I teach a middle school photo class once a week in a public New York City middle school, and I’ve been photographing there and at similar schools. The schools speak with the same visual vocabulary but time and students personalize the walls. Assimilation, teenage rebellion: institutional architecture, teenage dismay – and hearts.
And these are some of my student photographers.
I taught an after-school photography class to some New York City middle school students last year. I’ve been teaching classes in under-served schools like this on-and-off for a decade, and last year I started shooting with a phone camera. As I looked at what I’d seen, I realized I was photographing school archetypes and the way they illustrate containment and control of desires: the core of the middle school experience, and a cornerstone of education in general. More coming this school year…
But before she went back to work, Jen had to get through dropping her baby off for his first day at daycare. The morning was hectic and rushed, but everyone made it out of the house (and Jen remembered all of her breast pump supplies).
She looked forward to being around other people and using her intellect more, but she felt a strong pull toward her kids as she left them at a local daycare. Jen’s working two days a week now, but her days in the office are intense and the work tends to leak into her days at home with baby Wiley.
Photographing this year’s marathon was an exciting, beautiful, 15-hour-day kind of a shoot. I was so glad to be out working for the New York Road Runners again, and was inspired by the unity and determination I saw in the runners. Seeing a mass of people all pushing themselves side by side was incredible, and it inspired me to… not run a marathon. 26.2 miles is serious business! But I do love to run, and I was moved by all the the runners’ work and togetherness (in beautiful fall light, especially).
I was assigned to photograph Team for Kids, a group of runners who raise money for youth running programs, before and after the race. We met in midtown, boarded buses that drove through an empty Times Square, and rode to Staten Island where nervousness, anticipation and warm-ups were the morning’s themes.
One runner, Mel, was planning to run four marathons in six weeks!
And after the race, I photographed the exhausted and proud runners as they cooled down and headed home.
I’ve been an arts educator for ten years. But back in 2008, I wanted to give up.
I was teaching arts integration in a first-year teacher’s sixth grade English Language Arts Class. I’d work with her to figure out how photography could give students multiple ways to access academic material, and together we’d help students develop visual literacy and artistic thinking.
But we’d also lose it, in ways that I thought I never would. Once I had to step out of the classroom because I’d yelled in a way that made me immediately sorry and embarrassed. The combination of a challenging age group, an intense mix of personalities, and a struggling school led to endless frustration, even though the kids were great on their own. It seemed like the group came together like Voltron and transformed thoughtful, kind individuals into a furious, resistant mass.
I wanted to make more time to photograph, but after each day of teaching my mind would be buzzing and almost erased. So I took my camera to school, and used it to look at the frustration and intensity I saw.
We made it through the year, and I photograph much more now. The teacher is going strong: her combination of talent, dedication, and commitment to practicing the mechanics of good teaching have made her one of the best educators I’ve worked with.
And what does my baby do while I photograph working moms? Hangs out and eats at daycare with Alexxis, Iris, Elia and his friends (or, when he’s home sick, naps while I rush to get computer work done before he wakes up). Center-based daycares like William’s are the second-most common childcare arrangement for young children of working moms in the U.S.
Jen and her husband work in communications for non-profit organizations, and they are both dedicated to social justice, work and family. I recently got to photograph Jen at work and, later, giving birth at home. Her husband, friend, midwife and three-year-old daughter Olive watched as baby Wiley joined the family.