Student spotlight: Woodrow Wilson photographer exchanges ‘selfies’ for fine art

Life in high school can be a flurry of activity, drama, and seemingly endless homework. Technology has allowed today’s teens to visually capture the highs and lows of high school life with a frequency that leaves past generations of historians in the dust, through online avenues such as Instagram, Facebook, and Vine. What most teens have in frequency of images, they lose in quality. However, one student at Woodrow has bucked the trend of the in-the-moment “selfie” in order to hone the craft of a more skilled art.

Tania Sanchez is a 12th grade student at Woodrow who has made a name for herself as a photographer. As part of the Performing Arts Academy, Tania Sanchez has established herself as one of the most talented students in Russ Kelemen’s photography class, but it almost wasn’t so.

Even though Sanchez has had an eye for photography since she was young, she wasn’t formally educated until this year. She didn’t find out about the photography class until her junior year, and after she begged Kelemen to let her in, she made it into the class and has flourished ever since.

Sanchez loves to tell a story and capture emotion with her pictures, and relishes the relationship between subject and photographer. “When you take a picture of someone, their insecurities are exposed and they have to trust you to make them look good,” Sanchez reflects. She remembers feeling nervous the first time she asked a random person to take his picture, a guitar wielding man at Klyde Warren Park. After she went through the spiel as taught by Kelemen, he agreed and there was a relationship built that resulted in some great pictures.

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Kelemen, who has taught at Woodrow for six years, has been a strong influence on Sanchez. “He trusts students with the equipment, and gives them a chance even if they don’t have experience,” Sanchez says. “He balances pushing his students to do their best with belief in them to give them confidence. He is an amazing teacher!”

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Sanchez has achieved great things in the classroom and is on her way to graduate from Woodrow this May. She would like to go to photography school after high school, and continues to work hard because of her family. Her motivation comes from the ones she loves, as she says that “Nothing would crush my heart more than disappointing my loved ones.”

*Editor’s note: This article was written by Woodrow Wilson teacher Will Maddox. He will be writing stories about Woodrow students, staff, programs and other news. 


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