr – In the Name of God, The Beneficent, The Merciful

A written thesis telling the stories of her life growing up female in the strict Muslim culture of Iran and how those experiences shaped her future. A video illustrating one particular story enhanced the reader’s experience by bringing the story to life. This thesis was subsequently accepted and shown at the Cannes Film Festival.

Maura O’Donnell – Untitled

This thesis considers the female as it is contested in American culture. The work speaks to the confusion of specific roles of woman, and the communication of contradictory views of femininity. The work and the manner in which it is shown translate the ugly encounters she experiences on a regular basis. Physical work consisted of short vignettes in video format.

Natalie Titone – The Excavation of Meaning

Thesis exploring the immigrant experience in America through the memories, textures, and materials used by the people building a life for subsequent generations. Writing dealt with a narrative story-telling experience and physical work was realized by laminations of photographic images from family albums onto porcelain and ceramic materials. Techniques were learned while in an internship at Harvard University.

Traci Marie Lee - The Implications and Consequences of the Snapshot and the Constructed Image

This thesis documented her search for knowledge about a southern aunt who was a pioneer in women being active in politics. The thesis was based on an envelope of pictures and newspaper clippings and was resolved in the thesis through paper constructions and video, with a strong concentration on sound.

Alicia Turbitt – Hearing what Seeing Says

This thesis documented the degeneration of sight of her sister’s boyfriend and his efforts to remain in a normal life in spite of his increasing loss of sight. The physical thesis work was in video form and featured vignettes such as all of his friends taking turns teaching him how to drive a car down a dark road in the winter.

John Dearing – Chemical Geometry - 2017

Dedicated to a 19th c. path of investigation following Herschel’s Anthotype process, John made hundreds of combinations of food sources and chemistry and painted the solutions on papers exposed to UV light over time. The thesis included research into chemical additives to our food, the effect of UV rays on those solutions, and the nature of abstract expressionism and constructivist painting, the forms he created for his tests on paper.

Natalie Schaeffer – Trust - 2017

A series of lengthy video vignettes in an installation that illustrated the state of a multi-year relationship in the midst of a decision to go forward. The written component supported the process and analysis of the video investigation.

Noelle BuAbbud – Triduum - 2017

This thesis involved a trinity of videos revolving around the visual perception and recognition of the human body in a state of suffering or sorrow. Research detailed the paintings and sculptures she felt were emotionally profound because of the ways in which artists such as Caravaggio, Picasso, Goya, and Kollwitz depicted grief and suffering through the physicality of the human figure. Videos illustrated the research and were in the subjective forms of shadows, as in the parable from Plato’s Cave.

Xiao Zhao – Ferryman - 2017

This thesis focused on the parables, spirituality and theology of Zen Buddhism and that belief system’s impact upon him growing up in China, and his relationship with his grandmother who was a shaman. Visual components were photographic abstractions.

Sara Bonnick - Acts of Almost Touching (And Other Short Stories, Poems, and Analysis) - 2017

This thesis explored the aftermath of intimacy and was represented through a series of videos, photo-sculpture, and installation. Her work formed a language of clothing as it related to emotional connection of direct physical contact. She investigated the concept through repetition, mending, healing, repairing, and attaching. All alterations to an article of clothing displayed a psychological repurposing interaction and compromise between two bodies. The written component was formed via short stories and free verse poetry.

Britney Segermeister - 2018

In a dissection of social media, its features and influences can often be misinterpreted as an assortment of symptoms associated with a variety of mental illnesses. The ability to rapidly change personas, and impulsively construct personalities, could be a description if Dissociative Identity Disorder or nothing more than editing pictures of yourself on a number of unrelated sites. My thesis project is a visual depiction of signs and aspects of mental illness interpreted by the unique etiquette, trends and algorithms of social media.

