Carlos Jiménez Cahua ’08
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Excerpt from Devoted to the arts: Students combine creative, academic pursuits in many ways by Jennifer Greenstein Altmann, Staff writer
Senior Carlos Jiménez Cahua can be found most evenings at the digital photography lab at the Lewis Center for the Arts, scanning his pictures into the computer, editing them in Photoshop and printing them out as 8-by-10 images. Cahua's passion for photography has taken him to Lima, Perú, on a Lucas Summer Fellowship to photograph landscapes and cityscapes, and to Florence, Italy, where he spent a semester studying at the Studio Art Centers International. He has done all of this while majoring in chemistry.
Cahua offers just one example of the different ways that Princeton students weave the arts into their lives. In the classroom, students can major in music or pursue certificates in theater and dance, visual arts or creative writing. Many others are involved in numerous extracurricular arts activities across campus -- finding they can focus their studies in different fields and still have ample time to flourish in their artistic endeavors.
The following profile shows how Cahua has incorporated the arts into his Princeton experience.
One of Cahua's favorite days at the Lewis Center is when they hold "open studios." Every student artist pins recent work up on the walls of the fourth-floor studio, and faculty members from every discipline come by and offer comments.
"I get to hear what drawing and film professors think about my photographs," said Cahua, whose work explores man's relationship with his landscape. "They always have a different twist on how they interpret my work, and sometimes they see things I hadn't even intended to put in."
Cahua hadn't intended to pursue art when he came to Princeton, but a class in black-and-white photography taught by lecturer Accra Shepp that he signed up for "on a whim" during his sophomore year struck a chord with him.
"I pretty much haven't stopped making photos since," said Cahua, who is earning a certificate in the Program in Visual Arts.
At the same time, Cahua, who was born in Lima and raised in New Jersey and South Carolina, has kept up with the requirements for a chemistry major. In order to be able to go to Florence to study photography during his junior year, Cahua had to complete his junior independent work for chemistry during his sophomore year. For his senior thesis in photography -- required for those earning a certificate -- Cahua traveled to Lima on a Lucas Summer Fellowship, awarded annually by the University to two juniors for thesis work, to photograph the urban landscape.
His photographs of construction sites have a "formal beauty and minimalism," said Jocelyn Lee, a lecturer in visual arts and in the Lewis Center. "What's interesting about his photographs is that they document normally unrecognized spaces -- essentially overlooked spaces -- and they also make reference to minimalist painting and sculpture."
Princeton has made it relatively easy to pursue both his interests, Cahua said.
"You don't have to declare your major until your sophomore year, so there is more freedom in taking courses," he said. "Because of that freedom, I was able to sample courses in the arts."
And studying two disparate fields affords Cahua the chance to explore two different ways of thinking, he said.
"Science is so rigorous. There is a right answer always," he said. "But in art there are no right or wrong answers."
His research in organic chemistry, in which he is attempting to synthesize a new organic superconductor that could one day be used on a circuit board, offers him an opportunity to explore new ground with laboratory research and to work as part of a team. Photography enables him to work independently and follow his eye.
"Doing both is a boon," he said.