Seniors begin photography classes with ‘experimental,’ ‘classic’ projects

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Photo credit: Presley Sacavitch

Leah Abazari (’22) poses for Presley Sacavitch’s (’22) projection project for her Advanced Photography class. So far, Sacavitch said she is most proud of the work she has produced for this project because of the various steps it included. ”The idea behind that project is that students were photographing images first and then they used a digital projector,” Alford said. “They can move the projector and angle it onto the body or the face of a person or an object, and then create photographs from that projection.”

By Audrey Chang, Staff Reporter

From projecting bright lights and designs, to layering over 40 photos together digitally, the senior photography projects are doing it all. Seniors in the AP Photography course spend the entire year working on their final projects, which will all be displayed at the end of the year in an exhibition.

Arts teacher Marya Alford teaches both middle and upper school photography classes that range in difficulty levels. Eighth graders can sign up for semester-long photo classes, and in addition to AP Photography, upper schoolers can take intro, intermediate or advanced photography courses.

“It’s been exciting because we’ve been able to use the darkroom and we haven’t been able to in so long because we were off campus,” Alford said. “It’s super hands-on, as opposed to being on a laptop.” 

Senior Nina Salomon has been taking Archer photography classes since eighth grade and is one of three students in AP Photography class this year.

“We’ve been learning a lot of new techniques,” Salomon said. “Coming off of two years being online, it was hard to do photography when you don’t have the darkroom or the lighting studio. It‘s really great to be back.” 

Despite the fact that students in Advanced Photography and AP Photography are in separate classes, they meet at the same time, work together and give each other feedback on their projects. Senior Presley Sacavitch is currently taking Advanced Photography and enjoys having a shared space to collaborate with her peers.

I feel like photography is a way to capture these moments in life that other people might not necessarily realize… Something that has a deep meaning that some other people just would just pass by… that’s the best way  [to capture these moments] because it’s art and you’re expressing yourself and your feelings. ”

— Nina Salomon ('22)

“I think we’ve created a dynamic over the years because we’ve been together for so long, and we’re all really comfortable sharing our work,” Sacavitch said. “We just have gotten used to all the critiques and seeing each other’s work a lot.” 

After students completed their first projects of the year that included the Projection Project and the Alternative Processes or Film Project, students in AP Photography have started to focus on their sustained investigations. The sustained investigation is an individualized photography project where each student poses a question relating to an idea of personal interest to them, works on their portfolio for a few months and then submits it at the end of the year to the AP Board.

“I’m focusing on nature and love and the parallels in my life and how I see that around my community,” Salomon said. “That’s what I’ve narrowed my focus to — as I keep working on it, it will become more narrow, and I will pose a question to answer with my photography.”

Sacavitch’s favorite project this year has been the Projection Project, which she said she had a very “experimental” approach to. In the Projection Project, students used a projector to create different designs, colors and images on a subject. 

“It was definitely difficult to find and take the images that we wanted to project on because there’s a lot of planning involved with that, but I think it ended up being my favorite project because just being in the lighting studio again, I forgot how much I loved it,” Sacavitch said. “I also used a model, so it was fun with all the posing and the costumes. It felt very much like a classic photography project.” 

Senior Nina Salomon photographs flowers for her 'Alternative Processes' or 'Film' project in AP Photography. “That [project] was super fun because we were learning all new things. We were learning totally crazy, different techniques with printing negatives. And so I think that was fun and challenging at the same time because it's totally experimentation,” Salomon said. “You just get to try out new things and if it doesn't work out, then it doesn't work out, but you get to learn from that experience. And then you can grow from that having known what you did before and then you can go on and try and make your work better.”
Senior Nina Salomon photographs flowers for her Alternative Processes and Film Project in AP Photography. “That [project] was super fun because we were learning all new things. We were learning totally crazy, different techniques with printing negatives,” Salomon said. “That was fun and challenging at the same time because it’s totally experimentation.”
(Photo credit: Nina Salomon)

Photography can also be inclusive of different types of personalities, giving everyone the opportunity to express themselves and their ideas with a camera. 

“Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, or you like to get out there in the middle of things or stand to the back and observe, the camera will allow you to do all of those things,” Alford said. “I’ve seen less of a hesitation [in photography classes] of just jumping in to begin … It’s pretty interesting, exploratory, fun for students to be able to find their voice and express themselves through the medium.” 

Photography is considered different from other forms of art because it can be done in many ways with different materials. 

“I think what makes [photography] unique is you can really take it in any way you want,” Sacavitch said. “Photography can happen at any time. I could take a picture on my phone in three seconds or I could take four minutes trying to get the right F-stops and shutter speeds on a film camera.” 

One of Alford’s goals for the seniors’ final photography projects is for them to be able to share their work in a detailed exhibition. According to Alford, most of the students choose to feature their work in the Eastern Star Gallery.

“I think the goal would be for [the seniors] to be able to focus on an idea for an exhibition, which is huge as a high schooler,” Alford said. “I really am pushing them to experiment and to just try new things and take risks. And I would say that’s a big goal, and letting them leave with an exhibition that they’re proud of.” 

For Sacavitch’s senior show project proposal, she wants to collaborate with another student in the Studio Art class to highlight their contrasting style and artwork.

“I think I want to make — especially for my senior show — something that can touch other people,” Sacavitch said. “Something that I can leave Archer knowing that I’ve made this space that reflects me as an artist.”