Photography Class Documents Outdoor Poly

Keelin Walshe23 photo of Hanna and Abby donning photo "press pass"
Photo of Hannah Gross ’23 and Abby Contessa ’23 donning photo “press passes” by Keelin Walshe ’23

On Thursdays, around lunchtime, you may see Upper School students donning Photo Class “press passes” roaming the Dyker Heights campus, while staying socially distanced, taking photos near the bleachers, around the ponds, and wide shots of students learning in tents. 

The class is working on a collaborative photo documentary project of our outdoor Poly experience that is intended to become a physical and digital mural, and perhaps a book. 

Adina Scherer is teaching the Photography class remotely on Thursdays and greets the students in tent 57 on Zoom at 11:30 AM, while they have lunch. As they eat, she talks about their assignments for that day. Students, who are using their phone cameras, learn to understand how to use light and shadow, exposure, and composition in their photography. Scherer teaches them how to use photo editing apps such as ProCam and Snapseed and how to use curves and brush tools. She also shares Snapseed tutorials with them. 

Boys studying under tent by Josiah Bartholomew23
“Boys Studying Under Tent” by Josiah Bartholomew ’23

At 11:55 AM, Scherer and the students do five minutes of tai chi before the students head off with partners to take photos in their assigned areas—everything related to lunch; bathrooms, tents, and water stations; the bleachers, Tower, building details, and wide shots; the fence where chairs are hung, trees, and landscapes; the greenhouse area; and the ponds, front area, and MS tents from a distance. The 13 students—two ninth graders, six tenth graders, and five twelfth graders—work in teams that are assigned to go to different locations on different days.

Thalia Glyptis '21 photo of "chair fence"
“Chair Fence” by Thalia Glyptis ’21

Scherer tells the students to look from different perspectives, vantage points, and distances. She says that some assignments—perhaps a water station or the fence—”may not sound very exciting, but make them exciting by doing creative perspectives.” Perhaps students can look very close or shoot from a long angle. “Always find interesting bits of light and shadow to keep the ‘alchemy of light’ alive in your work,” she says.

As the students head out on their assignments, Scherer reminds them, “Look at the sky! Show what’s right in front of us. Grab the moment.” 

Abby Contessa23 photo of tower and clouds
Abby Contessa ’23 looks up and captures “Tower and Sky”

“Photographing the campus has made me pay more attention to scale,” said William Ling-Regan ’24. “Capturing both tiny details and wide landscapes with a camera has taught me to focus on how scale affects the way I see things. This photography class has helped me pay more attention to what happens behind the camera, not just in front of it. Ms. Scherer has taught us that the angles, framing, composition, and editing of a photo are just as important as the object being photographed.” 

Handwashing sink by William Ling-Regan24
A reminder to wash one’s hands… “Hand washing sink” by William Ling-Regan ’24

“I really enjoy taking portraits of classmates and friends, as well as people I don’t know,” said Ling-Regan. “While not all of the photos turn out well, it’s fun to work with other people and hear their ideas of how I should photograph them.” He added, “When Ms. Scherer showed my parents some of the photos the class had taken, they told me that they could instantly tell which ones were mine. Although all of us are photographing the same campus, each person’s photos are unique and reflect their own artistic style.”

Greenhouse through the leaves by Gavin Mitchell21
“Greenhouse Behind Leaves” by Gavin Mitchell ’21

“The shots last week were really amazing,” Scherer told a visitor to the class. After taking photos for about 25 minutes, the students upload their photos to a Google drive folder. Scherer will arrange the photos in a collage mural in the style of David Hockney, and perhaps a book, at the end of the semester.

“Once we go virtual, I will start the process of making a ‘Hockneyesque’ collage with their work,” Scherer said. “It’s too complex to try to have them work on it socially distanced or virtually so I’ll create it, and perhaps a book of singular images that are really special. Much more to come.”

We look forward to seeing more scenes of Outdoor Poly through the eyes of our students.