R. John Chapel Jr. first enrolled in the Drexel Institute of Technology in 1961. Now, his work is displayed here on Drexel’s campus in the Paul Peck Alumni Center Gallery. The photography exhibited in the gallery reflects the well-traveled life and experiences of a Drexel alumnus.
Chapel is known at Drexel for having given several large-sum donations to the university. According to DrexelNow, his donations exceeded $3.5 million to the LeBow College of Business between 2008-2014. Additionally, a $1 million donation was made to name R. John Chapel Jr. Dean’s Suite in the LeBow College of Business in 2014 and also established the John and Jinnie Chapel ACHIEVE Center & Dragon Lounge in 2017. This impressive group of donations reflects Chapel’s generosity and success as a Drexel Alumnus.
The photography is arranged on three walls in the main gallery room. One wall displays vibrantly colored pictures featuring a myriad of subjects, including nature, architecture, wedding pictures, animals and boats. These pictures were taken in an array of locations, including Canada, Russia, Greece and France.
Another wall features three large pieces, one of St. Petersburg Cathedral, another of a carousal in France and the third of graffiti on a large door in Spain. These are among the more abstract and eye-catching pieces in the exhibit, given their size and creative intent.
The third wall takes on a more subtle look with almost entirely black and white photography. This group of photos is the most compelling, as the decision to lessen the vibrancy of color allows the texture of the subjects to be appreciated by the viewer. An image of a knot on a tree, roots and water all feature texture or reflection that the black and white coloring highlights unique components of.
A personal favorite is a picture of a tuba that captures a reflection on the brass, revealing depth and masterfully capturing a specific angle and space. Reflections allow the viewer to consider the greater context of a photo, in a sense, breaking the forth wall of the singular frame of context in the photo itself.Chapel uses innovative lighting techniques to catch the eye in many pieces of his work in the Paul Peck Alumni Gallery exhibit.
Chapel’s personal story may be more relatable than many students might expect. Chapel originally planned to pursue Drexel Institute of Technology for a degree in mechanical engineering. However, in 1963, he left the university due to financial difficulties. During his break from school, Chapel had a variety of part-time jobs before returning to Drexel to study business, graduating in 1967. The story of this Drexel alumnus might inspire, especially as we barrel toward the end of spring term. Someone who at one point struggled with finances and finishing a degree has been able to feature and donate photography of clearly successful and well-traveled explorations through adulthood.
Open 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. on weekdays, the exhibit is a pocket away from the work and challenges the second portion of spring term often presents. If you have extra time on campus, take a look at these works that will take you away from the everyday stresses of school.