Visual Validation

Marissa Newman's photo will be displayed at Hotel Roger Williams in New York City.
Marissa Newman's photo will be displayed at Hotel Roger Williams in New York City.

Marissa Newman never thought an assignment for her Advanced Black & White Photo class would ever be blown up and displayed in the bedrooms of strangers. But in fall 2011, one of her photos will be displayed at Hotel Roger Williams in New York City.

“It actually hasn’t quite set in yet. I’m kind of baffled by it, to be honest,” said Newman, a third-year photography major. “I think I’m good at what I do but I never thought that other people would think I was that good. I’m flattered and flabbergasted.”

The class assignment was to make a series of photos. Using a Canon Rebel K2 on TriX 400 film, Newman took portraits of people she knew, resulting in seven complete digital prints. She then  decided to “sandwich” negatives, which puts two negatives on top of each other when they are printed, like two layers.

The one chosen for the hotel is a portrait of her older sister. First, she photographed the scenery at the historic Cedar Mere, which is by her house in Roslyn, N.Y. After taking a photograph of her sister, she thought the two would work very well together, without knowing prior that she was going to sandwich them specifically.

That same sister in the photo works for MSM Property Design, an interior design and architecture firm. She was working with Hotel Roger Williams in finding artwork for the rooms and recommended Newman’s photography.

“They saw my work and really liked it so they decided to use it,” Newman said. “They looked at a bunch of my work and saw this one in particular and thought it worked with the room. I don’t usually name my work but since it’s a portrait of my sister, I’ll just call it ‘Katie.’”

This is the first time Newman has had a photo accepted anywhere.

“I’ve never submitted for awards or grants or anything like that,” she said.

Newman began photography at Roslyn High School where she took a basic dark room class and loved it. She then worked as the photo editor for her high school yearbook. After attending the School of Visual Arts in New York City, she transferred to New Paltz in fall 2009. She is applying to the BFA program in April. This is the third time Newman will be applying for the BFA, after being rejected twice.

“It makes me feel shitty, like I’m not good enough. I guess this kind of validates me a little bit. I’m actually getting an artist commission,” she said.

Hotel Roger Williams will feature Newman’s photo above the headboard of each bedroom. According to Newman, there are 198 bedrooms and the photo will probably be in every one. However, they might use something different, depending on the room size.

“They don’t have the rights to my photo so they can’t reprint it whenever they want, which is important because it’s still my property, my copyright,” she said.

Newman is currently working on a series for her Contemporary Issues class about youth and their idea of religion. She took photos of her synagogue back home, Temple Judea, of various Jewish-related items and ideas. One of Newman’s main influences is Jeffrey A. Wolin, who has one specific series about Holocaust survivors.

“I’m really influenced by him because of his style. He puts the story of the survivor over the photograph,” said Newman, also a Jewish studies minor.

Newman is staying positive for the future and hopes to be accepted into the BFA this semester.

“My mom keeps telling me, ‘Marissa, you have to remember how good you are,’ because you know, I’ve been rejected twice from the BFA and that’s definitely affected my self-esteem as far as my work goes,” she said. “But I think it’s part of the process when it comes to art you get a lot of rejection. Just because you’re rejected doesn’t mean you’re not good.”

Newman’s work is also featured on her website,