Thursday, March 10, 2011

Magic of Mockingbird

Here's why it pays to be a good sport. Years ago Sandy Mallory asked me to volunteer as the historian for the drama booster program where my daughter attended high school. She also asked me to make online-published books out of the photographs I'd take of the productions. Having been involved for years in many aspects of the illustration and design for traditionally created magazines, newspapers, and books, I knew this would be a ton of work if it was to be done right.

I had never done any true photographic documentation before. This intrigued me. Realizing this experience would give me an opportunity to grow my talents, I said yes and gave the effort my all. Two years later, and with the help of friend photographer Mark Kitaoka, I ended up with six photo documentary books under my belt.

Luck would be on my side: the drama department at San Mateo High School, under the direction of Brad Friedman, is exceptional on all levels (from set building to acting), so the images I took had the benefit of excellent aesthetics even before I snapped the shutters. The joy I experienced while telescoping so closely into the hard work of these amazing students was uniquely exquisite. It was almost as if I was capturing the moment to moment growth of true character building as these students learned how to power-tool their screws into boards or to better portray their characters on stage. The young man you see in the photo above had never previously acted in a play, yet you can see, even in this snapped photo, that his energy was the complete essence of the "Mockingbird" character he represented.

I have so many fabulous memories from this past dive into the student drama world, but last week this part of my history leapt into the present. An educationally oriented book maker in the UK has chosen some of my photos to illustrate their text book on "To Kill a Mockingbird." This means that the volunteer job I did three or four years ago is now going to help teach hundreds of thousands of kids on another continent for who knows how many years to come. Now that is volunteer work at its best!

(It's also pretty darn cool that my then student daughter, Alicia, was one of the two set designers for the play, and did not hold back at all with her feisty opinions about how to get those flats built and painted to look aesthetically right!)