Jessye Norman School of the Arts – Photography with no Pictures!

I know, crazy right? Photography with no pictures! How is that even possible?

When I say photography with no pictures, I don’t mean the photography class doesn’t take pictures.

I didn’t take pictures!

With camera’s clicking and whirring all around me, and the excited joy of the students exploring their world through mechanical lenses, I was completely absorbed into watching, admiring and assisting, and forgot that when I write my blog, I like to post pictures!

As I stated in the previous blog, I did forget to ask about taking pictures of the students, but I should have at least taken pictures of the props, or hands on cameras, or something!  That’s OK though, I’ll be back, and hopefully I’ll remember to take a few photos!

In the meantime, you’ll have to use your creativity and imagination to “picture” what it is like to attend or work at Jessye Norman in the homeschool photography appreciation class.

With the week cruising along, and me working on my goals, I have created an automatic reward through volunteering on Friday’s. I believe in goals and rewards for everyone, but the reward doesn’t have to be an item(s) purchased, they can be as simple and free as taking a walk in a special place, sleeping in a bit, or volunteering! What? Volunteering as a reward?  Yes! Absolutely!

I love volunteering! I learn so much from interacting with and helping others, and I feel good at the same time.  Everybody wins!

I like the fun stuff (don’t we all?), and the thought of just doing paperwork this month is a bit blah, so of course I have my 30 day goal, but then I added my weekly goal and rewards. The cost? Gas money to drive downtown to work with the students and staff at Jessye Norman School of the Arts on Fridays!  What a fabulous way to spend my Fridays!

I got the times mixed up, was running a bit late, and arrived while the homeschool crew was finishing up their lunch. I called to let them know, and left a message. I wasn’t overly worried about running late as Gary Dennis is very understanding and appreciates volunteers, as do most organizations.

I asked a few questions of staff and observed. The homeschool group comes in on Fridays from 10:30-2:00 and two classes are offered each semester. This semester the classes are photo and music appreciation.

The classes are split into the younger students and older students. Teen’s that attend can help with the younger students if they choose, or participate in the class.

I stayed with the photo class which started with the older group. Students were told the week before to bring an interesting object in order to work on still life photography.  The teacher, Mrs. Carmen, went over the rules for handling the cameras and we distributed working cameras to the students. Pretty much all the equipment is donated, and this is a hands on program with students working with and caring for equipment, so it took a little bit of time to figure out whose cameras were working, and get charged batteries into the cameras, as well as SD cards. The students took their time familiarizing themselves with the cameras as well.

It is important for the students to be able to take every step with the camera. This increases their familiarity with the equipment, and they also understand that photography is a process, not just a point and shoot activity.

With all the cameras working, they took a few practice shots and Mrs. Carmen reminded them to remember the pictures they are taking and not to just take pictures of everything! Her policy is, if students argue of the photo, the photo gets deleted in order to prevent discord. This way, the students take more time with setting up their photos and learn more from the process.

We moved out into the gallery and Mrs. Carmen described and modeled how to use the blocking pieces and pedestals, then split up the group into two smaller groups.

Students were instructed to place their interesting items into a still life and take pictures from different angles.

Every student was engaged. A few got a little frustrated with items that would not stay the way they put them, but they worked well together in creative groups to find still life poses that worked for everyone. Students took turns using cameras, and the different groups came up with different ways of sharing the cameras.

Once everyone had time to take pictures, we moved back into the classroom, and students talked about at least one thing they learned from today’s process of taking still life pictures.

Some students commented on the rules of how to take care of a camera, others commented on elbows bumping pedestals , or items moving during the shoot. Everyone was engaged throughout the lesson and happy to learn.

Returning to the classroom, students broke their camera elements back down, removing SD cards and batteries and turning them in. Mrs. Carmen will download the pictures and next week the editing process will begin.

The same routine was repeated with the younger students who were just as interested and engaged. Each group and child was able to use their creativity and problem solving skills to take still life photos.

Next Friday, unless I’m needed in photography because of the numbers of students, I’ll join the music appreciation class. I was very curious about the class, as I could hear noises and music coming from the classroom. I can’t wait to see them in action!

*Side Note: I have a tendency to volunteer to my maximum it seems, and then I get burnt out a bit (I really should work on a balance there. I wonder if other volunteers do the same…), and I need a break. I just realized I do this, so this time I will be more cognizant of how I spend my time and evaluate and reflect on why I step down from volunteering after being so incredibly active, but that is a blog for a later date.


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