Huntington junior Johanna Campos snapped this photograph.

H-ton Photographers Create Haunting Window Portraits

Huntington sophomore Jillian LoTurco snapped this haunting photo of her mother, Donna, capturing the toll on humanity of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic shelter at home orders.

May 11, 2020

It’s been a surreal time for teachers and students dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and the transition to remote learning, but the Huntington High School photography program is keeping its stride intact through lessons and project assignments.

One recent assignment involved creating window portraits. Many of the photographs are haunting. Veteran teacher Pamela Piffard-Williams has been guiding her students through this period of distance learning and she has made herself available to them virtually around the clock as needed.

“For the window portraits assignment we had to choose a person or a family member to portray the social distancing and isolation we’re dealing with right now,” junior Johanna Campos said. “From the second Mrs. Piffard told us about this assignment, I knew what I wanted to shoot. When this (the pandemic) all began, not everyone was taking it seriously because we did not realize how devastating it was going to be, although the media warned us of other countries fighting this battle.”

It took some time for the high school students, and many others, to gain proper perspective on the extent of the pandemic. “At first, the thought of not working or going to school sounded like a vacation, but as days went on families were being brought though the mud,” Ms. Campos said. “Some of us had family members sick at home with acute symptoms while others lost the battle to all the other outcomes in between. The innocence of children not understanding why they can’t go to school or get an ice cream cone is heartbreaking. They are learning how to explore the world and have been contained to the four walls of their house. We are all going through a difficult time and my message is although we are uncertain of the end of this pandemic, is it important to come together and unite as one and support each other.”

Mrs. Piffard-Williams said the project was inspired by photographers around the world who have ventured out and documented their family and friends through their windows.

“The window portraits were touching because I got to see family in this hard time,” junior Bella Algieri said. “Photography has been a helpful outlet.”

The young photographers put their own spin on the project and their creativity resulted in some stunning images.

“Our assignment was to photograph our subject through a window,” senior Josie Fasolino said. “It could be a family member, a pet or a friend. The point of this assignment was to convey the distance we are all experiencing right now with the people or things we love. I struggled with this assignment because the windows have a lot of reflections, which made it tricky to focus on the subject. However, it was refreshing to get out and interact with people in town. While I assumed the people at Little Vincent’s would be scared to interact with us, we were welcomed with warm smiles and laughs. It really made my day to talk to someone without fear.”

Teaching photography remotely is challenging, to be sure, but Mrs. Piffard-Williams is making a go of it with her students. The teenagers are making the best of the situation and rising to the occasion.

“For the window portrait project we had to photograph our subject from distance through a window,” sophomore Finley Dunn said. “I thought the assignment was a fun challenge and I liked working with my sister to create the images.”

The project made the teenagers think. “We were assigned to take photos of someone or something through a window,” junior Lily Joseph said. “Although this sounds like a simple project, it was way more significant then it looked, especially during this time. While in quarantine, we aren’t able to go out and be with our family and friends and this project showed just that.”

Mrs. Piffard-Williams was pleased with the photographs and said they show the social distancing and isolation the country is currently experiencing.

“The images produced are both beautiful and emotional,” Mrs. Piffard-Williams said. “Literally every person can relate to these images. The students did an amazing job infusing the images with feeling.”