Behind the Camera

An inside scoop on the digital photography class

Braden Altrup


Sophie Hegyi

Sophomore Marina Rizzo prepares to takes a photo for digital photography.

Chloe Stenger, Reporter

Photography is an art-based class primarily focused on design, layout and taking good photographs, using the camera as a tool. The whole point is really just based around the aesthetics of the image you take.

“My main objective of the course is just to introduce that photography is not just something that people do,” photography and art teacher Mr. Purvis said. “It’s not just Instagram, it’s not just you pushing a button on your phone and AI (artificial intelligence) taking over. It’s all about how you see the world.”

Purvis hopes his students take the skills they learn and then apply it. He wants his students’ work to be seen in as many places as possible.

“My students are very talented, and put in a lot of work and effort. When they put in as much work as they do, I believe they deserve to get their work out there and get acclaim for it,” Purvis said.

Digital photography is one of sophomore Berkley Lamarque’s favorite classes.

“We go take pictures and edit them,” Lamarque said. “The class is really fun. Overall, I’d really just say it’s a pretty great class. Compared to my other classes, I’d say it’s on the easier side, but sometimes editing the photo can be a little challenging. Usually, it can take three or four times to take a picture of one thing, because they’re not always in focus, and the editing process can depend. It could take a couple seconds, to even a couple minutes.”

To be a good photographer does require effort and work.

“Sometimes it’s sitting there and editing for a good few hours, sometimes it’s actually taking time to make sure the lighting is all correct,” Purvis said. “If they really enjoy it, I really hope they can take this and make it into a hobby or a career.”

Senior Mia Kessler focuses her camera during digital photography class. (Sophie Hegyi)

Mr. Purvis believes there is a difference between talent, effort and skill.

“Really good work comes from the effort and skill that you put into it. The hours spent behind the lens, putting that time in will get you where you need to go,” he said. “There are some people who have more of a natural eye. But I feel most of the really good work comes from those who actually sit and work, dedicating themselves and their time, even though sometimes it might be a ridiculous amount.”

It is not required for you to know anything about photography before taking the class.

“Absolutely not. Art fundamentals is a prerequisite and does help that they have some idea of composition, but we go over most of that in the class. So experience with photography is not required, but the experience of an art background does help.” Purvis said.

Having the proper equipment is a crucial aspect of allowing students to fully access their creativity behind the camera.

“I just got some LED spotlights that actually mount on the cameras, so you can take higher low key shots,” Purvis states. “We still don’t have flashes, other than the ones that are built into the cameras, but we will get those. That’s on my list. I just got some new UV filters for the lens, so that we can go outside and not get that blue-ish haze. I got brand new LED lights that do the entire spectrum, which are pretty darn awesome, they are also now mobile so we can take them anywhere in the building.”

Sometimes you can randomly find his students wandering around school taking pictures for class.

“It’s hard to keep track of everyone, but there is a certain amount of trust,” Purvis said. “I’d hope that they are getting into classrooms, if they can, getting some photographs, being polite and asking permission. I hope they are trying to adhere to the assignment, but also take some pictures they want or enjoy and they can work on to keep for themselves or get displayed.”

Right now, Purvis is in the midst of starting a photography club.

Students use Adobe Lightroom to edit their photos during class. (Sophie Hegyi)

“Very recently I had talked to the administration about doing it at the beginning of the semester because I didn’t know what the feel would be when I started this year. I didn’t know whether or not anyone would want to join the club. There were a lot of students asking me if we were going to have one, so I went to them to ask if we could make the club,” Purvis said. “Of course it’s not official, we can’t have it until it’s all applied for and get approved at the beginning of the year. But we unofficially gather on Tuesdays after school.”

Right now, the students in photography club are designing a website which will be sent to publications adviser Mr. Hall for him to add to the school website. At a recent club time, they watched a short documentary on Gregory Crewdson. They talked about what the photographer/director does. In photography club, you have access to Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom.

“We just meet and have fun, do some work. They also take their own photographs and distribute amongst each other, helping one another,” Purvis details. “They can also bring in their own photography work to work on, but mostly the club is just chilling, talking about photography and enjoying each other’s company and heading home after.

“My plan for the photography club is to get more people of course once it’s official and actual out there we can go to more events. There is an art show in May where the clubs are going to be putting together some selfie stations and man stations for people to just take pictures when they come in and have fun with it. The fact that we are unofficial makes it so that we can’t raise money eventually. I’d like to raise money through fundraisers so we can go to gallery shows and go to museums and go someplace where we can actually take photos like the Butterfly House or Botanical Gardens. There’s also an old carousel next to the butterfly house so we’d be able to take cool pictures of the view and the carousel itself.”

To those interested in joining photography next year, Purvis leaves the following message: “If you are going through some stuff, getting behind the lens, you can create a feeling the same thing with any art. In my opinion, it is a way for me to escape, allowing me to create my own little world. That is why I like it so much, so I’m hoping that will feed into people.”