On the road with Stephen Marc: ASU photography professor awarded Guggenheim Fellowship

May 6, 2021

Photographer and digital montage artist Stephen Marc has been named a 2021 Guggenheim Fellow in photography by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

Marc is the fourth faculty member in ASU’s photography program to be named a Guggenheim Fellow; he joins Mark KlettBetsy Schneider and Liz Cohen. Black Lives Matter protesters carrying signs walk under a freeway overpass in Chicago Black Lives Matters protesters march in the Chicago area. Photo by Stephen Marc

“Stephen is an extraordinary photographer doing essential work,” said Herberger Institute Dean and Director Steven Tepper. “I think the story of Stephen Marc is a story about discovering our common humanity in the face of polarization — something we need desperately now.”  

“This wasn’t my first time applying,” Marc said. “I also never expected to get it. I wasn’t doing the work for the grant; I was doing it for myself. You have to have tough skin as an artist. You get rejected all the time. But it’s better for them to reject me, than for me to reject myself by not applying.”

Marc, who teaches in ASU’s School of Art, in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, received his MFA from the Tyler School of Art and his BA from Pomona College, and taught at Columbia College Chicago before moving to Arizona in 1998. He has received fellowships and awards from the Arizona and Illinois Arts Councils, Arts Midwest/National Endowment for the Arts, Aaron Siskind Foundation, the Gibbes Museum’s 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art, Society for Photographic Education’s Insight Award, and the Seagram’s African-American Perspectives Commission Award. His work has been exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Phoenix Art Museum, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Chicago Cultural Center, Southeast Museum of Photography, Smithsonian Institution and more; he has completed residencies at the Center for Photography at Woodstock and at the CEPA Gallery in Buffalo, New York, and has published four books.  

His 2009 book, "Passage on the Underground Railroad," explores the routes freedom seekers took to escape from slavery and is the name of his registered interpretative program of the Network to Freedom division of the National Park Service. During his research for “Passage on the Underground Railroad,” Marc explored numerous underground railroad sites and plantations with remaining slave quarters. He frequented antique stores around the country to find historical documents and other artifacts including shackles, slave tags and a collar with the slave owner’s address in New York City that helped solve mysteries of the peculiar institution.

For his newest book, “American/True Colors,” Marc has traveled extensively across the country. Documenting who we are as Americans, he has photographed a range of public space events from everyday life to commemorations, parades and political happenings, including covering Black Lives Matter protests and Trump rallies.

“The country has changed a lot, and how it sees me is different than how it viewed the seminal American project photographers like Walker Evans and Robert Frank,” he said. “You know you’re going to get challenged, especially as a photographer. People are concerned with how you are going to portray them. I get up close, use a wide-angle lens so I can gain a better understanding the situation and talk to people.”

People carrying confederate flags and KKK banners protest at a government building as a Black guard looks on

A KKK rally on the Capitol steps in Columbia, South Carolina, one week after the Confederate flag was removed in 2015. Photo by Stephen Marc

Marc said he knows the importance of seeing people as individuals, rather than their just their skin color, appearance or political affiliation. As he travels around the country back to places he has photographed before, he often runs into old friends that remember him from the last time he was there. He makes a lasting impression on people.

One piece of advice Marc gives is this: “Before you go out and photograph, just stop and think what assumptions people are going to make about you and how they might challenge you. You need to understand who you are and where you are going, to avoid being taken off guard. Even though I’ve been in some rough situations, the positive experiences far outnumber the negatives.” 

Marc was selected as a Guggenheim Fellow from among almost 3,000 applicants, through a rigorous peer-review process. Another fellow award winner, Sama Alshaibi (a professor at the University of Arizona), is one of Marc’s former students from Columbia College Chicago. 

As a professor, Marc said he likes being able to share his process with students and gives them an idea of what it takes. He wants to help them develop ideas, and learn how to pace themselves for the long haul and how to get past rejections. “I like when they really pull it together.”

So, what’s next for Stephen Marc?

“I want to create a body of work of updated inclusivity of the country,” he said. “My next work will focus on how we are rebounding from the election, COVID-19 and George Floyd, and how the country is going through dramatic changes.”

Laurel Streed

Office and Communications Specialist, School of Art


Don't pass on protection: 5 tips for stronger passwords

May 6, 2021

For many of us, not a day goes by that we aren’t logging into an account for various tasks, entertainment or work. As such, we've all heard stories of failed password protection ... the cousin who had their bank account emptied after their account was accessed or the friend who had their data stolen from a companywide hack. 