Casey Cullen 2018 – 22 Poplar - 2018

My thesis, 22 Poplar, is a partial collection of the many memories my childhood home inspired, and in a very real way, a thank you to the people here, and gone, who raised me in it. I am interested in how memories, old and new, personal and familial, coalesce to fill and define personal domestic spaces. My investigation questions how memories, and the events associated with them, are affected by the removal or change of a key component in that moment. My memories, of our home, and the objects within, are now the only things I have left of my grandfather. After he passed, could some part of his being have gone to the same elusive space where memories reside? Probably not, but I would like to think my interpretation of the faux colonial house on 22 Poplar Street will get me a little closer to wherever his beautiful spirit rests.

Candice Inc 2018 – She Knows Me Now - 2018

In collaboration with my mother, my thesis explores the complexities of communication within a mother-daughter relationship following the death of her husband… my father. Throughout our life together, my mom and i were able to talk about anything and everything without conditions. The traumatic death of my father completely altered our dynamic and we became strangers to each other. Unable to recognize the unique pain and loss that the other was experiencing, our ability to understand one another reached a point where spoken language failed. The only way for me to speak at this point was through the trust in my art and visual expression. Words were useless and so I turned to images. In our recent past, this created an even greater problem because my visual approach to telling the story of my suffering was even more incoherent to her than speech. I was forcing her to learn my side of the story, my truth. Children need to recognized by their parents and my mother’s resistance to that adjusted view of her adult daughter continues to be a constant battle for myself. It is a struggle being an artist and a daughter. She Knows Me Now is a test for us. Testing my responsibilities as her daughter, testing us both to not attack or point a finger of blame, and testing my responsibilities as an artist where telling my truths is my priority.

Rebecca Chappelear - 2018

My work explores the evidence that contributed to my family’s dysfunction and ultimately its collapse, brought on by my stepfather’s own separate trauma and depression—complications that had been ingrained into his personality long before we entered his life. My images are constructions based the events that took place during the period that he and my mother were married, in which time I had gone from my mid-teens to my early twenties, and my sister from kindergarten into eighth grade. A photographic narrative allows me to select the memories that are crucial to my and my audience’s understanding of the events that took place; moments that of course were not photographed, as a family reserves the taking of pictures for times meant to be remembered and looked back upon. With the creation of these photographs, I am able to investigate my experience with a man whose role as as my father deteriorated as he was engulfed by his alcoholism and depression.

Samantha Nieto – Catholic Girlhood Narrative - 2018

Growing up, I idolized everything Disney; Mickey Mouse was my god, The Sensational Six were my saints. Disney movies became my homilies and scriptures, they taught me life lessons and helped me imagine that I could be anything I wanted to be. My Lady of Guadalupe, Pocahontas, was my hero as a child and brought strength to me as an adult. She was the only Disney “Princess” I figured I could be due to our similar dark hair and complexion, which I eventually learned to appreciate. Because of her, I knew I was my own heroine princess who didn’t need a prince charming to save the day, I only needed to have faith and believe.
My work is interested in the idea and systems of belief as it occurs in my life and in the objects that represent my values and what I believe in. I am expressing my beliefs from the past, and the present. Each piece represents a time in my life, with reference to a foundation of the Mexican catholic faith I grew up with and have transformed from. I am interested in the connection that one has with faith, symbols and objects of value stemming from childhood memories and experiences testing faith. With time, all these elements look different and change meaning as we age.

Brittney Callahan – Paradise Entertainment Feature of the Week: Splint – 2018

Watching television has been part of my daily ritual since childhood. Every time it was turned on, I was able to enter into new worlds that were exotic compared to my house. Each story on the screen filled me with hope, inspired me with passion, and took me to a place where everything, no matter how terrible, seemed to have a purpose, an arc, and an end. These visual narratives birthed the idea of an equational life, one that seemed simple and mathematical. After I realized that life couldn’t be firmly calculated, I decided to invent my own alternative realities of which I could control through photography and video.
My primary interest is in self-construction, how identities and personalities are formed, how they manifest and shift, and the characterization of “self”. With my current work, I am utilizing the techniques of cinema and theater to construct a fictitious reality, that emulates the surface of a world that I have long-envied and idolized: Hollywood. The process of performing in my designed space is cathartic because, instead of being a passive spectator to someone else’s constructed narrative, I create my own and actively participate in it.

