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Michael Pratt '15

Can you tell me about what projects you're worked on in order to receive the Rising Researcher Award?

Receiving the Rising Researcher Award for my senior thesis on the photographer Edward Weston has been a tremendous honor. Each semester, the university selects only a handful of undergraduates for the award, and this is the first time that a student from our department has earned it. I began studying Edward Weston during a summer internship with the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. My job was to organize a large portfolio of photographs dating from his 1937 Guggenheim Fellowship. As I looked through the collection, I began to question much of what I knew about Weston and wondered how this body of work related to other photographic projects in the late 1930s. The literature surrounding Weston's Guggenheim Fellowship is incredibly thin, so creating new ways to think about his work has been the most exciting part of my research.  

What led you to study art history?

I was introduced to art history in my high school AP European History course, but had no intention to major in it before my freshman year at UMass. To fulfill a general education requirement, I enrolled in a survey course offered by the department and ended up falling in love with the subject. The next semester I joined Professor Denny's Oriental Carpets class on a whim, dropped my philosophy major, and haven't looked back since. The practice of understanding physical objects through writing still never fails to excite me.

What show or exhibition have you seen recently that you found especially interesting?

I have been waiting for the Harvard Art Museums to reopen for years, so finally seeing their permanent collection over winter break was thrilling.