Five Years and 1,000 Moments of Bowdoin Students Being Bowdoin Students

By Rebecca Goldfine
To appear on the College's homepage, you don't need to be a fellowship winner, a basketball star, or have written a stunning play.
Willi Lempert discussing with a student.
Assistant Professor of Anthropology Willi Lempert talks with a student. All Moments are saved in their own archive.

You just need to be caught by a photographer in a spontaneous interaction—like explaining an idea to a professor, giggling with a friend, gazing at art, or figuring out the answer to a hard problem with a study mate. (Of course, champions, maestros, heroes, and geniuses are also featured! Also, the occasional solitary figure.)

On Monday, Feb. 12, Bowdoin Moments—the photo slideshow at the top of the College's homepage—turned 1,000. That means one thousand unique snapshot pairs of campus life have been recorded and archived since the slider launched on Halloween, 2018, as part of the College's website redesign.

Janie Porche, Bowdoin's creative director in the Office of Communications and Public Affairs, designed the homepage with Moments as its centerpiece. “My inspiration came out of browsing the photos in the archives and seeing how many of them conveyed this genuine connection between people,” she said.

“The way that we talk to each other, and work together, and laugh, and celebrate—those are the things that actually make Bowdoin such a unique place. We celebrate the big achievements too, of course, but it's amazing what you can tell about a community by looking for these interactions on a regular weekday.

The interactive slider tool gives staff, faculty, and current students a reason to regularly visit the site, while offering high school students and others a sense of life here.

“It’s a unique way for prospective students and their families to see moments captured on campus, which allows them to envision themselves as members of this special community and liberal arts experience,” said Claudia Marroquin, senior vice president and dean of admissions and student aid. “These moments in time tell a beautiful story—a picture is worth a 1,000 words.”

Moments, students hiking over mud
A student lends a hand over a muddy patch of trail. Students may submit their own Moments. “There will always be places where we can't be, and where our photographers can't be—on the team bus or really late at night—these special times,” Porche said. “So to get something from those times feels great, like a window into that world.”

Porche updates Moments every weekday when Bowdoin is in session, a feat that has her poring over incoming batches of photographs, as well as springing into action herself with camera in hand.

“There are so many great things that happen here that aren't news—but that are special and important,” she said. Such as one occasion when a violinist unexpectedly began playing on the Quad during COVID.

Moments, by the way, persisted throughout the pandemic, a feat that took plenty of ingenuity, patience, and watchfulness during a much quieter time on campus.

By now, Bowdoin's preferred professional photographers know to ignore their instinct to submit only their favorite photos and to include the two or three just before or after their “perfect shot.”

One student helps another with his tie.
One student helps another with his tie.

“Maybe some schools would keep the best single photo and ditch the second one, but when viewed together, the pair really shows people working together, liking each other, celebrating—all the things that our community values,” Porche said.

As an example, she pointed to one of her favorite Moments of a male student knotting the polar bear tie of another. “I like it because it's real,” she explained. “Let's all help each other, you know?”

Students took delight over a recent Moments featuring a snow bear, a polar bear made by two first-year students after a snowstorm. It was juxtaposed with the snow-dusted polar bear statue in front of Smith Union. The caption: “Reject tradition. Embrace modernity.”

Hayden Redelman ’24 loved this. “Very fun!” he said. Moments “has whimsy,” he added.

“It really reflects the Bowdoin brand. It's hilarious and is part of our character.”

A student scuba diving flops backward into the ocean from a boat
A student scuba diver flops backward into the ocean.
Student gazes at art during Visual Art's December open house.
Gazing at art during the Visual Art Department's December open house.

An informal survey of students lunching in Thorne with their laptops open produced practically 1,000 ideas about Moments, which is considered by some to be “cute,” “fun,” and “informative,” while others see it as worthy of academic study.

“It engages you immediately,” said Sarah Lawless, the English department's academic coordinator. “If the webpage had dimension, it would be like a 3-D object. It gives the page texture.”

Sachin Maharaj ’24 said his art history course, Visual Literacy in a Digital World, taught by Professor of Art History Pamela Fletcher, discussed Moments in class early in the semester. “She brought it up to give us an idea of the way art history techniques can help us analyze digital artifacts,” he said. The students looked at its color, composition, and form.

This anecdote launched Maharaj and Redelman, who were tablemates, into a debate about whether Moments should be labeled as art. “It's artistic, creative, and visually appealing,” Redelman argued, but he wouldn't call it art.

“What? So it has all the expressions of art, but it's not art?” Maharaj rejoined. To him, it most definitely is.

Ross Grundy ’24, sitting at a nearby table, said he appreciates Moments because it tells stories, as viewers have to fill in what happens between the first and second photos, which typically switch from black-and-white to color.

Josh Baba ’24, sitting with Grundy, said he likes the way it records “people working together, people in community, people smiling and enjoying each other.”

Fiona Gallager's only complaint, she said, “is I've never been on it!” However, she always celebrates when her friends are. “We'll share the news in a group chat,” the sophomore said.

Editor's note: Two days after publication of this article, Fiona and her teammates appeared on Moments number 1,003. Light up the group chat accordingly.