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New portrait exhibit highlights work of NMSU's chief photographer

New Mexico State University's fall foliage and architectural details are always popular photo subjects, but the real story of the campus community is told in the faces of the people who make up NMSU's diverse faculty, staff, students and alumni. That's why University Communications chief photographer Darren Phillips chose to focus on favorite portrait images for the first solo exhibit of his work documenting the campus.

Portrait of Darren Phillips on bench
The portrait photography of Darren Phillips, chief photographer for New Mexico State University Communications and Marketing Services, will be featured in an exhibit, "Faces of NMSU," at the William Conroy Honors Center Gallery through spring 2014. (NMSU photo by Mustafa Al Omran)
Portrait of Daniel Vega-Albela
This portrait of New Mexico State University violin professor Daniel Vega-Albela is among the images by NMSU photographer Darren Phillips that are featured in his "Faces of NMSU" exhibit, on display at the William Conroy Honors Center Gallery through spring 2014. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

Located in the William Conroy Honors Center Gallery on campus, the "Faces of NMSU" exhibit will open to the public on Friday, Dec. 6, and feature about two dozen high-quality portrait prints spanning Phillips' career at NMSU.

Phillips, who began working for NMSU in 2001, is primarily responsible for producing and editing photographic images used in official university news releases, magazines and marketing materials. His award-winning work has appeared in newspapers and magazines across the country.

The portraits in the collection range from soulful to playful, and Phillips said the challenge for him is capturing a single image that tells a story about the person being photographed.

"I really enjoy photographing people more than anything else," he said. "The people here are what make the campus what it is. I hope the people who see these images feel like they got to know the campus community a little bit better."

Phillips said getting the right image is often all about what happens before he ever takes his camera out of the bag.

"You have to establish a rapport - draw people out and get them to relax," he said. "I try to get them to forget that a photo shoot is happening and feel like we're just having a conversation. Getting the right image is sort of a convergence of a lot of things over time, and when that happens, you know it."

Phillips said seeing his photos as large, exhibit-quality prints provides a different experience than seeing them in other formats like magazine spreads.

"The images are a lot more luminous," he said. "They have greater tonal depth and much greater detail."

Honors College Dean William Eamon was enthusiastic about the opportunity to showcase the portraits in the Conroy Honors Center, which is located at the corner of Espina Street and University Avenue.

"Darren is a very talented photographer and his images have captured perfectly the mood of New Mexico State University," Eamon said. "Of the hundreds of images that Darren has produced over the years, we selected these very special pictures to display because they capture the spirit of NMSU and its students."

Julie Hughes, director of internal communications and public affairs at University Communications and Marketing Services, said the exhibit offers a glimpse into the artistic mind behind the images that represent NMSU every day.

"This is an exciting opportunity for the NMSU and Las Cruces communities to see how the faces of the campus have been captured in the past 12 years," Hughes said. "Darren is a valued member of the University Communications team, and we are thrilled that he can showcase his talent with this exhibit."

Phillips holds a bachelor's degree in photojournalism from San Jose State University and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Missouri. Before arriving at NMSU, he worked as a staff photographer and reporter for newspapers in California, New York and South Africa.

For more information about the "Faces of NMSU" exhibit, contact Phillips at darrenp@nmsu.edu.