On an oddly brilliant winter day, each table in the Pacific Union College campus center mall is packed with students trying to enjoy a warmth they haven’t felt since early fall. Among these students is senior Diana Klonek, who sits back in her chair outside The Grind with an iced soy chai hiding behind a pair of oversized sunglasses. Clad, as usual, in an outfit effortlessly blending vintage pieces with a bohemian feel, Klonek is quite clearly an artist.
The design and photography major’s artistic talent recently landed her a job as an assistant at Alan’s Studio—a St. Helena-based firm run by photographer Gene Ivester, to whom Klonek was recommended by one of her professors in the visual arts department. Though still learning much about the studio’s functions, Klonek really enjoys her time there, where she “isn’t even allowed to think about anything other than photography.”
Klonek has taken every opportunity to exhibit her creativity during her years at PUC. In addition to being yearbook editor, art director for the student-run publication the Campus Chronicle, and assistant Funnybook editor, Klonek worked in the design lab for the visual arts department as a lab tech for three years, and in the photography lab for four.
The experience that contributed most significantly to her career, however, came during her two blissful years working as a student designer and photographer at the PUC public relations office. Her boss, Haley Wesley, says she hired Klonek because of her work ethic, talent, and friendliness, which was a good fit for the notoriously fun-loving group at PR. “Diana is very good at getting the right feeling out of a certain event,” says Wesley. “She has this great combination of both photography and design skills that not a lot of people have, and I see all kinds of doors opening to her.”
This passion for art came to Klonek in her early years. As a child, Klonek’s family didn’t own a television, so instead of sitting in front of a screen, she was “forced to get creative.” Klonek nostalgically smiles as she recalls that a friend of her mother first introduced her to the art of creating still pictures when she began to take them along on her photography outings. “We had these really cheap instamatic cameras, little Kodaks, that were just really bad,” Klonek laughs. “I would shoot everything with it and get them all developed and I was so proud of myself.”
Photography, for Klonek, has from the beginning been a way to put the chaos of the world in order. “It gave me a way to see the world the way I wanted to see it. I think that’s what photography does; it’s not about the real world, not about showing things how they are. For me, shooting is a way for me to show the world with my own eyes.”
Last year, Klonek incorporated this philosophy into her photography thesis, in which she captured images of immigrants making their adopted country their own. The project included a portrait of her Polish grandfather—a musician who entered Germany in the 1940s when borders were tight. “It’s my favorite because it’s more personal,” she says. “I have an attachment to it.”
This project led into her Honors Program thesis project, a film about personal narratives and what shapes us. Upon this project’s completion, Klonek will graduate from PUC cum laude with bachelors degrees in both design and photography.
With only one quarter left until she enters into the real world, Klonek has no doubt that she will continue pursuing her art as a career, specifically in the field of fashion photography. “You get to create beautiful images and model things with your eye and your creativity,” she says as she sips her chai. “The artistry, getting to play with environment…it’s just perfect for what I like to do.”
With clothes impeccably mismatched and skill to blow others out of the water, no one would ever doubt that she has found her calling.
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