Photography at our school: A reward, not a requirement


Neeva Patel, Staff Writer

Taking photography has been the best decision I have ever made at school. At the start of eighth grade, I was required to choose an arts course from an array of options, and at first I was wary. In previous years, I had taken Drawing & Painting, Theater, and Dance but I had not enjoyed any of them. I decided to take a risk and choose an art form I had no experience with: Darkroom Photography. Before the class, I had only ever taken photos using my iPhone, but after a few weeks I became familiar with the process of shooting and developing using a film camera. 

Looking back on that experience as a sophomore in Photography 3, the decision to take the course is what allowed me to become the creative and intuitive person I am today.  During photography class, I must think about how to use materials and a model to create an original photo. It requires a lot of abstract thinking, which is essential for Horace Mann students. During a typical school day, we go from class to class and are either analyzing a book, doing math problems, or balancing chemical equations. However, we rarely make time for creativity.

After a long day, coming down to the photography studio for class gives me time to calm down. If I had a free period during that time, I would have gone on my phone or forced myself to do even more school work. Instead, during class, my friends and I listen to music, roll and develop film, create contact sheets, and make vision boards for digital shoots. Either way, I am given time to artistically relax in the studio and am given a break from my busy school day, which is something that wouldn’t happen if I dropped my arts courses. 

Photography has also allowed me to put time aside in my day to think creatively. Staging a photoshoot requires me to use parts of my brain that I otherwise don’t use during the school day. For example, when preparing for a photoshoot, I have to brainstorm what positions I want my model to be standing in, what they should be wearing, how I should stage the background, what props they should be carrying, and what lighting would best fit the project. Thinking about these creative aspects is a nice change during the school day, where you are mainly thinking about other problems that can easily stress you out. 

Aside from alleviating the stress I carry on a daily basis, the course has also allowed me to explore graphic design and Photoshop. When I took Photography 2 last year, I often had to shoot on my DSLR camera for assignments and edit the photos in Photoshop. Knowing how to maneuver through photo editing apps in class also helped me in future projects. I was able to use what I had learned for a creative project in English class where I designed a Monopoly game about “The Odyssey.” Learning how to use photo editing apps gives students a valuable skill that can be used outside of the classroom, and is extremely beneficial in our largely digital world. 

Creating mood boards and carefully planning out each step of my project makes me feel like a professional, and the unique creativity I can use during class is heavily beneficial for those who wish to explore their artistic side more. The photography studio in Fisher has extremely high-tech scanners, lights, backdrops, and an elaborate darkroom and developing station. Students should take photography at our school so that they can take advantage of all the resources offered to them. 

However, my favorite part of photography is not being around all the high-tech equipment, but rather it is to be around students who are willing to work in teams, help each other out creatively, and make the class more fun than it already is. Just this Tuesday, one of my classmates was doing a practice photoshoot of another one of my classmates, and the rest of the class was watching her. Everybody watching you pose in different positions is pretty frightening, so to lighten up the mood — and to get our model to smile — we all started telling each other jokes and puns. By the time class ended, we were all giving our classmates advice on what to alter for the real shoot, and at the same time, we were able to share fun moments with each other, something I rarely experience in an academic- class. 

Although I am officially allowed to drop any of my arts courses next year, I plan on taking photography until I graduate since the studio has allowed me to grow creatively. If you are considering dropping your art classes once your requirement is over, I suggest signing up for photography. Regardless of whether you take it for one year or five, your experience at our school will seem less stressful and will be filled with fun memories and more creativity!