Sunday, March 14, 2010

Kingston High photography students win honors
Published: Sunday, March 14, 2010

Freeman staff

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KINGSTON – The work of a dozen Kingston High School photography students will be recognized by the New York State Media Art Teachers Association Tuesday at Westchester Community College.

Both darkroom and digital photography students have been cleaning up at the Lower Hudson Region awards show for the last few years, said teacher Susan Foss, who noted that the region includes Ulster, Dutchess, Orange, Rockland, Westchester, and Putnam counties.

Foss, an art teacher with a background in painting, teaches three sections of darkroom photography and one section of a relatively new digital photography class. Each section has 18 students.

She describes the class as project-based. Students write a proposal, get two weeks to work on a project, and then engage in group critiques, during which Foss said she has heard “college-level discussion.”

Initially, students take more “literal” photos, said Foss, but their pictures become more interpretative as they get a good handle on the fundamentals.

For example, Amanda Yaple, a senior who was among those to win an award, said the picture that will be recognized was a shot of her brother’s reflection in a puddle.

Yaple said she likes “to capture moments” in her pictures and that particular shot elicited reflections of childhood memories.

Some students like to show a new perspective on ordinary objects, including senior Indigo Vigotty, who cited a picture of a mailbox and a newspaper box. The mailbox faces the side, while the newspaper box — which happens to be a Freeman box — “is staring out at you,” Vigotty said.

She said her pictures often have a “creepy” quality.

Kayla Volpe, another senior, said her pictures tend to be “more abstract.” “I don’t like looking at something and knowing exactly what I’m looking at,” she said of her photos.

Sarah Kaplan, a sophomore, said she is working on an online project which will showcase various self-portraits from every day of the year. Kaplan said she chooses “whatever inspires me.”

Foss, who has been teaching photography at Kingston High School for more than seven years, created the digital photography class two years ago. Even so, she said darkroom photography is still relevant in the digital age.

Foss stays in touch with many of her students that go to photography school and said many of them merge the old and new technologies. For example, students often shoot pictures on film and make digital scans of the negatives for a “real world blend” of the methods, she said.

Vigotty said photography has helped her express feelings or ideas she may not have been comfortable with before, or that may be difficult to explain with words alone.

Foss said she is proud of her students’ expressive prowess. One student, she said, was recently able through a project to express a painful memory she was previously “barely even able to talk about.”

Another made a statement about the difficult choice of abortion by projecting the inamge of a sonogram onto a person’s stomach, she said.

In the basic darkroom photo class, students learn the mechanics of how a 35 mm manual camera works, how to use the camera’s light meter to determine the correct settings, how to process their own negatives and create black and white prints in the darkroom. In the more advanced class, they begin to create portfolios, Foss said.

The projects “vary from traditional portrait photography, to conceptual work to more alternative processes such as the use of liquid emulsion to print photos on materials such as fabric, wood or metals,” she said.

In the fine art digital photo class, Foss said students are given photo assignments each week that begin as simple projects designed to make them “change the way they look at the world through their camera.” Between assignments, students learn how to use computer software like Adobe Photoshop.

Besides Vigotty, Volpe, Kaplan, and Yaple, the following Kingston High students are also being recognized Tuesday: Mike Yalamas, Krista Arena, Kirsten Fraude, Skyler Onderdonk, Vianca Lugo, Dana Pistone, Rebecca Hellard, and Katherine Solomon.