Locked Out of the Darkroom

By Colin Murphy

October 27, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic effect on the schooling system across the United States. With students not being allowed to enter the classroom, distance learning has become the new normal. 

For students, it can be difficult but the same goes for teachers. The amount of stress placed on them is much tougher; they have to completely change the way they normally teach and now they have to entertain students while they’re in their home.  

This past week, I took a look at Malibu High School’s photo class and had a common goal on learning how the class is functioning with distance learning measures in place. I spoke to Ms. Carla Bowman-Smith, the photo teacher at Malibu High School. She said,  “The main thing that has changed [with distance learning] is that we haven’t been able to shoot film and use the darkroom. Also, I like to have a few projects going on at once, so that students who finish early have other options to work on. The way it is now, the entire class works on one project.” 

This can most definitely cause a problem for students because photography is about learning new techniques and different styles but if students are held back with the rest of their class, they won’t learn as much throughout the semester. 

I then asked Ms.Bowman-Smith what her goals for students are. She replied with “My main goal, during distant and when at school,  is that students enjoy my classes! But also that hopefully in my classes, students can relax a little and create, and be a period in their day that they can forget about all the stuff going on around us right now.” With that being said, Ms.Bowman still expects students to join her virtual meetings every day with their full attention and plan to learn more. 

I spoke to a student who has never taken a photo class at Malibu High, and a student who has. Both had very similar experiences in Ms.Bowman’s classes and very positive feelings about the way this school year is going. 

Triston Harvey, a senior and a third year photography student here at Malibu High School said “Online classes have been good, honestly discussions have been much more active then they were in person, more people share their reactions and opinions on their peers’ work.”.

Leo Alexander, a junior at Malibu High School is a first-year photography student who followed up with Triston’s statements saying, “For photo one since class does not go very into depth, Bowman will preview the project, explain how to do it. Then we are given time to go and shoot. But at the end of class, we reconvene and talk about one another’s work.” 

By reviewing each other’s work, students get to understand what people like to see and what techniques they are progressing with. By learning which techniques they do better, the photographers learn their style and learn what specifically to look for when going out to shoot. 

Leo also took art class last year at Malibu High, so I asked him how he felt about photo and art classes being online instead of in person. He replied with a very in-depth yet inspiring statement about how being in a classroom is more applicable for learning, but being at home can “expand the possibilities of creativity in mine and other students’ projects.”

Photo class at Malibu High is functioning mostly to the best of its ability and Ms.Carla Bowman-Smith is doing a wonderful job with distance learning. Both Triston and Leo said she is a great teacher who is doing her best at running the class smoothly.    

Online classes at Malibu High School have been stressful for both students and teachers but after about the second week, the majority of students began progressing in their classes and learning the necessary skills to succeed. With classes like photography and the arts still occurring, even though distance learning is in effect, students get to follow their passions and be creative while at home.

Photo by Leo Alexander

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