A few weeks ago I recorded a podcast on SproutingPhotographer.com with one of my most favorite artists, Stacy Pearsall. If you haven't listened to it yet, it's well worth your time. Just click the tab below.
We spent a lot of time talking about giving back and very specifically a project near and dear to her heart, the Veterans Portrait Project. However, there's another important side of Stacy to share, her role as an educator and her ability to motivate young photographers.
During, as well as after the podcast, we talked about her trip to New Jersey and spending a day with the students at Raritan High School. As part of the full day program, she photographed veterans with the students, who later went on to create their own veteran's exhibit.
Teresa Gennarelli is the Fine Arts Educator at Raritan High School. I spoke with Teresa and she couldn't have been more excited to share the experience for both her and her students to work with Stacy. She wrote the guest post below, sharing the excitement and describing the impact of working with Stacy.
As you develop special projects of your own, think about ways you can impact the community and bring even more meaning to your work and your ability to create more "buzz". It's all about giving back in both the parameters of the project itself and sharing with your community.
For over two decades I've subscribed to Guidepost magazine, a small publication with a huge circulation of over two million people. It is full of inspirational stories and the November 2014 issue arrived with a photo of Staff Sergeant Stacy Pearsall on the cover and her story inside.
As I read about her service to our country as a combat photographer in Iraq, I started thinking about my Digital Photography students and imaging how awesome it would be if I could get Stacy to visit my classes and we could host our own Veterans Portrait Project. Stacy could work with my students and we would invite our local veterans to have their portrait taken.
Every year my colleague, Rosemarie Wilkinson, a Social Studies teacher, and I collaborate on a project. We work with the Center for Holocaust, Human Rights and Genocide Studies in Lincroft, New Jersey combining an art project with one of their current events. I immediately thought of combining our resources if we were lucky enough to have Stacy visit us.
To my surprise, Stacy responded to my e-mail saying that, although she had never done anything like this before, she would be willing to give it a try. Rosemarie and I applied for a grant and our students sold candy to help cover Stacy's expenses. We contacted local veterans' organizations and lined up 10 veterans willing to participate. My Digital Photography students would work with Stacy taking the portraits and the Social Study students would interview the veterans and write a tribute to add to our exhibit. We ran infomercials during the morning announcements and included YouTube videos about Stacy.
The whole school was anticipating Stacy's arrival, we lined the driveway with flags and draped the main office with red, white and blue bunting. On the day of the project, Stacy began by speaking to the students explaining how to respectfully address and converse with the veterans. She then had my students assemble her portable studio and working in groups, each veteran was interviewed and photographed. The day was a great success, we had enriched our student's lives much more than we could have imagined. I believe that in my 17 years of teaching, this experience impacted my students more than any other.
The following day, as an added bonus, Stacy addressed the staff and shared her experiences as a combat photographer in Iraq. The Raritan High School community was immensely honored and blessed by Stacy's visit. It was an experience that profoundly changed many of our lives.