Bedford students highlight seniors in portraits
Monday, January 21, 2013
By LORETTA JACKSON
Art students from Bedford High School completed a photography project that taught them new skills and brought plenty of excitement to several local seniors.
Sixty students from grades 9-12 recently visited Genesis Bedford Hills Center, at 30 Colby Court, where they used their digital cameras to shoot portraits of residents.
Bedford art teacher Shannon Hogan launched the photo project by contacting Brenda Twardosky, the center’s activities director, who arranged the visit. The seniors later received framed copies of their photos as thanks for their participation.
The center is assisting more than 100 adults requiring skilled nursing care for short- or long-term medical problems, Alzheimer’s or dementia-related illnesses.
Twardosky said most of the seniors were excited to be a part of the project. Some were a little nervous. Many were happy to share the finished photos with their families.
“We are always open to trying things that will enrich our residents’ lives,” Twardosky said. “I think there is great value in doing intergenerational programming.”
Twardosky said residents are visited by volunteer Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and college students. A dance troupe, Angels from Heaven, performs on occasion. In addition, youths ages 6-16 are a part of employees’ bring-your-children-to-work days.
Hogan, the high school’s Photography Club adviser, credited the Craftworkers’ Guild in Bedford for providing a $500 grant for the project. The grant paid for photo paper, printing ink and a supply of picture frames. The students’ assignment was to take environmental portraits – photos that capture the subject in everyday surroundings.
The students took bus trips to the center Nov. 13. A morning group and an afternoon group of 30 students each was met by Twardosky, who then conducted a tour of the center and introduced the young photographers to the residents.
Hogan said the photo project gave her art students a chance to hone their photo skills and social skills. The photographers successfully interacted with people they did not know, and earned about seniors’ lives and families, Hogan said.
“Students in high school usually take pictures of friends or family members,” Hogan said. “This project would give them real-world experience as portrait photographers.”
Robert Boisvert and his wife, Pauline, celebrated 35 years of marriage, and were among the seniors who received portraits. The couple, cozy in their shared room at Bedford Hills, displayed the photo taken by Morgan Joyce, 14, a ninth-grader at Bedford High.
Morgan, who mentioned she has been taking pictures “since I was little,” said she would like to pursue a career in landscape photography. She said the Boisverts seemed very happy together. She added that the project entailed more than shooting the digital images. It involved using various tools in the school’s photo editing software to achieve a desired effect. Morgan decided to blur the background. The maneuver resulted in an image with heightened contrast.
“It was good to be able to give something to someone, while still doing our work,” Morgan said. “It definitely was a good experience.”
Jack Troyer, 14, a ninth-grader, said his subject, Jack Sullivan, showed great enthusiasm for the project.
“It ended up being kind of fun,” Troyer said. “Jack is a really cool guy. I took a few candids and then I set one up with him holding his coffee mug.”
Megan Dessanti, 17, a Bedford High senior who wants to be a nurse, said she was excited about taking the pictures. She photographed Bea Brewster and described her as “so fascinating.”
“She is a native of New Hampshire from Nashua,” Dessanti said. “She was a Prohibition officer. It may take a little bit but getting older and younger people together is something that needs to happen.”
Others of the seniors photographed during the visit turned out to be intriguing subjects. Rexford Watson, an Army veteran of the Vietnam era and a Nashua native, said he was an avid baseball player throughout his youth. In the Army, he was a supply specialist and, in his civilian workaday life, a shipper. He said he could lift 50 pounds, all day. Resident Sandra Bozek, a former nurse, is famed for the flavorful pierogies she always made for holiday dinners at St. Hedwigs. Jack Sullivan returns frequently to visit friends at the center, where he resided for some time. Each resident had a unique life story.
Teacher Hogan said initially some students were a bit nervous about visiting people so much older than themselves. Ultimately, however, the experience of hearing the elders’ stories and visiting with them turned out to be an exciting experience.
“It was such an amazing day,” Hogan said. “I can’t wait to do this again, next year.”
To view more of the students’ work and a video, visit www.sau25.net/webpages/sfallon.