STCC prepped graduate for art school, fueled passion for fashion photography
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Kimani Worghs enrolled at Springfield Technical Community College for the same reasons many students cite: affordability, close to home, easy to fit classes around work and understanding instructors.
All of that was true, but what he also found was a college experience that supported, deepened and strengthened his desire to pursue a career in fashion photography.
Worghs studied digital photography in the Graphic Communication & Photography program at STCC and earned his degree in 2020. He is now enrolled at Parsons School of Design in New York City, pursuing his BFA in photography. He might not have been there were it not for the preparation and training he received at STCC.
The 22-year-old returned home for a weekend in early October to take part in the launch of his first book of photography, Ascension, which features compelling photos he took between 2020 and 2022.
Some of the photos in the book were shot while he was a student at STCC, and some of the people he met there turned out for the launch at the Valley Photo Center in Tower Square in downtown Springfield to cheer him on and view his work, still displayed in the gallery.
Among them was Sondra Peron, who taught Worghs during his last semester.
“Wow, this young man has a lot to say,” she remembers thinking when she looked at his response to her assignment for a self-portrait.
She said he uses his body as a way of expressing what is meaningful to him.
“His work always stood out,” Peron said.
Phil Ruderman, professor in Graphic Communications & Photography and Worghs’ advisor and teacher, agreed that his former student brought a unique and memorable approach to his work and studies.
“Kimani took a total of seven of my courses during his time in the Digital Photography program,” Ruderman said. “I recall his first assignment in the Intro to Professional Photography course … a self-portrait. He had a highly creative approach, with a deep appreciation for darkness and light, and his work stood out from his fellow classmates. Progressing through the program, the creativity that he manifested in his work was refreshing, especially during the fashion segment of the Advertising Photography course and the fantasy project in the Location Photography course.”
Ruderman said Worghs had the ability to watch a demonstration and quickly grasp and – more importantly – apply the concept to his work.
“Studying the photographer Duane Michals during the Photographic Illustration course helped him to express himself in a very provocative and powerful way,” Ruderman said. “Kimani does a great job blending a fine art approach with commercial photography, and during the time that I have known him, Kimani developed a strong artistic vision with a contextual awareness in his work.”
Worghs was 12 years old when he first picked up a camera and started shooting, discovering his thirst for creative expression best satisfied by his eye behind a camera. He was part of the photography club at Commerce High School. At STCC, he majored in photography, where he found his goals supported by Ruderman.
STCC was a stepping stone. That’s when I really figured out where I wanted to go with my work.Kimani Worghs '20, STCC graduate, Graphic Communication & Photography
Worghs took many classes with Ruderman, including Photographic Illustration, Advertising Photography and advanced digital imaging courses that sharpened and honed his technical skills and abilities.
“It was nice to be able to use the studio and have access to equipment when I wanted to create,” Worghs said.
He also loved taking an analog film class with Peron, where he was learning, for the first time, how to develop pictures in a darkroom before the pandemic hit and sent everyone home for the semester.
But the creativity continued, encouraged by Peron’s assignments, including the self-portrait that eventually made it into his book, and many photographs of members of his family and how they were reacting to the pandemic.
“STCC was a stepping stone. That’s when I really figured out where I wanted to go with my work,” said Worghs during a recent Zoom interview from his Parsons dorm room.
Worghs’ mother, Mercy Myles-Jenkins, remembered her son taking pictures of nature scenes as a child. “He went over to Walgreens to have them printed out. People were astounded at his work. He used a very cheap, small digital camera and that was it.”
Myles-Jenkins said her son first tried a photography program at another area college, but “was very disappointed and felt stuck.”
“STCC is where he really felt good,” she said. “He felt like he was really getting what he needed out of the Graphic Communication & Photography program. STCC matched where he was and really challenged him. Thank goodness for the program at STCC.”
In April 2020, Worghs was thrilled when one of his photographs was selected by the fashion photographer Mert Alas from 2,000 entries to be featured in Vogue for a series titled The Quarantine Days.
“That was exciting for me because that was the first time I’d been recognized,” he said. The experience also helped him better understand, he said, “where I want to see myself in the future.”
An article about the crowd-sourced project in which Alas invited his Instagram followers to submit pictures says Alas didn’t know what to expect when he put out the call, but “the results are gallery-worthy pictures brimming with emotion.”
When Peron invited her students to photograph subjects that might capture life under lockdown, Worghs more than rose to the challenge. She found Worghs’ images remarkable, noting the creative way they captured iconic experiences of the time: portraits of his brothers, sometimes with masks or gloves at the edges of the image; a close-up of caution tape keeping children off a climbing structure with a child in the background. She considered a close-up he shot of a face with a plastic bottle superimposed on it as more fine art than a simple photograph.
“His work always stood out,” she said. “His work didn’t feel like he was just fulfilling an assignment; he was responding to them in some meaningful ways.”
Others noticed his work as well.
On the walls outside the Digital Photography Program Gallery hang seven photographs taken by Worghs, alongside other work by students that had been selected for the student showcase.
Worghs credits his mother for bringing the book to life. “She saw my work and basically told me, ‘You have a book.’ ”
She then published it through a new business she started during the pandemic.
The book is broken into four sections illustrating significant experiences in his life: a series of quarantine photos; a section of photos inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement; faces of Jamaica, portraits he shot while in Jamaica for his grandfather’s funeral; and fashion photography work that he describes as “influenced by friendship and romance and the journey of escapism.”
Most of the photos take up entire pages, displayed vividly in a book layout designed to showcase a photographer’s eye.
Worghs was accepted to every place he applied, including Pratt Institute, the University of the Arts in London and the London Metropolitan University.
He is happily studying at Parsons, where his credits from STCC easily transferred. One day, he hopes to travel far and wide as a professional photographer.
“I would love to travel with my work and inspire people to do what they love,” he said.
Meanwhile, STCC instructor Sondra Peron is not surprised in the least that her former student is finding success.
“He’s a strong, silent type,” she said, “but he’s got a lot to say in his work.”
Interested in applying to STCC? Visit stcc.edu/apply or call Admissions at (413) 755-3333.
About Springfield Technical Community College
STCC, the Commonwealth's only technical community college, continues the pioneering legacy of the Springfield Armory with comprehensive and technical education in manufacturing, STEM, healthcare, business, social services, and the liberal arts. STCC's highly regarded workforce, certificate, degree, and transfer programs are the most affordable in Springfield and provide unequaled opportunity for the vitality of Western Massachusetts. Founded in 1967, the college – a designated Hispanic Serving Institution – seeks to close achievement gaps among students who traditionally face societal barriers. STCC supports students as they transform their lives through intellectual, cultural, and economic engagement while becoming thoughtful, committed and socially responsible graduates.
Jim Danko, (413) 755-4812, email@example.com