Huntington High School photography students traveled to Manhattan for a tour of the Aperture Foundation’s gallery as well as visits to four other intriguing galleries and an opportunity to shoot unique documentary images on location along New York City streets.
Students enrolled in Advanced Placement Studio Art: 2D Design and Advanced Photography participated in the field trip, which included 42 teenagers in all and six chaperones, including trip leader Pamela Piffard, who heads Huntington High School’s photography program.
Before embarking on the trip, students learned about documentary photographers and what it takes to create a successful documentary image. “The documentary photography lesson introduced students to advanced styles of photographic shooting as well as incorporating the basic Common Core standards into the art curriculum,” Mrs. Piffard said.
“Aperture, a not-for-profit foundation, connects the photo community and its audiences with the most inspiring work, the sharpest ideas, and with each other in print, in person and online,” according to its website. “Created in 1952 by photographers and writers as common ground for the advancement of photography, Aperture today is a multi-platform publisher and center for the photo community. From its base in New York, it produces, publishes and presents a program of photography projects, locally and internationally.”
Besides the Aperture Foundation gallery, the Huntington group visited the ClampArt, Steven Kasher, Yancy Richardson and Yossi Milo galleries. “We evaluated the work we saw,” Mrs. Piffard said. “The students were also responsible for a shooting assignment while on the trip. They were specifically looking for and taking documentary images.”
The teenagers quickly adapted to their surroundings as they went about their artistic work. “Being in the city and really focusing on the people and their daily lives was cool,” senior Ruth Geneus said. “We saw every type of people. The photos really tell the story of the people of New York.”
The trek was eagerly anticipated by the photography students. “My favorite was the ClampArt Gallery,” junior Stephanie DeMartino said. “The images of architecture in New York City were so beautiful. Photographer Marc Yancus was able to portray the building in a breathtaking way.”
Manhattan is one of the world’s photographic centers and the city’s vibrant life gave students countless choices as they went about completing their class assignment.
“The photo trip to the city was so much fun,” senior Alyssa Fox said. “Every year we go to different galleries, but this year, in my opinion, we saw the best shows yet. I learned a lot from seeing so many different series of work from different artists and their views of the world. It was really inspiring.”
The trip both educated and inspired the teenagers, who returned to Huntington with plenty of new ideas. “It is an honor to bring my students on the gallery tour each year,” Mrs. Piffard said. “The students are so inquisitive and interested in the art. It helps them to elevate their own shooting to the next level seeing the work of well renowned artists. The photos the student took while on the trip are so great. They did a fantastic job of portraying daily life in New York City.”
It’s been 18 years since Ms. Piffard arrived at Huntington High School in September 1998 to begin her teaching career there. “I am a high school photography teacher by day and a freelance band and wedding photographer after hours, on the weekend and during the summer,” she said. “It is a great balance.”
Mrs. Piffard studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology, earning an associate’s degree in photography in 1996 and then obtained a B.A. in photography and a state teaching certificate at Parsons School of Design/New School University in 1998. She received a master’s in graphic design at Long Island University–C.W. Post College in 2003.
The faculty member’s love affair with photography started early in life. “I first took a class in middle school,” she said. “I wanted to do it because my sister had liked it. Immediately I knew it was a passion. By the time I was 14, I had my own darkroom and I spent every spare moment printing.”
By the time she was 15, Mrs. Piffard was already shooting local bands and the following year as a 16-year old she was working for Under the Volcano fanzine (a magazine for fans that’s typically produced by amateurs) and had done three albums.
What’s her advice to aspiring photographers? “To get started, just shoot a lot and keep doing it,” Mrs. Piffard said. “Network as much as you can and show your work to anyone who will look at it.”