Location: Montclair, New Jersey, United States
I started teaching high school photography in my early thirties when the learning curve was already pretty steep for me. I still remember the first time I went a full day without crying in front of anyone. But with the tears, there was also the great joy that comes from being on either side of the learning game. I say game because it’s so much less work if you can all remember how to play.
Most classes have at least a few kids who have been openly longing to learn photography for years. Thankfully, they are there on that first day of class, beaming, making eye contact, and holding the camera like a chalice full of their dreams. Then there's everyone else who just looks nervous. I put them through yet another ice breaker because I know I’m usually lucky at some point. The more generous class clowns will have some fun at their own expense and I’ll play “the straight man” role well enough that everyone else finds themselves giggling in relief.
It is these two types of kids that you see here in these ten diptychs. Back in the ‘00’s, I would just bring my camera on half days when the periods were too short to do darkroom but still too long to not devolve into chaos.
In 2018, I was longing for photography and began reaching out to these alumni to see if they’d be willing to re-enact their earlier portraits. When I photographed them as kids, I asked them to look directly into the lens at their future self. For the adults, I had them both look back at their teenage selves and at any twenty or thirty something who might see themselves reflected in the pair.
Many of the earlier images were shot handheld with a waist-level Hasselblad while I was wrangling 19 other kids. The later images were shot in off-hours with a tripod over the course of a few hours of reminiscing. The pandemic put this project on hold, but I was so grateful to have started. The long sessions so movingly informed me of what really mattered about school in the long run.