Andrea Modica transforming friendship into art

Andrea Modicas Best Friends exhibition will be at the UK Art Museum from Jan. 28 to April 30.

Andrea Modica’s “Best Friends” exhibition will be at the UK Art Museum from Jan. 28 to April 30.

Becky Feigin

Andrea Modica has become renowned around the world for her photography, using collections of still shots to tell a story, sometimes spanning years and cementing the claim that “a picture is worth one thousand words.” Per Modica, her passion for photography was sparked while attending art school.

“As a painting major, I took a photography course as an elective and I’ve been photographing ever since,” Modica said.

Since her love for photography began, Modica has been creating stories through her photos. She is known for creating photography portfolios rather than taking one single photo on its own.

Modica’s portfolios can sometimes last several years, leading to her projects overlapping in time.  

In her portfolio, Treadwell, she follows the struggles of a young girl and her family in upstate New York. The portfolio was shot from 1986 to 2001, illustrating that Modica isn’t in a rush to complete her work.

Fountain, a portfolio Modica worked on for nine years, documented a family in Colorado that ran a small slaughterhouse. Over those nine years, she photographed what went on inside the slaughterhouse as well as intimate family moments.

Modica’s favorite subject to photograph is people. It is clear through her portfolios that she enjoys telling people’s stories and growing relationships with her subjects.

Modica works with a large format view camera, shooting 8×10” film. She produces handmade platinum prints, which you can see in the Best Friend exhibition.

“The big camera slows down the photographic process and definitely contributes to or even changes completely the meaning of an image,” Modica said.

Due to the size of the camera, the best friends Modica shot had to stay close to one another for the photos and be still for a relatively long time.

Best Friends is a portfolio of photos showing school children’s friendships with one another. She was invited to photograph in a high school in Connecticut as an artist in residence, which is when this project began.

“I initially attempted to make single portraits,” Modica said. “However, the student’s best friend was often nearby. This resulted in a small collection of photographs of pairs of high school students.”

Modica enjoyed the project so much that she continued working on it in her hometown of Philadelphia. After that, she had the opportunity to photograph at a high school in Modena, Italy for six months.

Modica’s work has been shown in many museums, such as at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of Art. Her first piece to be showed in a museum was at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C. in 1986.

Modica will visit UK on Feb. 10 to give a lecture on her Best Friends project at 4 p.m. in the Kinkaid Auditorium of the Gatton building. Modica’s Best Friends portfolio will be on display from Jan. 28 to April 30. Admission to the lecture and the exhibition is free.