Introducing the Duke University MFA|EDA Class of 2017

Duke University’s Master of Fine Arts in Experimental and Documentary Arts program is pleased to announce the incoming MFA|EDA Class of 2017.

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SALIMA AL-ISMAILI

Salima Al-Ismaili, 23, was born and raised in the Sultanate of Oman. Salima graduated from Northwestern University in Qatar with a Bachelors of Science in journalism. Upon graduating, she worked as a reporter for a weekly newspaper and as a public relations specialist at a marketing and communications agency in Oman. Salima’s previous documentaries explored issues of migration and displacement. She is also interested in creating films that study statelessness and the history of human migration. (Pictured far right)

Al-Ismaili, Salima (far right)

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SARAH BORST

Sarah Elizabeth Borst is a documentary and portrait photographer from the humble town of Davidson, North Carolina.  She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Photography from Savannah College of Art and Design.  Finding brilliance in seemingly banal, everyday occurrences, she is intimately and obsessively drawn to situations that stimulate the narrative documentary portrait.  Sarah’s mother will tell you that she does not know a stranger.  With adoration for humankind, people become characters and characters become her subjects.  She thirsts to understand and relate to their condition through making their picture.  For Sarah, photographing is an approach to process, understand and explore questions about America and the social gallery we have oh, so carefully and comfortably constructed for ourselves.  In addition to being a finalist in the Lucie Awards in New York City this past Fall, Sarah has most recently been working in Hong Kong on Scholarship from Savannah College of Art and Design, and will be exhibiting five of her series in Sham Shui Po in January of 2016.  In May, Sarah was named one of the top 7 seniors graduating in 2015 by American Photo Magazine on Campus, and featured in the Spring print issue.  Sarah is also an Editorial Assistant for Aint-Bad Magazine, a bi-annual publication that promotes new photographic art.

Borst, Sarah

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ANDREA DE FRANCESCO

Born in 1992, Andrea De Francesco was raised in Italy and graduated with a B.A. in Drama and Film Studies from the University of Sussex, England. Andrea started taking pictures at the age of 15, which formed the basis of his interest in film, painting and theatre. After three years of university, and creating device performances in addition to the study of social and philosophical theories, he hopes to merge all these art forms together for his future work. His photography works focus mainly on portraits and the narrative that emerge from the issues of family structure, travel, immigration and identity.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

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SYLVIA HERBOLD

Sylvia Herbold is a multimedia artist from Bangor, Maine. Her works range from painting and printmaking to film and video. By exploring the storytelling aspect of portraiture, improvisation, and the challenge of conveying the sitter’s subjectivity, she invites people to tell their own narratives and make their own art. Before beginning her studies at Duke she worked with youth as an art teacher, yoga teacher, and visiting artist at public schools in Ellsworth, Maine and New York City. She has collaborated on projects for exhibitions at Pier 42 in New York, the Museum of the City of New York, Union Square Park, Snug Harbor Park, and MU in Eindhoven.

Herbold, Sylvia

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LAUREN MUELLER

Lauren Mueller (b.1987, Portland, OR) studied English Literature at the University of British Columbia, receiving her B.A. in 2010. Following graduation, she began teaching English as a second language in Vancouver, B.C. to immigrant populations. This work led to teaching abroad in several countries, including Taiwan and Thailand. While abroad, Lauren was able to pursue her interest in filmmaking where she collaborated as an assistant director on a documentary called Portraits of Sex Workers. The film was used for a conference led by the organization Liberation and Empowerment: Attaining Dignity and Rights (LEADR), which supports sex workers and their children in Bangladesh. With this experience she knew she wanted to pursue film making as a career.  In 2012, Lauren returned to her hometown, Portland, Oregon where she took classes at Northwest film center and worked as an assistant, teaching adults from underserved populations about filmmaking. Lauren’s personal work explores different subcultures, as well as alternate lifestyles. Her past documentaries have covered several topics from people’s experiences with online dating to the familial bonds found at one of the oldest amusement parks on the West coast. More recently, Lauren has been working with the Gibbon Conservation Center, located in Santa Clarita, CA, home to the rarest group of apes in the Western Hemisphere.

