Photogs Address Social Issues

Isabel Owens, Staff Writer

Advanced and AP Photo are creating posters that represent social issues such as AIDS, bullying, cheating, and smoking. The posters are comprised of images that students produce themselves, and are often pictures of other students. The posters, which will be made in February, will be posted around campus and used in the annual Video Film Festival.

Photo teacher Colette Sweeney believes that photography is a form of communication. “My students have to think about a way to say something using images. We’re focusing on some important messages and putting our photographs into a context where we get to use visual communication,” she said. “It’s all about effectively communicating using photography as a visual media.”

Although students often learn about social issues through reading and writing, Sweeney believes that photography can be a more effective form of communication because people live in a media world, where the best way to capture someone’s attention is through an image. “As human beings, we are drawn toward images. We see images around us and sometimes it’s a better way than words,” Sweeney said.

Senior Natalie Siedman, an AP photo student, believes that people don’t always pay attention to important issues when they are written on a piece of paper. “Seeing a picture might trigger different people and communicate it differently to people who understand it that way,” she said.

Siedman personally identifies more with photographs than other forms of media. “There are people who are visual learners, people who are book learners, but personally for me, images are more meaningful than a paragraph written on a piece of paper,” she said.

Siedman won 3rd place for her AIDS awareness poster in a contest last year. Her photo displayed members of her water polo team lined up, wearing black shorts and sports bras, which showed that while they were different, they were also the same. “Don’t turn your back on AIDS” was written on their stomachs.

According to Sweeney, addressing social issues is especially important at the high school level. “As we move into adulthood, we need to take greater responsibility, and we need to have greater awareness. Not just for our own self-preservation, but for greater empathy and understanding about society and the problems we need to solve,” she said.

Students have freedom to pick their own social issues, but there are some guidelines. The students must use images they produce themselves, and they must research their topic to make sure that the message they send is accurate. “They have to gather information, so they are informed about what it is they want to express,” said Sweeney.

Each student must make his or her own poster, but they are allowed to research their topics in groups, and use each other as models for their photos.

Currently, this project is only for Advanced and AP Photo students. “They generally have more skills with Photoshop. When you’re doing your poster, you have to do text and sometimes use a collage technique, and that requires that you have a pretty good understanding of how to use Photoshop,” Sweeney said.

However, in the future the project may be open to all photo students.