Vaux Big Picture High School

Neighborhood: Sharswood
Vaux Big Picture High School is an innovative neighborhood partnership with The School District of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Housing Authority. The school opened in 2017 and serves grades 9-11. Vaux is part of the nationally recognized Big Picture Learning Network, which serves at-risk youth in 70 project-based schools.

Fall 2019
Classroom Teacher: Kathleen Butts
Teaching-Artist: Rob Seitz

Photography and archival collections played large roles in the projects undertaken at Vaux Big Picture High School. A portraiture project began with students sharing personal photographs and stories from their own family archives. They looked at examples of lighting techniques and portrait styles used by photographers like Myles Loftin for inspiration. Students posed and photographed each other in the hallways of the school and multiple copies of the photographs were printed and given back to the students. They collaged together pieces of different portraits to create entirely new compositions. Students presented these large, composite portraits in their hallway gallery and at a school-wide holiday celebration. A final group project began by brainstorming and collaborating on a large scale “mind map” to tell stories of how students experience their respective neighborhoods. Using digital cameras and cellphones, they captured images during a “photo walk” in the school’s neighborhood. Afterward, they explored online photo archives and sourced appropriated photographs to juxtapose with their own photograph. The final image collages were printed, stamped, personalized and assembled on card stock and then bound together with strips of maps of the neighborhood. Students collaborated to design the complex layout of this book, which folds like a map.