ALYSON ALIANO has taught photography at New York University, Columbia University, The School of Visual Arts, the New York Film Academy, and not least of all, UCLA Extension. Her Extension course, “Photographing the Familiar,” was based on her own work Familiar Places, in which she has documented herself, her friends and her family since 2009. For this issue, she took photos of 2021 Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in Games dynamo Maddy Wojdak Marquissee. Aliano prides herself on creating authentic environmental portraits of real people for clients, like The New York Times Magazine, New York Magazine, Newsweek, Time, The Washington Post, LinkedIn and NBC.

A self-proclaimed “retired gamer,” JOSEPH BIEN-KAHN says he “had no idea that the gaming industry was worth nearly $350 billion in 2022, or that a studio in West L.A. puts out the most popular PC game ever.” Those are just a few of many insights he gleaned in profiling Bruin Maddy Wojdak Marquissee M.B.A. ’19, who is blazing a new trail for women in gaming. A veteran journalist whose work has appeared in GQ, Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone and The New York Times Magazine, Bien-Kahn says reporting the story “taught me about the growing focus that UCLA’s business school has put on the video game industry. It makes sense when you think about it: It’s a great center point between sports, film and tech.”

A well-known art critic, curator and author, SHANA NYS DAMBROT, arts editor for L.A. Weekly, admits she was surprised that even though she has known Amir Fallah for years, she still learned a lot in interviewing him for this issue. “It was interesting to hear that his experience at UCLA was formative — of course — but in a somewhat counterintuitive way,” she says. “Wherein he was at first intimidated and tried to change, but soon realized that he had always known who he was. The strength of that rediscovery is so compelling. I love the shape of that story.” Dambrot, who studied art history at Vassar, won the prestigious Rabkin Prize for art criticism in 2022.

Boston–based TONY LUONG photographed our Forward Thinker, Eddie Cole, on the campus of Harvard University, where the UCLA associate professor of education and history is currently spending an academic year on a prestigious fellowship from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Luong was fascinated by how Cole pieces together his research on race, history and education in this historical period following the Supreme Court’s evisceration of affirmative action last year. Luong says Cole exemplifies UCLA’s “rich understanding of the types of research" in which current and future generations of students will engage. Luong’s work has been exhibited in Boston and New York and has appeared in magazines such as The Atlantic, Bloomberg Businessweek, Dwell, Fortune, Monocle, and Wired, among others.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of home and how it indelibly shapes our understanding of the world,” says Texas-raised, L.A.–based writer ANITA LITTLE. That explains why she so enjoyed exploring education and history professor Eddie Cole’s Alabama background. Those Southern roots, Little says, give Cole a unique perspective on the matrix of connections between history, race and education in the United States, the subject of the work he’s doing as a Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard. As for Little, she’s spent the past decade telling masterful stories for the likes of the ACLU, Playboy, Ms., Elle and The Guardian. Much of her journalism centers on the Black political experience in the U.S.

Photographer NOAH WEBB says “it immediately feels different” when you walk through the doors of the recently renovated UCLA Nimoy Theater. Webb trained his lens on the details of the recent renovation, which, he says, properly respects the theater’s past. While he was shooting the exterior, numerous onlookers stopped to tell him how beautiful the building looks and to express their excitement at the Nimoy’s reopening, more than 80 years after the historic theater welcomed audiences for the first time. Two of Webb’s photographs — architectural studies of modern brutalism in Los Angeles — appear in the AP39 annual from American Photography. Webb’s clients have included The New York Times, Architectural Digest, The Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, Apple and Nike, among others.

Read more from UCLA Magazine’s Winter 2024 issue.