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Sable Smith’s Digital Photography Class

My name is Alex Fields and I am a mentor for the Parsons Pre-College Program. As part of my job with the program, I am also a Teacher’s Assistant. I am currently an assistant for the photography class which is taught by professor and our program Youth Advocate, Sable Elyse Smith. We are working with middle school students grades 6-8.

The class usually begins with the students uploading their homework to the drop- box so that the whole class can view their photos and we can have a critiquing session. Often, Sable introduces other photographers to the class and shows us their work. She then explains the lesson for the day and afterwords, we jump right into it. We often use the cafeteria space for the activity of the day and the students have their photo-shoots there as well. Or when the weather allows it, we take field trips and/or the students have their photo-shoots outside. They then have their snack break and Sable and I prepare to start the next activity. The students finish their work and we view the work that the students created during the activity or photo-shoot. Then they edit their photos in Photoshop and I go around to each student helping them with the questions they may have. Finally, they save their images and other work and the class concludes.

So far, the students have been working on a few projects that have to deal with modern portraiture, especially, one kind that’s become popular in social media, “selfies.” The first assignment that the students were given was take portraits of either themselves or other people. They came away with some interesting shots of friends and family members.

The following class, they learned how to create Polaroid transfers. They took portraits of each other with a Polaroid camera and then they soaked their photos in hot water so that the image separated from the rest of the photograph’s material. They then took the image out of the water and posted it on bristol paper. I gave this a try myself. It was a challenging but very fun process for everyone.

Their next assignment was to interpret poetic lines that described abstract concepts. Their goal was to take photos that they felt captured the imagery conveyed in those lines. As an in-class assignment, Sable invited a fellow photographer to come in and show his work to the class. His work dealt a lot with portraiture that was hidden by different materials such as plastic. So for the photo-shoot, Sable had the students use cellophane, a transparent plastic-like material that comes in multiple colors. The students really enjoyed using this material and they played around with different narratives to tell in their photography. A lot of great photos came out of this activity and they used these images in the next in-class assignment.

The next class, they experimented with using a mechanical press, citrasolv and the images from the last class to transfer these images onto different types of paper. The students had so much fun with this activity that they created multiple image transfers. The students learned a lot about composition from this process so that they could create multiple variations of images.

During and at the end of each class, the students have a chance to edit their photos in Photoshop. Sable and I go around helping the students in Photoshop. Since I have years of experience with Photoshop, I am able to help the students with everything and anything that they want to do to their photos.

It has been a great experience working with the students so far. It’s really enjoyable watching them learn so many things from Sable. I, personally, am learning a lot from the class myself and I look forward to seeing what they learn as the classes moves forward.