Graduate student debuts instruction manual “How to Survive Earth”

Robert Hite

Photographs tend to convey an idea. Samantha Miller Gott planned to do more with her photographs.

Miller Gott, a Wichita State graduate student, is releasing a book of photographs and text titled “How to Survive Earth.” 

“I approach this as an instructional manual, not a photography book,” Miller Gott said. “It just happens to have photos in it.” 

Almost all of the 31 photographs are accompanied by “complementary information” about the photographs, along with footnotes from Miller Gott’s point of view. 

“Sometimes the text came first; sometimes the photos came first, and they just divided themselves,” Miller Gott said. 

The instructional manual, as Miller Gott calls it, is broken into six subsections: “basics,” “emotion,” “mental,” “social,” and “fun bits & bobs.” 

The last section of the book includes psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: psychology, safety, belongingness, esteem and self-actualization.

Also included is a 25-question self-assessment quiz. The quiz scores three different results. A score ranging from zero to seven means “existing or zombie,” a score of eight to 17 means “surviving,” and 18 to 25 means you are “living.” 

Miller Gott, who is a subject for some of her featured photos, said taking photographs of herself was difficult. She said the assignment challenged students to develop the non-dominant, or weaker, part of their artistic abilities. 

Miller Gott, 32, said she discovered herself to be more photogenic than she thought. 

“It’s really difficult to take,” Miller Gott said. “I’m not interested in looking at myself.” 

Larry Schwarm is a distinguished professor of photography in WSU’s School of Art and Design. He said he taught Miller Gott as an undergraduate student at Emporia State University, where Miller Gott graduated from in 2006.

“She set out as a student who was insightful and thoughtful in her work,” Schwarm said. “She’s introspective. She’s telling the viewer about her life through her photography.” 

Fellow graduate art student Laura Nave described Miller Gott’s as visually appealing. 

“The way it is designed is very visually appealing,” Nave said. “It’s quirky, it’s smart and also a service in the best way possible.” 

Miller Gott said she suffers from Asperger syndrome, a mild form of autism. 

Nave said Miller Gott’s honesty about mental health comes across in the book.

“It made it easier to talk about the darker issues,” Nave said.

Miller Gott said she drew inspiration from Alicia Bay Laurel’s book “Living on Earth.” 

“It tells you how to self-sustain, make clothes, food,” Miller Gott said. “I know how to survive on Earth. I think a lot of people are in the same boat.” 

Miller Gott traveled for eight years after graduating from ESU. She visited parts of Asia, South America and Europe. Her travels also included a visit to a Brazilian tribe that had not had contact outside of the tribe aside from a group of French anthologists. 

 Some of Miller Gott’s work is on display in the Cadman Art Gallery in the Rhatigan Student Center. A reception for Miller Gott will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Cadman Art Gallery in the Rhatigan Student Center.