The Year in Photographs 2017

Tufts photographers share their favorite images from the university's campuses—and beyond
students view the eclipse in the summer of 2017
On August 21, Tufts students were prepared for the eclipse. Photo: Anna Miller
December 18, 2017


Throughout the year, Tufts photographers roam the Medford/Somerville, Boston, and Grafton campuses, documenting the people and places that define the university. They photograph the arrival of new students in the fall to the graduation of the senior classes in the spring, and everything in between. They create images of students and faculty at work—and at play.

Staff photographers Alonso Nichols and Anna Miller serve up their favorites from 2017 for Tufts Now readers, taking us behind the scenes of each shot.

Hip Hop Contagion

It was hard to sit still while photographing the hip hop dance class in Jackson Hall. The energy was contagious in the room as students stepped out of their comfort zones and onto the dance floor. It was only the start of the spring semester, but students were visibly gaining more confidence with each new dance routine. I wanted to capture a moment of the students letting loose, having fun, supporting one another, and enjoying the moment. The opportunity arrived at the end of the class, when students were asked to pair up and coordinate their own dance routines. —Anna Miller

Tiny Turtle

It was a cold morning in January when I visited the Wildlife Clinic at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. I was on assignment to photograph staff releasing a rehabbed Cooper’s hawk back into the wild. As I walked through the clinic, I noticed one of the smallest turtles that I had ever seen. The diamondback terrapin was the size of my pinky finger, and doing slow laps in his tank, struggling a little bit like a toddler learning to walk. The tiny creature was still figuring out the art of swimming and diving for food. He was part of a program that is trying to boost the species population by raising hatchlings and releasing them into the wild once they are large enough to evade predators. —Anna Miller

Up and Down Memorial Steps

Memorial Steps are such an iconic element of campus, connecting the Academic Quad uphill with the School of Engineering. I am always struck by their scale and symmetry. At just the right moment in between classes, you can catch a glimpse of friends walking to class together or folks hustling to their next engagement. Whenever I see a runner striding up the steps, I silently hum “Gonna Fly Now” and picture them as Rocky Balboa, arms raised in triumph at the top. —Alonso Nichols

The End of Forest Road

On assignment for a story on Denis Alma Kuindje, F07, a senior protection coordinator for the United Nations at the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, writer Heather Stephenson and I walked until we reached the end of a road, scratching our heads as we read the sign atop the lone pole at what might generously be called an intersection: “Forest Road.” Our fixer and interpreter, Abdi, explained there had been a forest here, cut down and harvested for firewood and building material over the 26 years refugees had lived here, with a population reaching 400,000 at one point. —Alonso Nichols

Portraits of Refuge and Hope

Around 8 a.m. at the Dadaab refugee camp airstrip, the temperature was already approaching 90 degrees, and hundreds of refugees were waiting to check out of the camp, receive their resettlement package from the Kenyan government, and board buses or flights back to Somalia. After years in the camp and with seemingly fewer prospects for resettling in the U.S., Canada, or Europe, these families had decided to return to Somalia. When Abdi, our interpreter, approached an older man for an interview, a sizable crowd of onlookers formed a ring around us to listen. As I began to make this series of portraits, chaos ensued as the teenagers began to grab their friends to be photographed. From out of nowhere, someone produced a Somali flag for the two young girls. I have often wondered about the fate of these people. The older refugees were the age of the younger refugees when they first came to this camp. Most of the younger refugees were born in the camp and have never been to Somalia. Immigration is much more than public policy: it’s about individuals. —Alonso Nichols

Beating the Travel Ban

In February, after three days and 14,000 miles bouncing between Tehran, Kiev, Paris, Basel, Switzerland, and finally Munich, Mehdi Harandi, a visiting scholar in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, was able to board a flight after the Trump administration’s controversial travel ban prohibiting citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. was suspended by a Boston federal judge. When I arrived at Logan Airport’s international arrivals terminal, there was a charge in the air. A line of volunteer lawyers and supporters waited eagerly to welcome and offer assistance to travelers who successfully made it through customs. As Harandi emerged from doorway into the arrivals area, everyone joined the Tufts contingent in cheering. The look on his face was one of pure relief. —Alonso Nichols

