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BHS photo program develops talent
After winning two consecutive Washington State High School Photography Competitions, Bainbridge High School is finally showcasing its award-winning photographs at home.
Bainbridge, which placed first in 2007-2008 and second in 2009, has six of the 39 winning photos in the traveling show.
“They really limited us to entries last year,” film teacher Linda Holsman said. “There’s 63 high schools that enter it, and they didn’t want us to win three years in a row. We came in second place (this year).”
BHS’ success is largely due to its large number of photography students.
Bainbridge is one of the only high schools in the state to have two full-time photography teachers.
“There was a big demand for photography and they thought they could meet that by hiring somebody,” said BHS digital teacher Janet Neuhauser.
The school offers four-course sequences in both digital and film photography.
Neuhauser and Holsman teach five sections of classes each term, and there is almost always a waiting list.
Most students enroll because they simply want to learn to use their cameras, Neuhauser said.
“We teach not point and shoot, but how to control the camera in both processes,” Holsman said. “It’s easy to be on automatic but the different techniques we teach will show us if a student is on automatic.”
Neuhauser tries to expose her students to as many kinds of photography as possible, from fashion to crime-scene photography.
“I want them to become better consumers of photography and understand photography in an educated way so that they can look at a photograph and understand it technically and aesthetically, too,” she said. “How do advertisements draw you in and make you buy the product? Why is that a fine art photograph, what makes that photograph a piece of art and that one a snapshot.”
Students can take photography to earn credit for the school’s art or career education requirement.
“I originally started taking classes just to fulfill an art requirement,” senior Elliot Marsing said.
Marsing, who has taken courses from both sequences, began with digital courses and is currently in advanced film photography.
“As I took digital more and more I fell in love with it, and the ability to capture an instant in time and to tell a story of an instant more or less in a picture and to really capture motion and detail and tell the person who’s viewing the image everything that’s going on,” Marsing said.
Many students have utilized their photography skills outside of the classrooms.
Senior Willie Wenzlau and a friend formed a Facebook group called Winslow Wenzlau Photographers, and advertised senior portraits for $50.
“We did 10 people’s (photos),” Wenzlau said. “That was really fun because I don’t do a lot of portraiture.”
“I really like digital – I shoot digital almost always, but I’m trying to branch out and be a better photographer,” Wenzlau said. “I try to have my picture so I don’t have to manipulate it a ton, so I can take the raw image and almost be satisfied with it.”
Wenzlau, who has taken all four digital courses and two film classes, translated his passion for photography into an enterprise project.
Like Wenzlau, many students find it easier to learn the basics in the digital sequence.
“Digital photo taught me a lot more about technique and how to use my camera better,” senior Jenna Knell said.
While students can’t enroll in the introductory digital and film classes at the same time, the advanced classes can be taken simultaneously.
“I think it’s easier to learn on digital because you can do trial and error,” senior Jackson McEwan said. “But to actually learn to take a good photograph you should do film. That’s why I like it more because you have to be a good photographer to do it.”
Regardless of which sequence a student selects, the skills are completely transferrable to the other photography sequence, Neuhauser said.
“A camera’s a camera,” she said. “They both have shutters, they both have apertures. With digital we worry about white balance and noise instead of film. There’s still post-processing in Photoshop, much in the same way they’re working in the dark room in terms of taking the image and adjusting the contrast and the curves and layers.”
BHS’ 17 enlargers are always in high demand.
“The film is sort of a novelty,” Neuhauser said. “They’re researching historical cameras, they’re getting some really interesting things off of eBay. We do a lot of oils, tints, it’s very hands-on.”
Learning the intricacies and techniques of film cameras can be a slow process, Neuhauser said.
“It’s challenging and it’s frustrating for some because with film they have to remember everything,” she said. “To lock the doors so another student doesn’t open the door and expose all their film… It takes the beginners about six weeks to learn how to put the film on the reel correctly.”
By the end of the term, however, students have mastered progress, she said.
“The whole level is just so high,” she said. “I just had 19 kids in there working away. They’ve got it and they’re printing well and blowing up negatives and not getting dust. Their images are just coming out amazing for a lot of them. It’s just, like, something clicks, but it takes a little while.”
While many high schools are shifting to strictly digital photography courses, Bainbridge students continue to demand both sequences.
“Digital and film are a lot different,” Knell said. “You use the computers and Photoshop a lot, but with film it feels more like an art because you’re like making the prints yourself. I feel like it’s a lot more rewarding.”
“If I was going to use photography for a hobby for the rest of my life, I would love to continue with the darkroom. It really takes another step to photography and I think the end results are better in a lot of ways,” Marsing said.
Marsing is interested in a career in photojournalism.
“It’s really put a motivation on me to work much harder in all of my other classes and push myself in order to get to the place where I can excel in my own photography,” he said. “Just to push myself so I can go and learn from the best of the best. The only way I can do that is to go as far as I can and get the best education that I can.”
(Photo Note: The above image is of Eliza Silverman serving as a model for an advanced photography assignment for BHS photographer Jenna Knell. Knell developed and executed a theme with the model involving multi-colored dust and unique makeup using the backdrop of the Blakley Mill site. Check out next weeks Review to see the results of Knell's photo shoot with the model.)