Greek life is a unique part of American college culture, so when European photographer Philip Holt saw his son off to school at Clarkson University, he had little idea of what his son’s new brotherhood within the Delta Upsilon frat would be like.
“My reference [to frat houses] was the film ‘Animal House’ with John Belushi, and yes, I was surprised to see how accurate the frat lifestyle was depicted,” Holt told Business Insider. “[But] I can honestly say they were some of the finest young men I have met. They were so cordial, helpful and smart.”
Upon his first visit, Holt knew he needed to document the house and the young men that lived there. The project inspired him to visit other Greek life establishments, including Zeta Beta Xi, as well as some sororities. Below, see a selection of Holt’s best frat house coverage.
Holt's knowledge of American and fraternity culture stemmed mostly from movies. 'Once you land, it just feels like being part of a big American movie set,' Holt said.
He arrived early in the morning after a big house party the frat had hosted. 'Everyone was still sleeping, so my son gave me the grand tour,' he said.
The scene was classic: '(There were) interesting odours going from room to room. The basement, where they had held their party, was damp with a sticky carpet of beer, overfull ashtrays, and empty beer cans scattered around the room,' he said.
Holt decided to photograph the rooms first, while everyone was still asleep. 'I found the rooms fascinating, I couldn't have propped them better,' he said.
'As the morning turned into afternoon, the girls started leaving, and soon after I started meeting boys -- (they) were having a hard time adjusting to the bright daylight,' he said.
The next few nights, Holt photographed the men in front of a white backdrop, superimposing them onto his images of the empty rooms.
'(During the shoot) we had music and drinks -- I wanted to create a party atmosphere for them to feel comfortable making fun of themselves,' Holt said. 'They organised a barbecue for me. I'm over fifty and yet when I was with them they made me feel so comfortable that I would forget my age. I did draw the line when they offered to (help me) drink from a beer funnel.'
'(The boys) egged each other on during the course of the evening to see who would have the best poses,' he said.
What struck Holt the most was the apparent bond the men had already formed with each other. 'I felt they had a common goal and purpose in their life. They were there for each other,' he said.
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