Wednesday, March 7, 2012

For the past month I taught an alternative process class for 8-12 year olds, Catching Light: Exploring Alternative Photography. For some reason I was more intimidated by these students than the 100s of adults I have taught in the past.

As you can imagine, I showed up the first day in a collared shirt and sport-coat, ready with my slide lecture and pre-planned demos. I noticed two things very quickly: I was way over dressed and 9 year olds aren't that interested in sitting in the dark on a Saturday for a historical and technical lecture about for laughing about how funny John Herschel looks.

Just as someone had warned me, the things that I planned on taking 30 minutes took 3, and the things I thought would be a footnote required much more explanation. Most obvious was when we were waiting the 10 minutes for the cyanotypes to expose, the students all looked up at me as if to ask "Ok, what now?" which I mentally responded "Uh...this is it, we're doing it." I hadn't considered how to fill the 10 minutes of exposure time with another activity.

The most amazing experience we had started before class the next period. I had to run down to the director's office for forms, and as we were talking and casually looking out the window, a flash of white hit the ground outside and at almost the speed of light ascended and rested in a tree branch just outside the window. It was a Red Tailed Hawk, and in its claw it had a pigeon.

Stunned, the director and I tried to understand what we were seeing. The Hawk grasped the pigeon, and the pigeon did not struggle. I hope it was already dead. With no way to photograph it, I feared again this gruesome but mesmerizing moment would once again go undocumented.

The class started and we began working on that day’s project, and one of our tasks was to go outside and collect interesting objects to make photograms out of. I instructed them to find leaves, twigs, flowers, and anything with a unique shape.

As we were walking around the courtyard, we began to find a lot of feathers. They were floating around the air like dandelion seeds, it was actually very beautiful.

It didn’t take long before we found the source. On a limb above us, there was the hawk eviscerating the pigeon.

Terrible phone images, but thankfully I at least had some way to photograph it.

After choruses of “Cool!” by the students, I figured we should head in, and assuming that most of the feathers they found just came off the pigeon, maybe it would be a good time to wash hands.

On the walk back, some of the girls began to lament the pigeon, they hoped it didn’t suffer, and while they understood the natural cycle, felt sorry for it.

It wasn’t until we got in the darkroom that they had an idea! For their photograms they wanted to make a bird design with the items they found. As if to bring the pigeon back to life or introduce a new one into the world. Their act of honor and remembrance for the bird was incredible.

Pinhole images taken by the students

I also have to give big thanks to the TA Sherri Mueller, without whom the class wouldn't have been possible.

A cyanotype one of the students made, super cool!

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful story, beautiful imagery...all around, well, beautiful! I'm sure that day is a one your students won't soon forget :)