Every picture tells a story

MVRHS students make photo and caption diaries of their days.

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"Lauren Pagglicia sits and stretches in her middle split (a dance move to warm up your hips) in the dance studio. She stretches out her pointe shoes before class starts." —Molly Baldino

What happens after the last school bell rings at 2:05? Between classes? Behind the teacher’s back? The MV Times challenged Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School’s (MVRHS) Photo I class to document just that. The kids’ cameras captured them at games, dance classes, lunch break — just hanging out and doing nothing — documenting personal moments and providing a diary of their days.

Freshman Emily Gazzaniga said, “I thought the project really brought to the photographer’s attention the little things people do in their day-to-day lives that you may not otherwise notice, like people’s emotions and actions.”

The project overlapped another similar project called One Day in the Life, sponsored by iEarn.org. iEarn is a nonprofit that looks to promote communication between schools and students around the world. Students post personal pictures of their lives onto iEarn.org through a private forum which then can be viewed by schools in Taiwan, Thailand, Yemen, and other countries. The kids in the different schools can then communicate back and forth and share pieces of their lives.

Art department chair and photography teacher Chris Baer assigned the One Day in the Life project in three parts: “Where we live,” “What we eat and drink,” and “The commercial community,” which focused on street photography. The students took photos of things that fell under those themes, and then were tasked in class with writing clear captions for the photos and uploading them.

“I like to do projects like this, as it gives students authentic reasons to make good work and and [find] an appreciative audience. It’s not just an assignment for the teacher — real people are very interested to learn more about life in the U.S. schools,” Mr. Baer said.

The two projects each came with their own set of challenges. “Students who don’t have rich social lives struggled with The MV Times challenge,” Mr. Baer said, “while students who live way out in the sticks struggled to do the ‘commercial community’ homework, for instance.” The class is also working on getting more of a response from international schools on iEarn.

Sophomore Kayla Eddy said, “It was kind of challenging to capture the perfect moment between two people, and it took me a lot of tries to get a good shot, but other than that, everything worked out fine.”

The projects forced the students to look at their lives through a lens; unlike Snapchat, where the photos disappear within 10 seconds, these pictures were more permanent. “The challenges in this project weren’t in taking the pictures,” said freshman Kya Maloney, “it was more in getting the right lighting and timing. That kind of stuff.”

Some people were unafraid to document the less glamorous sides of their lives, such as trips to the nurse’s office for medications, or mid-bite as they inhale food as quickly as they can before their 20-minute lunch period is up. “Some students were very personal, open, and honest about their lives,” Mr. Baer said. “I found that refreshing. They shared their lives in a less guarded way than one might expect.”

The pictures capture a more intimate side of the MVRHS student body, from kids with their heads on their desks to doing splits before dance class or just hanging out at a friend’s house. The photographers were aiming for photos that look authentic and to get moments beyond MVRHS. “I liked this project,” said Kya Maloney, “because I could capture those moments that show that even through all the stress of school and extracurriculars and sports, there’s still happiness and fun.”