If one of the only things in life that is constant is change, then this collection serves as a manifesto for the familiar nature of innovation. Santa Clara University in the 1970s was a period not unlike our own today: one of great change in the fields of technology and fashion. Yet these changes that felt so new during the time of their introduction feel familiar to us today.
Capturing this period in transition that still resonates with viewers nearly forty years later is William Chuck Eymann, photographer of Santa Clara from 1960 to 1978. A nationally recognized figure in his trade, Eymann was the University’s first contracted photographer. He possessed the artistic gift of capturing the candid moments of everyday university life. This collection would not be possible without his seemingly innate ability to use the medium of photography as a sort of portal into his own time – a time when the picturesque walks of Jesuit priests through the Nobili Gardens were gone, and the beach towels and two piece bikinis of garden sunbathers were in.
This collection focuses on technology and fashion in Eymann’s works, as these are concrete means by which change can be measured and assessed. In photographs of science and engineering classrooms, instruments and tools appear “dated” by contemporary standards. Televisions mounted on walls and ashtrays scattered across desks feel out of place, and the absence of computers from library study tables reveals a strange era when books triumphed over computers. Chunky high heels on women and long facial hair on men mirrors a time when Farrah Fawcett and George Harrison were looked to as fashion royalty.
Yet what makes this decade of great interest is that even though such technology and fashion feels strange to us as we glimpse at the photographs, there are still familiar elements that shine through. Students today continue to hover around machinery and record data just as they did then, and floral pants and aviator sunglasses are in vogue even now. Moreover, there are certain habits that truly remain unchanged over time, from dining with friends in Benson to chatting on the steps of O’Connor before class.
The photograph titles and captions were not created by the photographer himself, but rather by the curator of this collection. They function to draw the viewer closer to those details in the photographs that illustrate the paradoxical foreign-and-familiar nature of what it means to be a student at Santa Clara – both then and now. In looking at these photographs from the 1970s, we may be unfamiliar with some of the students, faculty and staff, but they are merely stand-ins for any of us who have ever stepped outside of our doors and breathed an air of change.
In 1972, David Bowie released his song “Changes” to an American nation transitioning from one world to the next: President Nixon announced that no new draftees would be sent to Vietnam, the Boston Marathon allowed women to participate for the first time, and the Basketball Hall of Fame elected its first African American member. Today, we continue find ourselves amidst a world of transition. But right here on the Santa Clara University campus, we find that change is our closest link to the past.
The images in this digital collection are a small part of Eymann's work for SCU, maintained by the Archives and Special Collections Department. Information on the physical collection can be found in the finding aid:
Visit the A&SC to explore more of the images in the William C. (Chuck) Eymann Photograph Collection.