Gretjen Helene – Susurrus – 2019

I am currently working on a 24 minute linear video titled ‘Susurrus’ that will be exhibited within the interactive installation ‘Lost In Thought.’ ‘Susurrus’ is a collage of moving imagery which I am calling a living collage mindscape. This projected video is central in the installation and will be introduced by 11 paced photographs titled ‘Framed,’ and accompanied by a resin sculpture titled ’60% water’. For the sake of this introduction to my work, I will concentrate on the video ‘Susurrus’ alone. A discussion about the other installation elements would disrupt their intended affects.

JiSun LeeThe planet, LOVE – 2019

Art allows me to express unexplainable emotions and feelings I have never felt before. Meaning by emotions, for example, sadness and happiness have to co-exist to reveal each other’s existence and the value they have.I always had a hard time controlling my emotions. It may be because I’m a sensitive person; I feel my emotions in huge waves. Many incidences happened to me because my inability to express and control my emotions, Love, relationships, avoidance, jealousy, hatred, anger, and happiness, aresometimes hard for me to express this with words. But I am learning from these contradicting emotions like the light and the dark. After creating my art, I have discovered myself in the process of expressing emotion through art. And I learned to control myself. This is the way I protect myself. The only way to express my sensitive emotions that cannot be created in words because there’s no words for them. My language -I speak through my art.

Kristen MatuszakConfined In My Skin – 2019

When deciding to create my book, “Confined In My Skin,” I was distinctively thinking aboutcinema, and film reels in particular. The viewer experiences my book the way they would acinematic film, I am continuously manipulating the perception of the viewer. They see what theywant to see, then as they flip through the pages, they get a sense of something much darkerand deeper than their original intake of the work.

Molly MeadorRabbitRabbitRabbit – 2019

The main conceptual focus in this work is obsession, but it has become clear that my living definition of this word is different than the normal interpretation. This is not a project about how obsession can affect a person, and it’s not about obsession as a direct, generally temporary mental state in relation to a specific topic. It’s about how it affects me and the resulting compulsions that occur as a way to live with and control these fixations. It’s about how the obsession can be used and dealt with, but it’s not a solution. An obsession, though intense and consuming, can be finite and have a course. There is a difference between an obsession and an obsessive personality. A life defined by obsession cannot sustain itself with any sort of harmony unless an order is established. That necessity is where this project comes from; and to establish an order to something, you must sometimes first tear it apart.

Vanessa FischerThis Way Through The Darkness – 2019

I still desire to create a space to preserve and experience my past, only now these memories live outside of my mind in my art. This Way Through the Darkness stems from the Memory Box I created as an adolescent while mourning the loss of my mother. Looking at household surfaces has been my way of connecting to the memory of my mom, because these were the surfaces she touched every day, the same surfaces I have in my life today

Will HarrisEvelyn Beckett – 2019

In this work I confront the complexities of my Nana, Evelyn Beckett’s dementia, by fabricating the pieces that have gone missing.  Within my Nana's mind, history and fiction collide, creating something strangely new, haunting and at times painfully beautiful.  Ten years ago was now ten minutes ago.  There were no seasons; the clocks stood still. My grandmother was both lost and reborn. Fragments of the person I used to know would come to me now and then, but she was no longer my Nana and there was no one to hold our familial history together.

Byron Hocker Red Sky Morning – 2020

I have found ways to escape the daunting task of everyday life. I can use photography to play. I am able to convert the seriousness of life to my own comedic circus. Roland Barth in Camera Lucida said it more eloquently than I when he wrote, “What pricks me is the discovery of this equivalence. In front of the photograph of my mother as a child, I tell myself: She is going to die, I shudder...over a catastrophe which has already occurred. Whether or not the subject is already dead, every photograph is a catastrophe.” Because of this truth, I must play and create because it is all too serious. I can also transform these people, my family, into anyone I want when I am in control of the photograph.  

