The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated many changes for schools across the country. The Huntington High School photography program has naturally been affected by the transition to remote learning. But the student-photographers and their veteran teacher have been making the best of the situation and continue to push forward with a variety of projects.
Dozens of teenagers are studying with photography teacher Pamela Piffard-Williams this year. She’s keeping their interest with distance learning lessons and assignments, giving the students feedback on their work and offering tips and critiques, encouragement and whatever assistance they need. She even coordinates a weekly photo contest.
The Huntington photographers are always thinking outside the box, tinkering and experimenting and striving to discern their own likes and dislikes as they sharpen their skills and techniques and develop their personal style.
The teenagers recently learned all about “painting with light” and a gallery of their work has impressed those who have viewed it.
“The painting with light assignment was taught just prior to the building being closed and the students took the photographs on their own at home,” Mrs. Piffard-Williams said. “It is a challenging project that uses advanced camera techniques to create beautiful images. The cameras are set on a tripod and the images are exposed using very slow shutter speeds. The students then run into the photos with a light source like a flashlight to create the streaks of light in the images.”
It’s been more than 20 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.
Huntington student-photographers really embraced the painting with light assignment. They submitted many intriguing shots to their teacher, who was so impressed by them that she showed them off to fellow faculty members.
“I am really impressed with the results,” Mrs. Piffard-Williams said. “Typically this project is done a little at a time as students experiment and learn how to manipulate the settings, they bring their images in and I give them feedback so they can get it just right. Because of our change of circumstances they worked mostly on their own and really had to rely on family members to help them during the shooting process and model for them. It has been inspiring for me as a teacher to see so many kids still interested and involved even if they are learning and interacting in such a different way.”