Garrett Ewald, Photojournalist

Preserving memories, building community

The idea to do documentary photography in the schools started when our oldest son was in Pre-K. I started talking to other schools in the area, and when we started at Success Academy Upper West for Kindergarten I tried to get documenting the school year off the ground here as a first step. Just as it was about to start officially before Christmas the brakes were applied by the school and we had our second son. I regrouped the next year with a more simple proposal, but that also struggled to take hold. Year three I modified my thoughts a little more and the saying "Third time is the charm" came true again. 

I was still busy all these years. In year one I made around 9,000 images, mostly of the class of 2029. Our class had an awesome gift book for the teachers, and then I put together an 82 page yearbook for all three classes complete with portraits of all the scholars. You can still buy a copy of that book if you missed it. The second year, first grade for the class of 2029, I shot most of the big school events again, but I still need to make the second yearbook. Finally in the third year I found ways to get the older photos in front of all the families, found a comfort zone with the school and parents about making new photos, and have the tools in place to share them in a reasonably secure way. Families can download images for free, but if they need bigger versions there will be a nominal cost. I'm hoping to continue making year books for the class of 2029, and will do more if there is interest and a way to not make it entirely a volunteer effort on my part.  

So far this year I've shot most of the events in the auditorium with equipment to overcome the sorry state of the lighting (easily the darkest room I've worked in during my nearly 30 years as a photojournalist). I also shot the last three games of the soccer season and may do more sports in the spring. I will continue to document as many other events as is practical. For every hour of shooting there can be as much as 10 hours of extra work before and after. As I start to get busier with commercial clients I might not be as available as I once was, unless I can justify setting aside the time to cover school events. 

The Next step

It is a two step process to gain access to the images I've made. The first step is a quick form here. Then hop over to the area of the site that has the photos and set up an account. I will approve your account manually so you won't be able to log in right away. Without this account, though, you can't see the photos yet. When you do get approved you will have the ability to download the images posted at no cost. Larger versions of the photos can be purchased at a nominal cost. 

If you have any questions give me a call at 646 374 8187 or email me at garrett@photosbyge.com

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If anyone needs access to your child's photos restricted I can do that. Ideally everyone will be OK with my making photos because it will be much easier to not have to avoid photographing anyone. These photos are for you and the kids. Each day I make photos I will post images to a protected web site or class site. 

Additionally, my work on 1 Life, 1,000 Words has included working with parents on photography and I can do photography workshops and be available to answer questions. 

For the Parents

Your kids spend a lot of time at school doing cool things. Especially in the early years. The teachers try to snap some photos, but they have their hands full. Parent chaperones are only around for special events, but they also have limited opportunites to take photos. Performances in our dark auditorium are difficult to photograph without special equipment, and the distances make cell phones and pocket cameras impractical tools to preserve the moment.

The PS Project has come about as a way to make memorable photos accessible to all of the families at our school.

As a photojournalist I have made substantial investments in equipment that makes great photos in low light, telephoto lenses that are ideal for performances, and I have learned how to be unobtrusive and ready to capture spontaneous moments. Now the parents of SA-UW can see more of my work by following the directions above. 

At school performances you can enjoy the show knowing the photos and video are being taken care of professionally. Go on a field trip and be a kid again with your child. I've been preserving precious moments for nearly 30 years, covering spontaneous news and sports events, making portraits, designing and publishing books and magazines. The parents at school will have access to an abundance of photos as long as I can practically produce them. As the kids get more familiar having me around I can make more natural studio style portraits that brings out their true character. Then at the end of the year the best of the images will be combined into a treasured book for each class or grade. 

 

A field trip to the Children’s Museum

Preview a yearbook

For the Children

Most of us parents have few photos from their childhood, and other than some random class photos probably none from school before they get to high school. The next generation will likely be swimming in photos, but still only have school portraits and the occasional snap shot. I have developed this project to address this by creating photographs that will increase in value as time passes. And I'll help you learn how to store images properly, reproduce them, and keep them from getting lost in storage.

Digital cameras remove most of the obstacles to photographing events, catching them in action can be tricky. In many ways our cell phones are not much better than an old instamatic camera. Having teachers and parents responsible for making photos during school is a distraction from their important work and it puts a strain on the children. Covering my own child at events posed challenges of dividing my attention so no one had much fun. Chaperones get pulled in 10 directions at once too. Teachers seldom have the luxury of time, and getting the photos distributed to the families is a low priority. And we all know that second and third kids in a family get short changed on photographs. 

The school day is filled with photogenic moments that would otherwise go undocumented. In the course of the year I would estimate making more than 100,000 images, but it isn't about quantity. Getting good photos of every child is the goal. 

Working with a dedicated photographer puts a familiar face behind the camera who is not a family member, helps the children focus on their work instead of hamming it up for Mom or Dad. The teachers can do their work without distraction too. Parents can revel in observing and participating without fiddling with a camera. 

The school portrait is due for an upgrade. The companies that do them have to rush through the day and in the end the children and parents get short changed. The hectic day is never fun. Making hundreds of lifeless photos when you have no connection with the children is a thankless job. Only a minute or two is devoted to getting an acceptable image. Rather than do the entire school in one day we will take the time to make an abundance of images and provide you with choices to rival a studio photo session. 

I can also devote time to teaching photography to the children, and to the upper grades this could expand to include publication design and they could use my images to design their own personal yearbooks. 

For the School

My first priority is to make images for the families. The use of the images by the school is an option to be determined by the parents. But that isn't to say the school has nothing to gain from this project. 

By documenting the year in photos the resulting images will help engage the parents in the school experience in new ways. I am on the lookout for a graduate student to involve in measuring the impact to confirm this hypothesis. Photos can change the world, and increasing parent involvement in meaningful ways can only be good for a school. 

With many parent associations raising money for special projects and school expenses there is a growing need to produce something of substance to reward the parents for their gifts. Grants and gifts can be won more easily with the ability to showcase for the donors the impact of their gift in photos. New grants are easier to secure when showing how well the school used gifts in the past can be shown visually.

In the long run, expanding my work at SA-UW doesn't have to mean diverting existing funds to pay for the photography. By organizing the parents into a block to engage me photography can make a bigger contribution to the budget than just traditional school photos. And as substantial content to include in a parent focused community website it will make it easier to keep in contact during the school year. 

© 2017 Photos by GE.

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