Ge Wang A Reluctant Citizen – 2020

Photography has been a narrative tool for my family. I did not have much of my own voice in the family narrative because my parents were the photographers. I picked up photography soon after I left China and started to live alone in the US. I became the executor behind the camera, recording my very own story. Even still, I still lose my sense of time here very often. The memories I have formed in America have never managed to dig themselves a deep hole in my mind.

Lys Ciani Field Notes – 2020

I practice camera-less photography  and  assume  the  rights  to  these  elemental  processes in hopes of gaining a more grounded and intrinsic understanding of the landscapes I observe, interpret, and create.  I’ve adopted this type of field work as a personal collection of visual-mappings of uninhabited environments.  Field notes are composed of two components: descriptive information and the observer’s reflection about the study that is being conducted. Each print carries light, minerals, and contaminants of the water; literal recordings of the environment they took form in. Untidy records recalling weather conditions, time of day, and where on the bend they were made. They coalesce to form a portrait, a trace of the shifting identity of a riverbed.

Matt Klos Field Notes – 2020

In the last four years I have been acclimating, building, and modifying my life. Creating a new normal and reestablishing what it means to be me both physically and psychologically. Paralysis is the metaphorical-well of inspiration I draw upon to create my images, sculptures and studio working environment. I utilize my paralysis as both coping mechanism and visual source, documenting and interpreting my body’s devastation within the fine lines of reality and fabrication.

Anna Clem To the Garden and Back – 2021

To the Garden and Backconsists of four distinct series—The Perennial Garden, Floating Petals, Tucked into the Garden Bed, and Visitor—and a video piece called In Her Garden, through which I have examined from all sides my longing for the impossible return to innocence, obsession with preservation, and my present-day “gardens.”

Faith Ninivaggi Present History – 2021

I’ve stared into the eyes of murderers and abusers. I’ve studied and documented the masterful kinesics of great athletes, influential politicians, and infamous public figures. Through my lens, I’ve captured victories and tragedies. I’ve documented the literal forces of nature. I’ve talked to thousands of strangers, tapping on shoulders, stopping people in the streets, and knocking on doors...all for the chance to tell their story through photographs.

Fangwei Xu The Sun – 2021

The Sun is a series of works that touch on ideology and its relationship to social context, gaze, and subconsciousness, represented by various media. Ideology for me is nothing but a framework, and it requires the context of media to deliver the meaning. Humans have countless ways to explain an idea, like in China, there are multiple words to define snow, or rain, and each method of expression, each medium corresponds to a different kind of cultural interpretation: superficial or cognitive, conscious or unconscious, temporary or permanent, literal or connotative.

John Nanian  –Chepiwanoxet – 2021

This thesis will explore the idea of place by trying to un-derstand what a small spit of land in Narragansett Bay called Chepi-wanoxet was before colonial ownership. After visiting the area countless times with and without a camera, I am, in collab-oration with the island and the sea around it, attempting to make drawings and light-markings, using organic and light-sensitive materials, and imperfection to show its essence and its meaning to me.

Wenshuai Shi (Ace) Isolation – 2021

I have made a series of photographic and video works using "isolation" as the theme. From my initial project “HOME,” completed in Shanghai in 2018 and 2019, to my recent project, “My Fear Journal,” made in Boston this past year. This past year, my intention was to illustrate to the viewer not the state of my loneliness, but the process of my thinking, reflecting on isolation.

Zachary Hayes Seeing is Believing, Looking is Loving – 2021

In Seeing is Believing, Looking is Loving, I shall discuss the internal complexities of being able to relate and empathize with others and how photography acts as a vehicle for me to be able to do these things. Here you will be introduced to I (Want To) Love You, a body of images that I have pulled from my personal catalogs of people that I choose to commit myself to.