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Lone ‘Wolff’ photographer finds solace in snapshots

By Josh Galvin ’13

A portrait of Hannah Roberts '13, one of Wolff's friends

It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words.

But for Sam Wolff ’13, the value of his photographs runs much deeper, measured not in words but emotions.

“My interest began about five years ago when I stole my dad’s camera on a trip to Washington, D.C. but then it was rekindled in Mr. Mulloy’s beginning photo class in the summer of sophomore year,” Wolff said. “I started learning the technique that gave me the tools to take it to a different level.”

Wolff is currently a student in AP Photography, which covers a balance of mechanics and creative license.

The first semester is dedicated to creating a breadth portfolio, which challenges the students’ practical ability as they get a good feel for personal tastes.

“The assignments he would give us made you put yourself in a situation you wouldn’t normally be in … it forced me to experience certain things that you wouldn’t necessarily experience otherwise,” Wolff said.

A photo from Wolff's AP Studio Art portfolio

However, in the second semester the concentration portfolio narrows the photographer’s focus to one specific style.

“I chose storytelling, which focuses less on the technical aspect and more on my ability to tell a story,” Wolff said. “It allows me to be more creative.”

Like other mediums of art, photography serves varying roles for different people. For Wolff, his photos create a comprehensive portfolio of his life at the present moment.

“The biggest thing I try to do is tell a story with my photos as best I can,” Wolff said. “I prioritize what happens in the photo and what fashion it happens in over elements like composition and lighting.”

The collective memories expressed in his pictures allow him to catalogue his feelings and personal experiences.

“I try to take what I’m thinking in my head and make it tangible,” Wolff said.

A natural urge for any artist is to share their work and garner as much publicity as possible. But unlike other photographers, Wolff tends to keep his pictures mostly under wraps.

“I started with, but I don’t advertise my work … I wouldn’t put it on Facebook,” Wolff said.

However, he added that websites like and allow photographers to get their work out in the open with little effort.

Xavier student Hannah Roberts ’13 is one of the few people with exposure to most of Wolff’s work.

“I’ve known Sam since our freshman year, and he’s been taking pictures ever since I can remember,” Roberts said. “His work is very autobiographical in a way, and I think each photo comes with its own unique perspective on life.”

Wolff uses photography not only to capture his thoughts in the present but to retain them in a visceral way for the future.

“Each picture really makes a statement about his character and the way his mind works,” Roberts said. “His thoughtfulness and his profound perspective on life are put on display in his photographs, whether he realizes it or not.”

“There are a lot of things I want to remember and have a tangible and emotional connection with that time period rather than if I had just written it down,” Wolff said. “I print out a lot of them at my house and go through them and relive the moments associated with them.”

“It is a way for me to be able to reflect on stuff that’s happened in my life,” he added.

“It’s something more than just practice and a quality editing software,” Roberts said. “It’s a God given talent.”

Yet as in all endeavors, talents must be practiced and sharpened. For those who are interested in taking up photography, Wolff noted it takes more than pointing and shooting.

“Photography is the act of putting something brilliant in front of the lens,” he said.

“The camera only gets you so far.”

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