Photographs by Jo Sittenfeld ’02

Jo Sittenfeld ’02
Thad Russell
Instead of writing a junior paper, Jo Sittenfeld ’02 took a series of photographic portraits of her 20-year-old classmates for her junior independent project. During the fall of her senior year, Sittenfeld exhibited the photos — taken on a medium-format film camera — in the hallway of 185 Nassau Street. After graduation, the photo negatives were stored in her basement.

In the months leading up to her 15th reunion last year, Sittenfeld emailed classmates to ask whether they’d be interested in recreating the shots.

“I knew it was a crapshoot as to whether or not I could pull off the project,” Sittenfeld says. “I’ve kept in touch with a lot of the people in the original photos, but not all of them.”

After two days of running around campus dressed in a Reunions cowgirl outfit, Sittenfeld was able to find many of her classmates and replicate 18 of the old photos. Four are shown here.

“We both change and don’t change that much over time,” she says. “We live in a culture that’s obsessed with youth, but to me, we all seem more comfortable in our own skin now than we did back then, even if we’re no longer 20 years old. I love stories that unfold over time, and this project definitely fits within that theme.”

View the full project on Sittenfeld’s website at

Larry Fu ’02: “I don’t remember taking the original photo, but I probably was annoyed at the time. In college, Jo often abruptly ordered me to stand somewhere so that she could take my photo. She has told me that I don’t photograph well because I am too tense (probably because I am being forced to awkwardly pose for a photo). In the recreated photo, I was also annoyed since Jo made me skip dinner and walk across campus to pose for a picture. In spite of photographic evidence to the contrary, things haven’t changed much since college.”

Tenley Chepiga ’02 and Ryan Salvatore ’02: “Like Ryan, I cannot remember taking the original portrait. Jo captured an ordinary moment on an ordinary day — one of the millions that made up our Princeton experience.”

“It was really only when I saw the direct comparison between the original and the ‘refreshed’ that it struck me: gray hair. Lots of it. But more seriously, it’s pretty amazing how our expressions still seem so naturally in keeping with our personalities.”

Sophie Balzora ’02: “Jo asked us questions loosely pertaining to the photos, and the most poignant for me was, ‘What do you know now that you didn’t know when you were 20?’ My answer? That I had no clue what love was. Love is tough. And it gets tougher and more complicated as you age. But like life, love, in all forms, is what makes and breaks you, as trite as that seems.”

Olympia McNerney ’02: “I recall Jo showing up in my room way too early on a Saturday morning telling me it was time to go. To my surprise, and not unusual with Jo, she told me I had no time to get ready and led me to the bathroom for my glamour shot. Amusing in retrospect because for those who know me, I would never agree to be photographed wearing shorts and a red tank top.”

This story appears in PAW’s 2018 Reunions Guide. Visit your registration tent during Reunions to pick up a copy of the guide, which features reunion plans for the major classes, new restaurants in Princeton, and more.