Laptop Portrait Series

This photo series was initially begun at the beginning of the spring semester as a way to showcase the various identities and affinities that Amherst students display. This project began after my thesis advisor made a comment on one of my own laptop stickers, and I found that both of us had stickers that very much represented what we care about; for instance, my advisor has a rainbow mammoth and the cover of their most recent book. Laptop stickers are a form of self-expression like any other kind of sticker, and for the student they often are used as signifiers of interests and identities, peeked at in class, in the library, or in Val. I liked the idea of seeing which laptops on campus caught my attention, and for a few weeks I and members of the magazine staff approached people whose stickers we thought were unique and asked to take a photo of their laptop. I thank those who agreed to our odd request, and I hope you enjoy seeing yourself amongst your peers in these photos. 

But, then our semester moved online, and our student body dispersed. Instead of being able to peer at the backs of people’s laptops in shared spaces on campus, now I only stare at the screen of my own, connecting with my peers through my laptop but never being able to see the backs of theirs. This is yet another strange realization of remote learning.

Yet, I still wanted to share the laptop portraits I had already collected, to not abandon this project. Although I’m disappointed that I didn’t have two more months to collect many more photos, I am grateful for the ones here for at least allowing me to start this project. I hope you recognize some of the stickers and their meanings, and perhaps you can even identify who they belong to from the collaged identities they present. If you would like your own laptop to be included, please email me a photo at hbrennan20@amherst.edu, and I will be happy to add it to this collection.

I recognize that laptops represent a certain type of privilege, and that these are indispensable resources for online learning that not everyone is able to access. Yet, I hope that there is still a universal echo in the stickers we place on them, of the desire to advertise our interests in the hope that someone else understands their meaning. This project is merely meant to be a testament to the myriad ways in which we seek to express ourselves and build connections. I hope you enjoy it.