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Jake Uses a Guide to Find his Voice

Written by Paul Allison
October 17, 2010

Here’s an example of how a student, Jake, in Susan Ettenheim’s digital photography class at Eleanor Roosevelt High School, NY, NY was able to find his voice by using one of our guides, one that Susan had adapted from from the “Personal Inquiry” guide. Here are a couple of photographs and paragraphs from one of Jake’s posts:

Being that I didn’t have a lot of background information on Michael Kenna, I chose to do some more research. As I searched for another source of information about him, I came across Michael Kenna’s website.  This website provided a lot of information and opinions about Michael Kenna’s photographs and personal life.

I saw that he did a lot of commercial work for large corporations. This didn’t really surprise me all that much, but it did make me feel weird because I realized that I had seen his work in that aspect before as well.

Now that I have done this research, it makes me think more about my own work Double Sunset.  I think of this piece because I also used a man-made object to merge the natural and unnatural (the dock).

Next, with my own work, I hope to start taking sets of pictures that revolve around a single theme.  I would like to try taking some black and white photographs. I would like to try having the weather to revolve around my photographs, instead of my photographs revolving around the weather.

Susan identifies this post as the beginning of an inquiry using photography that Jake took in her class. 

I have had the pleasure of getting to know this student in art and now in digital photography. I admire his sense of humor and his deeply complex way of seeing the world. I admire that he seems to be able to express himself here because of the confines of the template. I admire that he was able to do the assignment, yet give it a twist [The template he was using did not ask him to add another picture of his own in these paragraphs.] which he does with everything in life—certainly in school.

Susan goes on to explain how the template worked in this case:

I can identify some of the wording from the “sentence starters” I have used, such as “One thing that surprised me is…” but what follows are often great insights, and more substance than if Jake didn’t have this frame for responding.

As mentioned earlier, authentic conversations on Youth Voices grow out of a few basic beliefs. First, we have learned to help students to develop multimedia projects that arise from their own passions and vital questions, but that’s not enough.  A second important part of our work together to to help students to form small communities where they can become members of a peer group and work collaboratively.  The natural third step is to ask students to adopt the stance of researchers, constantly finding other voices to include in their own writing, photography, audio, or video productions.

These principles help us move students toward the kinds of “authentic conversation” that we can sponsor for them on Youth Voices. As always, we would welcome you and your students will join us there soon.