I was recently asked to be one of the speakers at a career day at Lockwood Elementary here in L.A. I immediately said yes as I remembered how much fun I had with these students when I volunteered before. Besides my friend Richard Ayoub who adopted this school a few decades ago, can be a pretty convincing guy.
Onto my little story of "A Boy, His Heart & an Image." A moment that I won't soon forget. Richard suggested that we bring visuals, an easy thing for a photographer to do of course. I gathered images that reflected the different types of photographers. Family, Pet, Landscape, Product, Celebrity, Humanitarian, Sports and Photojournalist photographers. I had a wide spectrum of images of different photography specialties.
When I asked the 4th grade class, of about 30 students, what they thought a photojournalist was, here are the answers I received from two eager kids. A boy said "someone who puts photos in a journal?" I can see how he'd come to that conclusion. I replied "good answer, anyone else?" A girl quickly raised her hand, yes they still do that in classrooms, it was nice to see.
In a soft voice she replied, "they write stories about pictures they take?" The smile on my face let her know she was right on target. I took a few images out to show some examples of photojournalism and shared the stories behind the pictures. There were several questions the students had about one particular photo, and that image seemed to resonate deeply with a boy in the front row.
This is the image they were oooing and ahhhhing about.
Some wanted to know what that was in the front. I said " It's a helmet sitting on a rifle. They do this at Memorial and Veterans day ceremonies, to honor those soldiers who never made it home from the war. Soldiers who died fighting for our country." "What's in the back" asked one curious student. I went on to tell the class, in the back of the image is was a solider in his medal decorated uniform. He was honoring those fallen soldiers by standing at attention.
One boy spoke right up with enthusiasm and pride, I'm going to be a Marine someday. I smiled at him with all his brimming excitement. He reminded me of the kids along the parade routes when I was a youngster, who would try to mimic the march of the soldiers, walking in unison to a military band song.
When my time was up in the classroom, as I gathered my many visuals aids, that proud little boy with the dream of being a Marine, asked me something I will never forget. He said in a mere whisper "Excuse me Ms. Debra? Could I have that picture?" With uncertainty of how I would respond but hope filling his big brown eyes, he pointed to the image of the soldier standing behind the helmet and rifle.
I almost told him that I needed it for two more classes. However the look on his face was so precious, so invested in what this image represented to his young life, that I quickly responded "Of course you can." He took the picture and again starred at it with such intensity, and a big grin on his face. At that moment, my heart filled with so much emotion I thought I would cry.
I nodded my head saying silently, "This is why I am a photographer, why I created Debra Snell Photography.." For someone to connect so strongly to an image that I have captured, makes me feel that my meager attempt to visualize a moment was successful. And so ends my story of "A Boy, His Heart & an Image."