Irene Liu, Ph.D., is an associate professor of philosophy with a passion for photography. She has discovered, though, that the two are not mutually exclusive. A virtue ethicist, Liu recently completed a photo exhibit titled The Thornden Park Bulldogs. She followed the members of the Syracuse-based youth football team as they pursued wins and learned about the value of sportsmanship, to which many other virtues, including generosity, resilience, fairness, and grace, are connected.
Liu learned about the team through her colleague Cavin Robinson, Ph.D., who coaches the Bulldogs. She has always been interested in human goodness, and realized through her work in philosophy that youth sports are where many virtues, especially sportsmanship, are cultivated. She has also long been interested in the visual arts, having worked as an art teacher at the Boys and Girls Club of New York and as an art educator at the Whitney Museum of American Art before earning her doctorate in philosophy from the University of Chicago. The Bulldogs seemed to be a natural subject for Liu. She followed the team for two seasons, photographing more than 60 player the first year and nearly 100 the second.
Liu called the project “a great crash course in photography.” She became a regular presence at the team’s games and practices, primarily taking action shots. Gradually, she got to know a lot of the players. As she learned more about them, she grew more and more impressed by their work ethic. The team practiced three days a week during the school year (five days a week before the start of classes). She was also inspired by the focus their coaches had on life off of the field, particularly academics. Le Moyne’s Center for Urban and Regional Applied Research provided them team with a grant to establish a tutoring program for the Bulldogs, and many Le Moyne students served as tutors, as did Liu.
Throughout the time she spent with the Bulldogs, Liu said she learned more about community and witnessed the ways in which the members of the team learned about sportsmanship.
“I really went from zero to 60, and I felt pressure to become a better photographer,” she said. “My interests definitely guide the subjects I choose.”
The Thornden Park Bulldogs exhibit will run from Feb. 26 – March 25 in the Wilson Art Gallery in the Noreen Reale Falcone Library during regular library hours.
Philosophy at Le Moyne