Kansas high school students use digital photography to express their voice

Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of expanding the conversation about how public policy affects the daily lives of people across our state. Josh Davis is a graduate of Washburn University. He teaches digital photography at Topeka High School and heads the art department.

The high school students this year are amazing. The past two years have been difficult for them physically and mentally, and they have lost and endured more than they should have.

During this time, as a teacher of digital photography, I watched my students not pander to current events, but take what was happening and use it to create not only breathtakingly beautiful 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 a camera works or Photo 2 students learning to push their creative limits during a semester full of choices, one component remains the same. . I insist on the fact that the camera is a means for you to express yourself. It’s a way for you to show the world how you see it, a way to give voice to the voiceless.

At the end of the day, I ask them, what are you trying to say with your photo?

These deeper questions have led students who have lived through difficult times to use digital photography with breathtaking artistic maturity. The students discussed a variety of touching topics. Some dealt with changing perspective for a better view, self-portraits, female empowerment and the Black Lives Matter movement.

More importantly, what I see in their photographs is hope. Hope for a better future, a future that they themselves can create.

Senior Day Shauna Wiley took this portrait of these young women to show that black women are empowering and there to uplift each other. The snippets of the photoshoot are just as heartwarming as the final photo. (Shauna Wiley Day)
Senior Colton Cattoor may be colorblind, but that doesn’t stop him from capturing the fun moments that turn into unforgettable memories with friends, with bright skies in the background. (Colton Cattor)
Senior Randell Carrier is a student dear to my heart – for his unique view of the world. With just a twist of his head, he sees things in a way that most don’t even bother to consider. His photo of the underside of Tilton’s awning in Topeka is a perfect example. He took the photo, turned it sideways, added color, and now we have a whole new perspective, a glimpse into Randell’s world. (Randell Carrier)
Senior Alyssa Stewart captured the fresh snow covering the area as it began to fall, while also focusing on complementary colors, giving her entire image a peaceful serenity. (Alyssa Stewart)
I have to include this steel wool photo that Junior Blake Arndt did in February. It was her favorite photo from the series and she left me speechless. Blake has worked very hard this school year to not only truly understand long exposure, but to push his abilities with it. He worked with moving cars in Kansas City during the night and day, then he began having subjects posed for his steel wool series, as pictured here. (Blake Arndt)

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 do my best and help them find their creative voice. Every year I am amazed at how digital photography students are able to continue to excel.

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 review, here.

Stewart C. Hartline