Photographer Gary Harwood worked closely with art students at Clay High School during the fall to create visual images that tell a story in a project titled “In This Place.” The program hosted a special Artists’ Reception at Clay High School on Dec. 6.
Harwood is a photographer, social documentarian, and visual storyteller from Kent, Ohio. He has taught photography at Kent State for over 20 years, and is co-author (with David Hassler) of the book, “Growing Season: The Life of a Migrant Community.”
He has won four national Circle of Excellence awards from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), was named the 2001 University Photographers Association of America’s Photographer of the Year, and won the 2005 James R. Gordon Ohio Understanding Award from the Ohio News Photographers Association (ONPA). His work has appeared in numerous national publications, including the Communication Arts Photo Annual and the Graphis Photo Annual, and he received the 2006 Individual Artist grant for photography and the 2005 Artists and Communities grant from the Ohio Arts Council.
“It is my belief that storytelling is a foundational communication skill and for me, this is especially true when combined with photography. I believe visual storytelling is a universal language that should be introduced to students of all ages. This could be a classroom experience or a project-based community experience,” he said.
Under Harwood’s creative direction, art students in teacher Tiffany Moore’s classroom at Clay High School were encouraged to create images that inspire hope and joy within their community. The images created by the students will be assembled into a book and printed for the patients of the SOMC Cancer Center to look at and contemplate during their treatments and doctor visits.
Graphic designer Kelly Babcock will assist students creating the book, so they will have another layer of learning.
“I was impressed with how my students grew from the very beginning, and they took ownership of their photographs. When they went out in the beginning I think they were nervous, but their confidence grew so much by the end that now they get excited to go out and take more pictures,” Moore said.
Harwood called the project “magic” and said he really enjoyed working with students at Clay High School and seeing them develop their talents so quickly.
“Two-and-a-half weeks is a very short time to create something as full as this. So there is an introduction, then there’s a critique session and they go out and they begin to make improvements on their critiques, and their second round was incredible,” he said. “They started to see things beyond just walking up to things doing pictures of things. They started to see story. They started to see background. They started to see things in the image that make it complete and more compelling. That’s a lot of learning in a short amount of time.”
Harwood’s residency ended on Dec. 6 with a free, public Artists' Reception at Clay High School.
“All the kids showed up in their best clothes. Their parents were there. They each had a table. They were showing their journals,” Harwood said. “It was wonderful.”
This project was coordinated by Sharee Price, gifted services coordinator at the South Central Ohio Educational Service Center, in New Boston, and supported by the Ohio Arts Council, The Scioto Foundation, Rotary Club of Portsmouth, and SOMC.
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