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Bedford High School photography students review portraits taken at the Bedford Hills Care and Rehabilitation Center as part of their class. (Courtesy))

Lesson provides a picture perfect lesson in life skills

BEDFORD - The students of Shannon Hogan's photography class were hesitant when she pitched the idea to take portraits of seniors and return with framed copies.

"They were like, 'Why are we going here?'" Hogan said of the plan to capture the residents of Bedford Hills Care and Rehabilitation Center on camera.

She also knows that if any of the kids wanted to become pros, they would need to communicate with people they don't know.

"When we do portrait pictures they never go outside of their comfort zone, and if they ever want to be a real photographer, you never take pictures of people you know," she said.

The project was funded by a $500 grant from the Craftworkers' Guild, a Bedford-based nonprofit that dedicates part of its proceeds to scholarships and grants. Hogan had never applied for a grant before. But when she ran into Irene Dupont-her old photography teacher from Nashua High School who is also a member of the Craftworkers' Guild-she was inspired to give it a shot.

Three photography classes and the high schools' photography club visited the senior facility in October, taking pictures they would present to the residents just before Christmas.

Returning to school, their images still in digital form, the students narrowed down the highest quality shots over the course of three class periods. The images were processed in Photoshop before going to the printer.

Students put into practice several of the techniques they had learned in class. They experimented with depth of field, an important element of portrait photography that allows the photographer to blur the background and emphasize the subject. They also practiced shooting from worm's view (upward angle) and bird's view (downward angle), as well as more subtle dictums like the rule of thirds.

Hogan, who also teaches ceramics, drawing and jewelry classes at the high school, said the results were impressive.

Ninth grader Morgan Joyce was among the 45 student photographers. A married couple at the facility would be celebrating their 60th the Sunday after the students' visit. Joyce asked Hogan if she could stay after school to learn to edit her photo before the rest of the class-she wanted to present it in time for the anniversary.

"I just think this was so sweet of her to take her own time to stay after school to learn something that she was going to learn in school the following week," Hogan said of her student. "Not only did she stay after school, but she drove over to the nursing home and hand delivered the picture to the couple."

Hogan emphasized that photographers need to break the ice with subjects if they want to capture the moment. "You have to have life skills. You have to talk with (your subjects) and get a report with them and that's how you get good pictures."

The trip to Bedford Hills afforded them the opportunity to do that. Hogan said the experience was unforgettable, and that it left her with goosebumps and teary-eyed. It's something she plans to continue as part of her photography classes in the years to come.

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Simon Rios may be reached at

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