By Montana Bass ’17
Powerful photographs by Kendall Rock ’15, a film and media studies major, have been featured in a Huffington Post article titled “The Truth About Refugees From a U.S. Student Abroad,” written by Jackie Montalvo, a student at Northwestern University.
Since graduation, Rock has worked as a freelance photographer. “I’ve never really contemplated my passion for photography,” she said. “I just have a passion for people, and like photographing them. I’m an observer, and I’m really lucky to have the skills to make a career out of capturing people’s moments and stories.”
In this most recent project, Rock’s photos accompany Montalvo’s article addressing the detached mindset often applied to the Syrian refugee crisis. By explaining her experience working with non-governmental organizations in Turkey and Greece, and juxtaposing a Grecian willingness to provide refuge with growing American suspicion toward refugees, the author encourages Americans to see the individuality and humanity of the people making up the masses.
To drive her point home, Montalvo includes Rock’s heartwarming pictures of refugees, mostly children, taken during Rock’s time in Greece with Lisa Hughes, adjunct associate professor of English, for the course Romantic Comedy and the Blue World. Realizing the opportunity for the class to contribute to crisis relief, Rock began working with the Salvation Army in Athens’ Victoria Square. Eventually, she worked with Hughes to coordinate efforts with the Salvation Army in the context of class discussions. They also organized a drive to collect funds from the CC community to contribute to the Salvation Army’s efforts.
Rock's photos, like this one, were featured in the Huffington Post piece on refugees in Greece.
It was during this time that Rock snapped the shots included in Montalvo’s article. “In Victoria Square, I kept my head on a swivel for moments, but I made sure that I always asked permission before I snapped a photo of someone, especially when I was photographing children. Hardly anyone spoke English, so I would hold up my camera and gesture to their child and ask, ‘OK?’ Some people said no, and some kids and young men came running toward me and posed, and then asked to see the photos and posed again and again,” she explained.
Rock has a knack for capturing photos that express the individuality of her subjects. From the refugees featured in the article to clients featured on her website, http://www.kendall-rock.com, personalities jump from the screen. “I rarely enter a photo situation looking for something specific (not really even when I photograph weddings), I instead just observe and have my camera ready all the time,” she said.
In May 2015, Rock’s filmmaking was recognized with the Richard A. Lewis Memorial Film Award, selected by an interdisciplinary panel of faculty to honor the best student film of the year. Her thesis film, "God's in the Garage," premiered at the JP2 Interfaith Film Festival in Miami, where it was also honored with a nomination for Best Documentary Short. Currently, Rock lives in Copenhagen and is editing a documentary about Alaska she filmed this past summer. She will return to the United States in the near future where she said she’ll continue with her work in photography and videography.