Huntington High School photography students recently made their way into Manhattan for a tour of the Aperture Foundation’s gallery as well as visits to several other highly regarded galleries along with an opportunity to shoot a Humans of New York style portrait project on the streets of the Big Apple.
Students enrolled in Advanced Placement Studio Art: 2D Design and Advanced Photography participated in the field trip, which included 46 teenagers in all and six chaperones, including group leader Pamela Piffard, who heads Huntington High School’s photography program and Darin Reed, president of the Huntington Camera Club.
“It was a wonderful trip,” Mrs. Piffard said. “The kids all arrived eager, engaged and ready to learn. They were inquisitive and thoughtful in the galleries. They worked hard on their shooting assignments. I was so proud of them and the positive energy they had all day.”
Besides the Aperture Foundation gallery, the Huntington group visited the Bryce Wolfowitz, Littlejohn Contemporary and Cristin Tierney galleries as well as Metro Pictures in the Tribeca section of Manhattan. Among the photographers and artists displaying work were Maggie Taylor, Cindy Sherman and Guadalupe Rosales.
“I liked the Maggie Taylor exhibit the best because of how different they were from everything else we saw,” Peyton Coneys said. “I also loved the fantasy aspect of her imagery.”
The teenagers quickly warmed to their surroundings as they went about their artistic work. “The shooting assignment that students were completing required them to take portraits of the people of New York,” Mrs. Piffard said. “Students took in inspiration from the Humans of New York project and blog put together by photographer Brandon Stanton. They were looking to create portraits that would tell the stories of the people on the streets.”
Manhattan is one of the world’s leading photographic centers and the city’s always vibrant life gave students limitless choices as they worked on their assignment.
“I enjoyed becoming more and more comfortable each time I approached someone on the streets for a portrait,” John O’Brien said. “Speaking to them and seeing each person’s different personalities was very interesting to me.”
Beanna Cumella said her favorite part of the trip was “learning how to approach people who I wanted to photograph.”
The trip educated and inspired the teenagers, who returned to Huntington with plenty of new ideas.
It’s been 20 years since Mrs. Piffard arrived at Huntington High School in September 1998 to begin her teaching career. She 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.”