On the final day of school for Mission High School, photography students glued 100 photographs on a public wall on Valencia Street between 23rd and 24th streets to create a collage of photos depicting the sky. It was a chance to come together after a year of being apart.
“This is very exciting for me, because I get to show off my work,” said 17-year-old Nathaniel DeGuzman, who found remote learning kind of boring.
His photography teacher Andrea Nicolette Gonzales agreed. “I feel like so much has been taken away from these kids,” she said.
Gonzales decided to create this public photo project to show her students that “they can take up space, and that their art is worthy to be seen.”
The photo project is a collaboration with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, which will showcase the photo wall on its website. Gonzales was inspired to have her students photograph the sky after teaching a lesson on Penelope Umbrico’s artwork 5,377,183 Suns (from Sunsets), which is comprised of photos of prints of photos of sunsets installed in a grid.
After discussing the idea with her students, she asked them to photograph the sky from where they were located. In “before times,” when Gonzales and her students went on photo walks, the photos would often come out similarly. But, in this instance, each photo is taken from a unique vantage point, symbolizing that although everyone has been apart, the San Francisco sky acts as a unifying force.
“I just took this when I was camping. I thought it was cool because you could see the sun and it was orange ‘n’ shit,” said Christopher Martinez of his photo.
Gonzales, an artist who founded the photography program at Mission High five years ago, was not only giving her students a place to showcase their art, but allowing them to express their concerns and come together in person for the first time in more than a year.
“I’m just nervous for my graduation. I don’t want to graduate during a global pandemic. I don’t want to grow up. Do you have any advice?” Jose Yanas asked his teacher.
“You’ll do great!” Gonzales shot back.
“OMG, you’re so tall!” another teacher said to one of her students, who she had only seen on zoom for the past year.
Carlos Gonzalez skated over to Valencia between 23rd and 24th to glue his photo on the wall. “I like all the details of photography,” he said.
“I’ve never seen people just post a bunch of pictures on the wall,” said Robert Doile, an 11th grader at Mission High.
Gonzales said that she has heard from other teachers how anti-climatic the end of the school year can feel on Zoom.
“I just wanted to close the year with something fun; I wanted them to have a good memory.”
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