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Learners Engage with Real World Artist While Exploring Simplicity in Photography

Feb 16, 2022 | All School, Blog, Fine Arts, IDEA, Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Impact, Middle School News

In Grade 7 Humanities, students are building off their reading of Shooting Kabul by N. H. Senzai, exploring campus, and working with MVXperts to learn about photography – more specifically, finding, framing, and capturing shots that feature simplicity as an aesthetic feature of the shot. 

In Shooting Kabul, a young boy, Fadi, enters a photography competition in the hopes to win a trip to India to find his sister who had been left behind in Afghanistan in the midst of September 11, 2001. This story is full of hope, love, and perseverance, but also shares the power of a photo. 

This reading and project stemmed from Grade 7’s trimester-long essential question, “What does it mean to feel at home in America?” This guiding question is taking learners through histories and stories of immigration, from the westward expansion of white settlers to the experience of displaced Native communities, from Chinese railroad workers to empathy interviews of the students’ own family members. Each learner is seeking to create their own definition of what “home” means to them

An excerpt of the book shares, “Fadi remembered what his father had taught him while they’d roamed the hills of Kabul, exploring birds’ nests and finding colored rocks. The three key ingredients of a photo were simplicity, composition, and lighting.” 

In response, students were tasked with the question: how might we identify and enjoy simplicity in photography? The students then had 15 minutes to find, capture, and share an “Experience at Mount Vernon” photograph that featured simplicity. Check out a sampling of their photos below.

Artistic student photo of the lawn outside the Upper Campus with a very shallow depth of field making the building out of focus.
Artistic student photo of hanging lights in the Middle School campus looking out onto the football field
Artistic student photo of a tennis ball in the grass with a shallow focus.
Artistic student photo of Upper Campus building taken from the lawn
Artistic student photo of Upper Campus awning with sunlight peaking out from behind.

After they captured their simplistic shots, the humanities team made up of Margaret Robbins, Kristen Pisacreta, and Kevin Day reached out to Grade 7 mom, MVXpert, and professional photographer and author Kate Parker to come speak with the learners.

She spoke about how to find the right shot, or rather, letting the photo moment find you. Kate explained several concepts when thinking about photography and capturing images that can tell a powerful story. She took the students through a series of her photographs and illustrated the concepts that applied to each shot. Concepts like:

  • • The rule of thirds
  • • Capturing emotion
  • • Step back to gain perspective
  • • The importance of making the subject feel comfortable
  • • Keeping a Straight Horizon
  • • Looking for the light and color
MVXpert Kate Parker speaks with Grade 7 students about their photography

The students asked insightful questions about the compositions she shared as well as the stories it sparked for them in the images. 

At Mount Vernon, students create real world work through real world experiences and with real world artists. This prepares learners to be college ready, globally competitive, and engaged citizen leaders. 

Artistic student photo of Upper Campus exterior stairs
Artistic student architectural photo of a lofted ceiling that highlights geometric shapes and inset squares in the design.

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