Russell Cothren's 'Postcards from Peru' on Display in the Honors College

Honors students and professors take a walking tour in Lima's historic district as part of the Honors Passport: Peru study abroad experience in 2017.
Russell Cothren, University Relations

Honors students and professors take a walking tour in Lima's historic district as part of the Honors Passport: Peru study abroad experience in 2017.

The January 2017 Honors College study abroad trek to points throughout Peru presented some challenges for photographer Russell Cothren: scant sunlight in churches and crypts and a packed schedule conducted at a fast pace, not to mention the physical adjustment to altitudes above 14,000 feet. 

"Just trying to stay ahead of a moving group and make use of what I had in front of me was hard at times," Cothren reflected in his basement office where, as manager of photographic services, he edits and catalogs portraits and events shot across campus. The key challenge presented by the Honors College course also provided the greatest reward: "You never really knew what you were going to step into, and just stepping into the unfamiliar was inspiring."

A selection of some of Cothren's best photos from the Honors Passport: Peru course is currently on display in the second-floor lounge of the Honors College wing of Gearhart Hall. An impromptu class on a precipice overlooking Machu Picchu, a panorama of candy-colored Cusco and snapshots of street life in Lima are among the riches that Cothren culled from the 14,562 frames shot during the two-week intersession trip. Cothren's portfolio of photographs from Peru won a Special Merit Award for Excellence in Photography in the 2018 CASE District III National Platinum Awards Competition.

Cothren first picked up a camera at age 15, when he won a "cheap plastic camera with negatives the size of a pea" in a soap box derby competition. He took up photography in earnest when he was running the presses at his hometown newspaper, the Herald Democrat in Siloam Springs. He is largely self-taught, although he does credit photographer Ervin Stanley with teaching him the basics on poses and lighting during a six-month stint at Stanley Studio.  

"We did everything from boudoir to babies with bunnies at Easter, and a lot of senior portraits," Cothren recalled. He also pored over books by Ansel Adams to learn the technical aspects of his craft, and has studied alternative printing techniques in Cape Cod and San Francisco. Cothren has captured photos of people, places and events for University Relations since 1991. His photographs have previously been featured in two solo exhibitions, "Eight Images" at Arsaga's Espresso Café on Block Street (1994) and "The Collective Russell Cothren" at Mullins Library (2005). He also has exhibited work in group shows with photographer Don House.

Cothren's photographs will be on display in the Honors College through May 2019. 


Kendall Curlee, director of communications
Honors College


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