Instead, Toney became intrigued by physics thanks to a freshman Argument & Inquiry seminar led by Joel Weisberg. But solely focusing on a science track felt incomplete. Photography and art were two of her biggest passions in high school. Those weren’t subjects worth studying at an academically demanding school like Carleton, right?
“I guess it’s just how I was raised. Art was a hobby. Nothing more than that,” Toney says. “You couldn’t become an artist, not for a career. How would you make a living?”
Toney, a Mississippi native who now calls Houston home, had always been self-taught in photography. She was president of her high school photo club, loved exploring and editing since first picking up a camera to stave off boredom. But no one ever explained sophisticated photo concepts to her — at least not in a way that gave photography the same classroom depth as her science studies.
Feeling slightly boxed in, Toney decided on physics as her major by the end of sophomore year. But she also had a nifty trick up her sleeve: Petitioning for a special major in photography and optics — the scientific study of how light behaves and interacts with matter. This way, what she had always felt the need to keep separate at Carleton, could be combined for her final two years.