Huntington High School photography students recently trekked into Manhattan for a tour of the Aperture Foundation’s gallery as well as visits to several other groundbreaking galleries and an opportunity to shoot 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 about 40 teenagers in all and five chaperones, including trip leader Pamela Piffard-Williams, who heads Huntington High School’s photography program, two parents and two alumni.
Huntington art teacher Pamela Piffard-Williams.
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-Williams 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 Berubi, Bryce Wolfowitz and Robert Mann galleries. “We evaluated the work we saw,” Mrs. Piffard-Williams 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 embraced to their surroundings as they went about their artistic work. “I really enjoyed the works of Stephen Wilkes in the Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery,” said senior Quinn Blackburn, an AP 2D Design student. “His patience and excellence in Photoshop amaze me. The images themselves are phenomenal.”
Manhattan is one of the world’s leading photographic centers and the city’s always vibrant life gave students limitless choices as they went about completing their class assignment.
“The trip was incredibly rewarding,” Mrs. Piffard-Williams said. “The students were engaged and excited by the exhibits, which were all such high quality that they gave everyone a goal to achieve for themselves.”
The trip both educated and inspired the teenagers, who returned to Huntington with plenty of new ideas.
It’s been 19 years since Mrs. Piffard-Williams 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-Williams 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-Williams said. “Network as much as you can and show your work to anyone who will look at it.”