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A Reflective Lens

Sarah Quinn sits at a table. Her photos hang on the wall behind her.

by Jeffrey Martin ’04, ’05 (M.A.)

Life is full of distractions. Attention is the currency of the 21st century, and people and devices compete for it on a per-second basis. Sometimes, it takes stepping away from it all to realize which voices are most important, and to hear what your own voice has been trying to tell you.

Sarah Quinn ’89, ’09 (MBA) is no stranger to this dynamic. As an assistant vice president and Saint Joseph’s chief of staff, Quinn plays a crucial role in the University’s daily operation and strategic planning. With such a demanding day-to-day, Quinn had become accustomed to the din of distraction. That is, until she participated in the Ignatian Colleagues Program, an 18-month program offered by the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities designed to educate participants more deeply in the Jesuit and Catholic tradition of higher education.

“One of the components of the program is a seven-day silent retreat,” Quinn explains. “I had a bit of angst leading into that. I wasn’t sure I wanted to get to know myself on that level.”

The only time Quinn could speak during the retreat was during daily meetings with a spiritual director. The two women would talk about how Quinn was passing the time, and one hobby continued to come up.

“I told her I was taking a lot of photos,” Quinn says. “She asked if I was a photographer, and while I wasn’t sure I could call myself one, I often have moments where I walk past something, think it would make a good photo, and continue on my way, only to feel something inside me tugging me back to take the picture.”

The director encouraged Quinn to embrace that feeling, and to make time in her life to let her inner artist out. After leaving the retreat, Quinn followed the advice, undertaking a year-long quest to take at least one photo a day and reflect on the joy that each photo brings. The resulting project, an exhibition that Quinn calls “Soul Exposure,” was displayed in the Haub Executive Center in McShain Hall this spring.

“The spiritual director told me that photography is my church,” Quinn recalls. “As odd as I thought that was at the time, there’s some real truth to it. My camera has opened up a whole new way that I see God in the everyday moments of life.”

Lilypads in a pond.
"Seeblätter" - Lily Pads in a pond at Longwood Gardens - Kennett Square, PA
String of lights
"Light it Up" - String of lights in shop at Terrain - Devon, PA
A glass building shot through an underpass.
"Reflections in City Dwelling" - Reflections captured on skyscraper near Drexel University - Philadelphia, PA
A potato chip in the shape of a heart
A potato chip in the shape of a heart, from "Love is Where You Find It," a compilation of hearts found in the most unsuspecting of places
Seashells in a bucket.
"A Walk on the Beach" - Purple beach rocks collected with my nephew - Outer Banks, North Carolina
A sticker reading "One Love" on a guardrail.
"One Love" - Sticker spotted on median divide while stuck in traffic - Springfield, PA
Against a colorful wall sits a rock with a heart painted on it.
A rock painted with a heart, from "Love is Where You Find It," a compilation of hearts found in the most unsuspecting of places
The Philadelphia skyline as seen through a fence.
"Philadelphia Freedom" - Skyline as seen through fence at the University of Pennsylvania - Philadelphia, PA
An underpass is bathed in purple light.
"Illuminated Underpass" – Anderson Avenue – Ardmore, PA
A tile floor.
"Enticing Tile" – Floor in Market East – Philadelphia, PA