Senior Emily Locke created this self-portrait for the Obscure Self-Portrait project in Digital Photography 2. The goal was to tell about yourself, but not show yourself. (Emily Locke)
Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of widening the conversation about how public policies affect the day-to-day lives of people throughout our state. Josh Davis is a graduate of Washburn University. He teaches digital photography at Topeka High School and is the chair of the art department.
High school students this year are extraordinary. The past two years have been rough on them physically and mentally, and they have lost and endured more than they should have.
During this time as their digital photography teacher, I saw my students not bend under current events, but to take what was happening and use it to create not only beautiful and breathtaking photographs, but also images that were thought-provoking and truly expressive of themselves and the world.
Whether it’s Photo 1 students learning the basics of how to operate a camera, or Photo 2 students learning how to push their creative limits in a semester filled with choices, one component remains the same. I emphasize that the camera is a way for you to express yourself. It is a way for you to show the world how you view it, a way to give a voice to the voiceless.
At the end of the day, I ask them, what are you trying to say with your photograph?
These deeper questions have led students who have lived through trying times to use digital photography with an artistic maturity that has taken my breath away. Students have covered a variety of touching topics. Some dealt with changing one’s perspective for a better view, self-portraits, female empowerment, and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Most importantly, what I see in their photography is hope. Hope for a better future, a future that they themselves can create.
Every school year I aspire to inspire my students to do their best, but what I hope they know is that every year they inspire me to be my best and help them find their creative voice. Every year I am amazed at how the digital photography students are able to continue to top themselves.
Through its opinion section, the Kansas Reflector works to amplify the voices of people who are affected by public policies or excluded from public debate. Find information, including how to submit your own commentary, here.
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