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COLLEEN PESCI

Colleen Pesci spent her childhood bopping around the Midwest until finally landing in Wisconsin [a home for lovers of cheese and beer]. She studied Special Education at Benedictine College. Following college, Colleen taught in Peru and moved to New York City to manage a food pantry and then a cookie company. Her photography focuses on the relationships between members of the community and their experiences of the world. She is interested in how photography can transcend cultural boundaries and promote conversation through a single image.

Pesci, Colleen

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TONY SHAFER

As a writer, filmmaker, sculptor, and performer, Tony Shafer has explored the modern day socio-political landscapes of hyper-consumerism, gender, and the multi-faceted valleys of violence. Tony received his B.A. and M.F.A. in English from San Diego State University where he was an editorial and production assistant of Fiction International for six years. Tony draws from a diverse set of life experiences ranging from working in construction, to being an art model, to living in a web-cam house (once filmed by MTV), to documenting the aftermath of Mexican Mafia violence, to representing SDSU at the 2003 Campus Anti-war Network national conference. Tony has also co-coordinated two film festivals, a literary magazine, and has been vice president on the board of directors of an art center.

FormMe

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KATE STEPHENS

Kate Stephens grew up in North Carolina and Kenya. She returns to Kenya frequently as an archivist and photographer for New Life Homes—a group of rescue homes for infants. She researched international and interracial adoption as an undergraduate at Emory University, where she majored in American Studies and African Studies. For her senior thesis, Kate wrote a history/memoir of the life of Sue Henry, a camp director in Mentone, Alabama. In Sue’s final days, Kate lived with her, recording their conversations and those of others in the community of women who were caring for Sue.  The resulting memoir, “Fret not; it’s good: Sue Henry’s final days,” tells the story of Sue’s last two weeks of life and what that time revealed about the rest of her life. After college, Kate moved to Brooklyn, New York, and continued to study death and dying as a researcher for a PBS documentary about attitudes towards mortality. She currently works as a freelance editor.

Stephens, Kate

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JASON SUDAK

Jason Sudak (b. 1986, Irish Hills, MI) studied film and art history at the University of Michigan, receiving a B.A. in 2010. He has spent the past three years working as the video producer for the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. Selected screenings of his experimental films include the Ann Arbor Film Festival, the Media City Film Festival in Windsor and Secret Cinema in London.

Sudak, Jason

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RAN XIN

Born in 1993, Ran Xin grew up in Tianjin, China. She studied International Cultural Trade and Television Editing & Directing at the Communication University of China. She interned with Ogilvy Public Relations, and worked for CBN-TV as a television director. A formative trip to Africa awakened a personal consciousness in Ran, and her subsequent photography and video work aims to address the role of the artist in depicting cultures and lifestyles.

Xin, Ran

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HAOYANG ZHAO

Haoyang Zhao was born in 1991, and raised in Xi’an, China. After spending four years in Singapore for high school, he enrolled in the Economics program at University College London, where he worked as an event photographer and cinematographer. In 2013 Haoyang attended Georgetown University, where he studied photography and film studies in addition to economics and political science. Haoyang’s interest is in street photography and project-based documentary photography, and he holds a Licentiateship Distinction from the Royal Photographic Society.

Zhao, Haoyang

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XINGYAO ZHENG

Born in 1993, Xingyao Zheng was raised in China. Involved in a long migrating journey across the country with family, she came to have a particular perspective of observing and interpreting man, nature and city. After graduation from high school, she majored in Creative Media at Sun Yat-sen University where she earned a B.F.A degree. Her most recent documentary work regards a town which is slated to be razed due to reconstruction policy, relating to Xingyao’s passion for recording and revealing truth, and neglected and forgotten worlds. She looks forward to making original documentaries at Duke, exploring a combination of new forms of creative production and representations of authenticity.

Zheng, Xingyao

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YIJIE ZHU

Born in 1994, Yijie Zhu grew up in a multi-cultural Chinese environment. She attended Beijing Foreign Studies University, where she earned her double-major B.A. in International Journalism and Communication & English Literature. As a recent college graduate, Yijie’s work explores diverse genres and themes, including historical reflections, cultural activities, stage photography and natural landscapes. She has also studied and produced works in England and Australia. Being a visual and cross-cultural communication enthusiast, Yijie is determined to be a future expert at minimizing problems led by cultural, historical and ideological differences, and encouraging people to make the best use of the messages that film conveys. She came, she saw, she recorded.

Zhu, Yijie

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