The Cotton House: Faith, Friends, and Festivity

Tucked away in a shady, sun-spotted section of East Campus is the Cotton House, an old fraternity house since converted to housing for members of Mizzou’s several christian ministries. Step inside, and the house’s varied and sprawling interior will surely surprise you- as will the people who live there.

Built sometime in the late 19th century, the property was never a plantation, as the name might suggest, but rather a family home. Later, the house changed hands between several greek organizations before finally being purchased for its current use in 2007. Today, between 15-20 young men call this storied place home at any given time, and each brings his own unique perspective and personality.

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Patrick Whalen and Heath Snider goof around in the kitchen together while relaxing on a Friday afternoon.

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The house’s 3rd floor balcony is a favorite spot for chilling and checking out the neighborhood scene. “East Campus is great for drunk watching,” says Whalen. “Sometimes, they’ll stumble in to one of our parties. It’s always a great time.”

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“People like to joke about the Cotton House as being a ‘Frat of God’, says Bill Chlanda, a resident who has lived there for several years. But he says it’s more relaxed and informal than many people might think. “It’s really just a bunch of dudes, there’s not a lot of organization. Responsibilities fall pretty naturally.”
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Each of the Cotton House’s many rooms has a different feel unique to the guys who live there.
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There are always games and activities to be had at the house. “One of the things we’re probably most known for are our dry dance parties,” said Chlanda. “They actually get pretty crazy. It’s cool for people to see that they can have a good time without getting plastered.”

Self Critique

Were I to do this assignment again, I think I would spend a lot more time fiddling with the settings on my camera and making sure my ISO was properly set. The many windows and light sources around the house made it really hard for me to get my camera set for the different shooting situations. As a result, a lot of photos I got were either blown out or out of focus, and I was unable to use them.

Another adjustment I’d make were I to do the project over would be to spend a lot more time shooting in the house. I would’ve liked to have a couple of conversations with the residents to get more of their story, and to be able to take advantage of several different times of day to shoot. This would give me different kinds of light, and also just a better feel for what goes on in the house.

I think this project is successful in that it gives you a quick glimpse into who these people are, and a succinct snapshot of what a day in their life is like. However, I think it fails in that it doesn’t provide very much information as to who these people are. It doesn’t give you that detailed of a story. Due to time constraints and trouble with my equipment settings, I just wasn’t able to come away with enough quality images of the residents to really flesh out the portfolio.

Audio/Video component

I actually think this project would be a really good candidate for an audio/video section. I’d love to see if I could get some footage of one of their dry parties, which usually feature costume themes, or some audio of them hanging out in the family room just talking. The house is a really cool environment with lots of different rooms and lighting, and I think shooting video in there could make for some interesting angles and scenes.

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