Take-off and Landing

The hive was like Grand Central Station at rush hour. Commuters moving in every direction, purposeful, industrious, and functioning in organized chaos. But in this case, the workers were honey bees, commuting from their hive to pollen sources surrounding the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine campus in Grafton. I wanted to make an image that isolated and magnified the bees from the background. I used a telephoto lens, shallow depth of field, and high shutter speed to capture the bees in midflight, returning to the hive with legs laden with pollen. It can be intimidating to be working so close to a hive. Luckily, Rachael Bonoan, a Ph.D. candidate at Tufts studying the honey bees, generously lent me her beekeeping suit. —Anna Miller

Year of the Eclipse

It’s not often that you are able to witness a solar eclipse. On August 21, people across North America were gathering in large numbers to witness the celestial event. Back in Medford, students at Tufts joined in on the fun. I trekked around campus with my cameras, and rounded Ballou Hall to find a large group of students, all in coordinated eclipse glasses, taking in the sight. —Anna Miller

Shadow Play

This fall Tufts opened its Science and Engineering Complex, complete with state-of-the-art labs, classrooms, and study areas filled with natural light. I spent a lot of time in the complex this semester, documenting students in the new spaces conducting experiments, studying for exams, and circling around to program robots. But I wanted to find a way to showcase the building itself, its scale, architectural details, and blending of old and new architecture, and found it here. —Anna Miller

Water World

During the time I spent with the First-Year Orientation Community Service group, the incoming freshmen who were washing vans. There were plenty of opportunities to show people scrubbing with sponges and brushes, spraying water, and so on. But when I climbed into a van, I noticed the ways the windows framed the students and how their silhouette contrasted with the direct sunlight hitting them. It was also a nifty way to photograph the water without getting wet. —Alonso Nichols


My goal is to try to go beyond just documenting the action of a game, and capture images that tell the story of athlete’s emotion, struggle or triumph on the field. I try to fill an entire frame with action. I want to see the players’ eyes, the athletes striving, reaching, and going all-out while the fans in the stands look on. Here, Tufts defensive back Brett Phillips, A18, reaches to make a tackle during the Homecoming football game against Bowdoin College on October 7; the Jumbos defeated the Polar Bears, 31-3. —Anna Miller

The Fans Have It

It was a nail-biter. The second-round NCAA men’s soccer game was in overtime, 0-0, with constant attacks on net. In close games like this one against St. Joseph’s College, and with NCAA championship dreams at stake, it was easy for me to get carried away with the intense action on the field. I didn’t want to look away in case I missed the goal that clinched the game. But I began to realize that I had tunnel vision. I began to wonder, what else is happening here? How are fans responding to the pressure? I turned around, and realized that a crowd had formed along the top of an adjacent field’s bleachers, reacting passionately to every call and close shot on net. Sometimes the best action is the reaction. —Anna Miller    

It’s a Match

Every March, fourth-year students at the Tufts University School of Medicine and medical students across the nation face a potential career and life-defining moment on Match Day, as they open an envelope and discover where they are spending their residency. For couples such as Bryan L. Walker, M17, and his girlfriend, Ali McFarland, M17, there was the added dimension of whether or not they would face the prospect of a long-distance relationship. Happily, both matched at Maine Medical Center. —Alonso Nichols 

Art All the Way Round

There is not much that is casual about an art installation. Everything visible is the result of deliberate decision making. I’m often impressed with the level of detail that artists invest in their work. Shannon Van Gyzen even designed the motif on the wallpaper that she hung in her installation for the SMFA graduate student thesis show in May at the Cyclorama. —Alonso Nichols 

