For the past 5 years, I’ve worked as a tutor at an urban high school in Boston. The building was constructed in 1928, at a time when exterior school architecture glorified education, with large windows and columns. Inside, long corridors, enclosed courtyards, and grated windows make the school feel more institutional. The building seems unaffected by time, yet I am aware of the layers of history here: the turbulent path of desegregation and the transformation of Boston’s neighborhoods and schools to diverse immigrant communities.
My photographs contrast these architectural elements with the life of the school as it is today; many of the students are new to this city, and country. Today, the school’s diversity is recognized and celebrated. Part of my work is reading and editing the seniors’ college essays. Many students reflect how their parents’ drive to face the challenges of coming to the US inspires and motivates them.
With few opportunities for arts learning within the school, student engagement has been a significant part of my process. Emulating a large format camera, I did all the shooting with a tripod and live view on the camera screen. My bright red tripod did not go unnoticed and students were interested to see and respond to the images while I worked. The series has been exhibited in the library and students contributed the image titles. As a springboard from this work, I will be running a photography seminar at the school, and going forward, I envision opportunities for the students to tell their own stories about this school and their lives.