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BSSD 9th graders take aim at photography

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‘Help, I’m alive’ by Ella Henslee PHOTO COURTESY OF DJ SOIKKELI/BSSD

Soikkeli-led course builds fundamentals

By Michael Somerby EBS STAFF

BIG SKY – New Big Sky School District art teacher DJ Soikkeli has pumped a fresh, youthful perspective into the school’s art curriculum, providing students room to explore their critical thinking and creative process through myriad mediums and projects.

EBS reported in mid-November on the BSSD 8th graders’ stabs at social justice issues, tackled through pop art, in which body shaming, gun violence, rape culture and drug addiction, among other topics plaguing society, took center stage, inspiring conversation and consideration from members of the community.

The 9th graders semester-long foray into photography proved no different, with the young photogs commenting on police brutality, mental health, wealth disparity and light pollution, to name but a few examples, through photographs—with emphasis on lighting, framing and editing in the Lightroom computer program.

Take Ella Henslee’s “Help, I’m Alive” series in which the young photog explored issues with food and eating—particularly in the female population.

“We have expectations that are impossible to reach and that causes people to do harmful things to meet said expectations,” Henslee wrote in her artist statement. “While I was creating this artwork I learned some valuable skills around photography. For example, I learned how to edit my photo so it could be exactly what I wanted. I also learned that sometimes it takes a few tries before you achieve a desirable result.”

On a seemingly lighter, more playful level, Erin Kaye explored identity through footwear, writing, “The title of my work is called ‘looking into peoples soles’ … how a shoe can tell what a person is like and what they value.”

However, there is real commentary to be had: “[The youth bases] their self-worth on the shoes they wear. To me, this is a social issue … the brand, the style and the price can make another person judge.”

For Orrin Coleman, the course was not only an avenue to study the effects of light and shadow in photography, but also to bring attention to the shrinking dark spaces of the world, places where no artificial light disrupts the beauty of the night sky above.

Through a combination of experimental shutter speeds and angling, “[The focus of] my artwork is the night being broken by light,” wrote Coleman.

For the young artists of the school, they certainly have a friend in Soikkeli, who at the age of 24 is able to neatly provide space for voice and social commentary through art—a calling card of young people worldwide—while also providing the knowledge and tools to further pursue the craft if they so choose.

So long with “say cheese.”

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