Better than homework: Hopkinton students snap pictures of their daily lives

Last modified: Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Teddy Lavoie and Rory Campbell spread their homework on the round table in the art room at the Maple Street School in Hopkinton on Tuesday.

“It’s better than any other homework we get,” Lavoie said, flipping through the pieces of his assignment.

“And it’s fun, not like math and stuff,” Campbell added.

Their homework wasn’t “math and stuff.” It was photography. The two 10-year-old boys were among the fifth-grade students who have been working with Nancy Grace Horton, a Portsmouth photographer who is the artist-in-residence this fall at Hopkinton’s Harold Martin and Maple Street schools.

Horton will work with every class in the two schools during her ongoing 12-day residency, which is partially funded by the state Council for the Arts. But she has spent particular time with the fifth-graders, who have been taking pictures at home and creating collections of photographs from

their daily lives as 10- and 11-year-olds.

This week, they assembled books of their printed pictures during their last class with Horton. The tables of the art room were covered with their 4-by-6 snapshots of dogs, Legos, hamsters, siblings, dance shoes, soccer balls and, of course, selfies.

“My dad calls it a ‘facey,’ ” said Zelda Ackerman, 10, with a grin to match the one in a picture she took of herself.

This week, Horton helped the fifth-grade classes assemble books of their printed pictures during their last class together.

“There’s so many different things that you can learn by doing a project like this, something as simple as looking at your life in a different way, noticing the things that you do, maybe continuing to make pictures of these things,” Horton said.

Horton moved from student to student Tuesday, praising pictures of pets and helping the kids stitch together their photo books between bright pieces of construction paper.

“Every kid was engaged in this process,” Horton said. “I didn’t have anyone off to the side. . . . I didn’t have to convince anyone that this was interesting or fun.”

When the students had to think about what makes a good photograph, art teacher Kim Emerson said they also had to think about what matters to them at home and in their day-to-day routines.

“I think they learned how to take a picture other than point, shoot and click,” Emerson said.

At one table, Ackerman planted a little kiss on a picture of her dog. Her pet was a better subject than her brother – “My brother kept being weird,” she said with an exasperated sigh.

“It’s hard, it’s really hard to find a good picture,” she said.

Theodore Mollano, 10, said he “just winged it” the day he took his pictures at home.

He laid out his pictures in order, one taken of himself eating his cereal at breakfast, another while building a fort with his friends. He used the self-timer on his family’s camera to take a picture of himself reading on the couch, and another while he was practicing the drums.

“I thought about the entire thing as a sequence,” he said. “I thought about it as my day, how I go about doing things.”

Even as a photographer who has been in the business for more than 20 years, Horton said the photographs her students eagerly brought to class struck her as insightful and special.

She remembered one boy who set up a tripod to take a picture of his family at the dinner table. His photo captured a routine moment in his home, she said, but an integral part of a 10-year-old’s day.

“That really resonated with me,” she said.

As Horton finishes her project with the fifth-grade students, she said she hopes their photo books become a keepsake of their class – and of this time in their lives.

“Some of the kids that were just really shy or maybe had a hard time in other classes, this exercise got them excited,” Horton said. “They did their homework.”

(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or mdoyle@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)