Middle School


Kaitlin Rogers
Digital Documentary Photography
December 2007

Overall I found this final project to be a very worthwhile experience, and I really had fun with it. My biggest struggle was to get the ball rolling and to make the initial contact with the Gilbert family. I had a hard time feeling comfortable asking someone to let me come into their life to photograph them. It was not until I persisted and requested that I come take some shots at their home, that I really felt I had an "in" with Hannah and her family. After we spent the evening together, Hannah really warmed up to me. I just wish that had happened sooner because it was not until my last photo shoot with her that I felt like I captured Hannah rather than a girl doing gymnastics or a girl playing soccer. I also found that it was very helpful to have her best friend Amber there. I think she really put Hannah at ease and helped her to be herself.

During this project I really worked on capturing moments and interactions. I focused on learning about what it means to be a middle schooler by documenting the lives of Hannah and Maggie. Tying the two stories together was easier than I anticipated because they really aren't two separate stories--they're both eighth grade girls, and although they have their differences, much of what is so "middle school" about them is exactly the same. This is obvious in the two pictures where they are in the exact same position: holding a friend's arms for support.

This class really opened my eyes to the endless possibilities for stories. You can make a story out of anything if you approach it the right way. I really did not know much at all about documentary photography prior to taking this class, and now I am excited by the stories that are all around me. Part of me wants this project to be a beginning because I am intrigued, and I want to learn more. I focused on two eighth grade girls, but the middle school years are a time of such drastic change, that I could do a whole story on the differences between sixth and eighth graders. As Maggie remarked when I interviewed her,"if I look back to my sixth grade yearbook, I don't even recognize some of the people. That's how much people change!!" It would also be fascinating to focus on one person from sixth grade to eighth grade. Such a long-term project would really highlight the changes and would allow me to form a really strong relationship.