Beyond the stories we share, recent statistics tell an even more compelling story in favor of strong passwords: According to recent studies, 81% of breaches at companies or organizations leveraged stolen or weak passwords (2020 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report) and 1 million passwords are stolen every week (2019 Breach Alarm).  Download Full Image

The ASU University Technology Office sat down with Zachary Jetson, director of information security, to dive into password protection and share tips to help design secure passwords and keep our information safe.

Exploring how hackers think

Understanding how passwords are cracked is the first step for devising an approach to designing good passwords. 

“Hackers can automate the cracking of stolen password hashes between billions and trillions of passwords per second using high-performance supercomputers,” Jetson said. To do so, hackers apply brute-force cracking, an automated process that uses every possible letter, number and word combination to guess your password. 

“To combat this, we moved to more complex passwords by adding characters, but even those have patterns that are replicable; like using the @ symbol to replace the letter A,” Jetson continued. He explained that this is a great place to start, but went on to share more details on how to create even stronger and more secure passwords.

Five tips for designing more secure passwords

Although no password is uncrackable, increasing the complexity of the password can make the process more difficult and has proven an effective method for dissuading hackers, ultimately keeping your accounts and information protected. Check out these five tips, provided by Jetson, to inform a more secure password strategy:

Tip 1: Length is the number one determinant for a secure password. 

Passwords are at their strongest when they are over 14 characters long. A good strategy to create a password is to select four or five unrelated words that are strung together by a special character; think along the lines of horse-blue-rain-earphones (but please don’t go using this exact password now!) Using words that are unrelated increases the complexity of the password so that hackers cannot as easily guess.

Sometimes, there can be a password character limit that prevents the use of this strategy. In that case, another method is to think of a sentence — like “Jack and Jill ran up the hill” — and use every letter to create the base of the password. You can add further complexity with characters and numbers; for example, add a colon and a date to make it jajruth:2021.

Tip 2: Vary your passwords.

While it may seem easier to use the same password for multiple services and logins, it can quickly become a threat to all of your accounts. That’s because if your password gets stolen in one instance it can be used to access multiple sites and organizations you belong to. Databases of stolen usernames and passwords are used in attacks called credential stuffing and password spraying. When third-party services are compromised and improperly encrypted, user credentials can be leaked. Hackers then use these credentials in bulk to attempt login, with commonly observed passwords, significantly reducing the number of attempts.

This makes using different passwords across services critical. The good news is that password managers, like LastPass, are an effective way to maintain uniqueness and keep track of your credentials for all of the platforms we use on a day-to-day basis.

Tip 3: Utilize multifactor authentication.

While we strongly urge everyone to use different passwords across services, multifactor authentication can be used as an additional security measure against hacks that stem from a multitude of attacks against passwords.

Multifactor authentication requires something you know (a password) and something you have (a mobile device, YubiKey or hardware token) to log into an account. This prevents hackers, who may obtain your password, from accessing your information without your knowledge. The exception comes into play, however, if they have somehow also obtained the device to which the multifactor authentication service sends a verification code via text, call or push notification through a dedicated mobile app or acquires the hardware token.

Tip 4: Avoid malware.

Malware is software that is intentionally malicious, typically containing capabilities such as a keylogger. A keylogger is a type or a function of malware that can track every stroke you enter on your keyboard. As you could probably imagine, this can allow hackers to view your accounts and credentials that are being accessed. Avoid sites and links in suspicious emails that could be rife with malware like keyloggers. You can also stay proactive by having antivirus installed and updated on your device.

Another level of protection against malware can be to avoid using the administrative account on your computer. That’s because if malware runs under the administrator context on your computer, it maintains all the administrator capabilities, including disabling your antivirus or installing additional malware to embed itself deeply within the system. So even in the case that malware does slip through, if you don’t use the administrative account on your computer, it won’t have the same access to your files and information that you do under a “standard” user account.

Tip 5: Act quickly when a hack occurs.

Finally, even with the strongest measures, sometimes your passwords can be compromised. In that event, change your password immediately to mitigate illegitimate access to your information.

You can also find out more about the first line of defense to protect your and others’ information with these resources:

Editorial specialist, University Technology Office