By JASON BERRYMAN
Topeka West High School
At the very least, this school year in the teaching profession has been difficult. I think many teachers would agree with this assessment, especially when working with distant students. From an arts education perspective, how do you get the supplies to the students? How do students submit a jewelry assignment through Google Classroom? How do I teach Illustrator when students are working on Chromebooks?
Fortunately, digital photography has worked easier for my students, as most have access to a digital camera on their cell phone. But teach remotely, then in person (with only half of lessons in the morning and the other half in the afternoon), then remotely again, then finish the school year with most of the students in person and one smaller number at a distance – many of the details in the photograph were either gleaned or not covered.
While the overall quality of student photography has declined slightly, what has increased significantly is students’ understanding of what they can (or cannot) accomplish with their cell phone cameras and some free photo editing apps.
American photographer Chase Jarvis said it best: “The best camera is the one you have with you!
Two portraits of Topeka West juniors Austin Schimmel and Lily Salazar capture precisely the daily life we have all lived for over a year: the masks! I can honestly say that in all of my teaching years, I have never had any students submitting photos where half of the model’s face is covered with a cloth mask.
Still life images of clothes hanging in a closet and a lightly lit potted plant were both created at home by senior Ella Teter and junior Nolan Noonan. These images stand out for their skill, composition, and the fact that both were captured with cellphone cameras while students were working remotely away from high school.
Finally, I absolutely had to show Taylor Reinert’s “Tiny Planet” image, just for the fact that it was so cool. Taylor created the photograph while flying his unmanned aerial vehicle over the western edge of the Topeka West campus. He then captured a 360˚ panorama of the landscape using his cell phone camera (which he also uses to control the drone). Finally, using Adobe Photoshop, Tayler folded the panorama into a circle creating the tiny planet.
Every year, pandemic or not, I am always amazed by the talent and creativity of our students.