South Portland High School photography teacher Sarah Kitchin recently received a grant that will allow her to hang student work at various locations throughout the community.

This is her first year teaching at the high school. Kitchin is married and lives in Gorham with her husband and their two cats, Toaster and Elroy.

She attended the Maine College of Art where she received a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, as well as a K-12 art education certification.

This week Kitchin spoke with the Current about her job and the grant she received.

Q: What do you most enjoy about teaching photography?

A: My favorite thing about teaching photography is seeing students making connections. Connections are being made in their own minds about how darkroom photography works; connections are being made with their classmates, who they may have never said hello to prior to being in this class; and connections are being made with their surrounding community. When we go out to explore and take photos, students often catch moments with their camera that they may have never noticed otherwise.

Q: Just how talented are your students?

A: My students often capture moments that make me wish I had gotten my camera out first. From students that have taken several art classes in high school to students that have not taken art since they were in middle school, all of my students have shown strength with the camera and in the darkroom.

Q: Why did you apply for the grant and how much did you receive?

A: I applied for the Drive For Education grant from Berlin City Auto Group because I wanted to make it possible to exhibit student photography at a professional level. Through the company, South Portland High School was awarded $1,200 that will go toward the costs of mounting materials and hanging hardware for exhibitions.

Q: How will you choose the photos to display to the larger public?

A: The photos to be displayed will represent each student’s most successful photograph. Success is determined by strength of composition, quality of exposure and the level of craftsmanship that the print demonstrates.

Q: When and where would you anticipate putting the chosen photos up around town?

A: I would like to display the photos as soon as possible and am currently looking for a venue. I have reached out to a few local venues and am hoping to hear back soon. If you own a business and have room for artwork to be displayed, I’d love to chat.

And, I hope to see new and familiar faces at the opening for the first SPHS photography show, with the date and venue still to be determined.

Again, if you or someone you know owns a business with space to exhibit photographs I would love to talk. I am also always looking for film cameras to use in the classroom – manual SLRs that are used but in working condition.

Q: Why do you think it’s important to share the work of students in this way?

A: There are two reasons why I think it is important to display student work in a venue outside of school. The first is the students. I believe that it is important at any level for students to feel as though they are being taken seriously. By taking the photographs out of the school and putting the time and effort into hanging their photos professionally it shows students that we care about what they are doing in the photo studio, that we are proud of the work they have made and that we want them to be proud, as well.

Secondly, I think it is important for the community to see the student work. By putting the photographs into the community it invites an audience that may not ever see these photos otherwise. It also allows other generations of South Portland residents to see the community from the perspective of students attending the high school now.

Q: What drew you to photography?

A: I took my first photography class in high school and fell in love immediately. As I’ve gotten older I have also gained interest in many other types of art, but photography will always hold a special place in my heart.

One of the things that I love most about darkroom photography is that it can be as simple or as complicated as you would like it to be. It can also be spur-of-the-moment. One of my favorite things to do is to take my camera out on long walks and capture moments that I know only I have seen so I can then share them with others.

Q: Do you have a favorite subject or style of photography?

A: I have always been interested in black and white darkroom photography. The ability to capture emotion in black and white, and the technical process of creating the photographs are the two things that drive me to make images. The images I take are mostly nature photos and abstracts.

Q: Who are some of the photographers you look up to and why?

A: As someone that takes black and white nature photos it’s hard not to love Ansel Adams, however, my two favorite photographers are Sandy Skoglund and Gregory Crewdson. Both Skoglund and Crewdson build their own sets to take fantastical photographs with vivid colors that make your imagination run wild.

Q: Do you have a preference between film and digital? If so, why?

A: I believe that both types of photography are important. At the high school I teach strictly film. I think for someone to begin to nurture a true interest in photography it is necessary for them to learn the processes and techniques of darkroom photography with a manual film camera.

I personally love the process of creating images in the darkroom and I think there is a richness in darkroom printed images that digitally printed images lack. But, digital photography definitely has its advantages as far as editing goes, you can do some truly amazing things to images with how far digital camera and editing software has come and I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t think it’s amazing that almost everyone now has a camera in their pocket at all times, ready to capture moments to hold on to.

Sarah Kitchin is the new photography teacher at South Portland High School and her goal is to hold an exhibit of student work at a venue visited by the general public.


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