Open Wide: Tooth School Inside

Little Lucy just couldn’t contain her laughter when she came to the dental clinic that the Tufts School of Dental Medicine runs at the Josiah Quincy Elementary School in Boston’s Chinatown. When she walked in, she would only give her name to Jing Wang, D18, in sign language as she had recently learned to spell it. From that moment, I knew to keep an eye on her because she was a live wire. It was nice to see a child that was enthusiastic about getting a dental check-up. —Alonso Nichols

Dive Ball

In sports photography, the general rule is “tight is right,” but there’s always an exception. In this case, the wider scene allows for layers of scale and context that support the action as goalkeeper Emily Wilson, A18, dives to make the stop and her teammate Mariah Harvey-Brown, A18, races back on defense in their match against Colby College this fall. —Alonso Nichols

Pep Talk

When traveling as a photographer with a sports team, you’re always on the move. You try to be the team’s shadow, tagging along to every practice, meeting, banquet, warmup session, and championship game. But you’re also there to document the quiet moments, too. Some of my favorite moments happen on the team bus—you witness candid moments between teammates. In this case, the women’s basketball team was driving from their hotel to the NCAA championship game in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Far from home, teammates relied on each other for support, encouragement, and pep talks, keeping calm under pressure. —Anna Miller

Waves on the Water

The Bacow Sailing Pavilion was a festival of color during a pre-orientation sailing session on Upper Mystic Lake in late August. First-year students arrived at the docks to meet with the Tufts sailing team, and worked in teams to take the boats out for a spin. Some students had sailed before and felt confident, while others were learning the ropes. I was looking to make a fun, graphic image that plays with composition, scale, and converging lines—and captures a fresh take on an annual tradition. —Anna Miller

Art Appreciation

The Tufts Art Gallery installed a 74-foot mural cycle, Two Ancient Chinese Tales—Blue + Red + Yellow = White? by artist Yuan Yunsheng, and I needed to find a way to make a photo of it. In that sense, I did not simply want to literally reproduce the mural. A class was due to visit the gallery on the same afternoon I was there to photograph. As they moved about the space, I found a low vantage point that allowed me to make the gallery lighting work to my advantage, creating silhouettes of the students and providing a bit of life and scale to the space. —Alonso Nichols

Farming in Their New World

The Friedman School’s New Entry Sustainable Farming Project gave Phalla Nol and her father, refugees from Cambodia, the opportunity to continue their family’s farming tradition in Massachusetts. Nol farms two acres with the help of her family, and I witnessed her early morning preparations for the day’s market and late evening harvest after dark. With the long days and short growing season, farming in New England is tough, but for Nol and her family, it is the American Dream made real. —Alonso Nichols

Summer Solstice Tree

On June 21, my assignment was to capture the longest day of the year at the Cummings School campus in Grafton. A few days before the solstice, I used a website to calculate the sun’s angles and map out its path, locating the best spots on campus to photograph at certain times. I considered the sun to be my story’s main character, and followed its trajectory throughout the day. But I had a particular picture in mind. I wanted to photograph the setting sun as it silhouetted an iconic lone tree on campus. I walked through the hay fields for hours, making pictures, waiting patiently for the moment before sunset at 8:27 p.m. I crouched in the field, listening to crickets and watching starlings and dragonflies circle overhead. It was a test of patience as bugs feasted on me, and I was painfully aware of the sun’s slow and steady progress across the sky. Then the moment arrived. The sun dipped below the tree’s branches and bathed the hayfield in shafts of warm light. —Anna Miller

Another New Beginning

Students come to Tufts from far and wide. Maria Ferraz, A17, came all the way from São Paulo, Brazil. Her father and mother, Antonio Carlos and Carmen, came to celebrate commencement in May with their only child. As always with parents, their excitement is tempered with a bit of wistfulness: their child has transformed into an adult, ready to make her own life and choices. —Alonso Nichols