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Profile of stand-out photographer: Alvia Urdaneta

By Dana Gibbs

Special to The Chronicle

“I’ve been shooting for a really long time,” said Alvia Urdaneta, president of FORM Gallery, a student run art gallery showcasing student artwork in Calkins Hall.

“I’ve always been interested in art and photography because my dad is a professional photographer, so I had my first Nikon camera at six years old,” she said during FORM Gallery’s opening reception of Kay Hopkins's “What Lies Beneath” exhibit on Oct. 21.

FORM Gallery was run by professors in 2012. The organization was then revived by Alvia Urdaneta after Professor Laurie Fendrich suggested students run the gallery again.

“Alvia? She’s ruthless,” said Dan Jones, vice president of FORM Gallery, “She’s ruthless in that she pushed for this whole club. This existed before, but it kind of withered out and she, through sheer force of will, brought it back to the attention of our department.”

“We started really slow in my sophomore year,” Urdaneta recalls, “We were a really small club of 10 members, and throughout the work I did over the past summer I was able to get the club up and running.” She recruited vice president, Dan Jones, to help with gallery repairs and set up dates for students to have their artwork on display.

Urdaneta dedicates most of her time to art. Her favorite artists are Roy DeCarava, Duane Michals and Miles Aldridge. Her favorite types of shooting are fashion photography and portraits. Urdaneta uses four by five Ilford film, “because it makes a smooth negative and it’s beautiful.”

Alvia Urdaneta does her own photo shoots, branding them with the logo “@Alvia Images.” She also experiments with ceramics and painting.

Urdaneta currently works as a photography department lab manager in Calkins Hall and as an intern at Grey Area in Brooklyn, New York.

“Grey Area is an up-and-coming art company that sells affordable artwork,” Urdaneta explained. “A lot of my job is playing with really cool artist-made jewelry.”

The fine arts and photography major from Lancaster, Pa. is lucky her parents were supportive of her academic endeavors. She declared her major during the Fall semester of her freshman year at Hofstra.

Her father, however, didn’t have the same luck with his parents when he was in college, but he found away around that obstacle.

“My dad is actually a licensed doctor. He only has an M.D. because his parents forced him. After he got his diploma, he gave it to his mom and said, ‘This is for you. I’m going to go do what I want.’ We’re from Venezuela, and he moved from there to the United States in dreams of becoming a photographer. That’s what he did, and now he has two studios,” said Urdaneta.

Urdaneta has advice for students who are shying away from studying art in fear that they might not be able to sustain a living after college.

“Don’t be afraid,” she said, “As an art major at Hofstra, I have had more jobs than I ever did in my life. I’ve had five jobs as an art major. If you want to do it then you should just jump in and do it, and not be afraid. And is your friend. It is a listing where all artists post if they’re looking for help.”

The phrase “starving artist” doesn’t seem to scare her.

“You just need to have the initiative,” said Urdaneta.



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