The life of the Greek confraternities in America shot by Sean Gilchrist

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Sean Gilchrist is a 22 year old photographer and filmmaker born in Hong Kong but raised in Arizona. In his personal work he find himself most attracted to depicting cultures, showcasing them existing in a specific period in time before inevitably, they change.

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About ‘A Portrait of American Greek Life’:

For my project Girls, Brothers, Pledges, Freshmen: A Portrait of American Greek Life I attempted to depict the culture of American Greek Life as it exists in the 2010’s. While studying Economics in central Pennsylvania I was introduced to the uniquely American social organizations of Greek Life commonly found throughout the United States’ universities. At most higher learning institutions in America Greek Life organizations are university sanctioned, voluntary social groups consisting of fraternities and sororities that aim to develop the interpersonal skills of its participants while enticing its members to engage in philanthropic leadership. It was during my first college party my freshman year that I decided to start this project.

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A member of the fraternity who was hosting the party handed me the tap to the keg and yelled in my ear over the music “Girls, brothers, pledges freshmen. That’s the order remember it.”. He was referring to the proper order to serve other students drinks. Over the next four years I took photos at select social gatherings all affiliated with Greek Life organizations. What I found was a carnivalesque display of excess and hedonism. With the future of American Greek Life organizations unclear amidst national controversy over systematic sexual assault, illegal hazing, and alcohol related student deaths, I aimed to document these organizations in a period of dramatic change.

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Evolving from their philanthropic roots to fit the more modern ethos of college as a period of lent for youths before they enter the workforce, Greek Life organizations across the nation have been prioritizing achieving the archetypal college experience. This spirit, captured in famous Hollywood movies such as Animal House, can be tangibly felt in the muddy puddles of split beer, dully heard in the faint clangs of an empty keg rolling on the ground, and for perhaps a limited amount of time seen in the yards of fraternity houses across the United States.

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Time to read
3 min
Words by
Published on
10 February 2018
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