Highland Park High School photography students offer portraits of courage
"Her story was strikingly powerful and I felt I needed to spread her message," said photography student Samantha Gutheim of fellow student Anastasia. (Photo provided by Highland Park High School)
Updated: January 29, 2013 5:47PM
HIGHLAND PARK — Photography students’ work is usually displayed inside the corridors of Highland Park High School.
But students in Alicia Landes’ advanced photo class knew their portraits of community “upstanders” needed to be seen by a broader audience.
The portraits hanging outside the school at St. Johns Avenue and Vine Street were inspired in part by the work of JR, a semi-anonymous street artist who has created enormous public portraits in far-flung parts of the world.
Students also were influenced by the Facing History exhibit in Chicago celebrating “upstanders” — individuals who’ve stood up in the face of adversity or injustice and improved the community for others.
Each member of the Advanced Photography class selected a person whose story offers insight or whose actions have made the community a better place. The photographer then explained the reasoning behind their choice of a subject, as well as artistic decisions about, say, the photo’s finish or frame.
Jacob Lissoos chose to photograph Austin, a classmate who’d included him in his circle of friends when he arrived as a freshman feeling like an outsider. “He has inspired me to reach out to others, rather than staying in the same friend group,” said Lissoos, who chose a sturdy wood backing and a rugged finish to show the qualities needed “to go against the accepted standards of the community.”
Mackenzie Paulsen opted to tell her own story as someone who had moved around a lot, and who lost a best friend in a fatal, 2010 car accident. Her self-portrait was taken on an abandoned building to represent the homes and things she’s left behind, but not forgotten. The only color in the photo, a green “306”, represents the competitive motocross number of the friend who died in the crash.
Rachel Nault photographed her grandmother, who as a child was forced to serve the German soldiers who invaded her home in the Italian Alps, but saw them as people with loved ones whom they missed.
Said Asher Budnik of his grandmother Bette Budnik: “She has worked to improve our community for more than a decade through New Foundation Center. This organization works with adults with mental illness in our society,” including a member of their family.
For her photo project, Samantha Gutheim sought out a student named Anastasia whom she didn’t really know but admired after hearing her speak in front of her peers. Gutheim asked Anastasia if she’d be willing to use art to convey a larger message.
“We both understood we had a point we needed to get across,” said Gutheim. “We hope that whether you post a giant picture of your face outside, or make a Facebook post, or talk about this portrait with a friend,” said Gutheim, “that we all reconsider our actions as humans towards one another.”