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School Days

Reflections on the joy and promise of youth.

Nobody says childhood is easy. You don’t always know who you are or who you’re going to be, or how you’ll fit into the real world outside of your insulated community.

But there’s an intangible attitude of youth worth reliving: verve and vigor as you tumble towards as pretty of a life as you can manage. Even the pragmatists among us remember the sense of possibility.

The weight of responsibility and grown up problems can slow you down over time, as can the dumb luck of disparate opportunity. But as you watch friends, family members, acquaintances and strangers graduate this month, take a step or ten or a hundred back. How far have you come and how much is still possible?

Published on May 18, 2010

Introduction by Laura Brunow Miner

Guest design by Nathan Borror

The Voice that Speaks Inside

The Voice that Speaks Inside

I never was much of an athlete — I was more the artsy type and still am. Despite growing up in the tiny town of Knippa, Texas, where a Paul Bunyan-type guy was the mascot and the rock crushing plant defined the community, one of my proudest moments was winning first place in a third grade poetry reading contest. I beat out hundreds (or at least ten) other kids with my enthusiastic interpretation of a Shel Silverstein poem, and my mom proudly told just about everyone in town. All 789 people.

Editor’s note: Check out the featured contributor interview with Wade for more Texas tales.

Photographer: Wade Griffith

I’m a professional photographer residing in Dallas, Texas. I currently shoot a wide variety of subjects including architecture, product, and portrait photography while my fine art portfolio is made up of street portraiture, vintage imagery, and urban and rural decay.

Free to Be You and Me

Free to Be You and Me

Here is Peninsula School in 2005, looking exactly like it did in 1973, when I would have been about the same age as this boy. During my eight years there, there were no grades or desks, and virtually no homework assignments. We spent our days mostly playing: swinging from rope swings, climbing trees, and playing in mud puddles. I knew a kid who was barefoot until the day of our graduation. While they taught me enough academics to be accepted to a prestigious college prep high school, what they really taught was something more rare and valuable. Instead of squashing the wonderment that all children feel about the world, they nurtured it.

Photographer: Andrew Clark

I am a video professional in San Francisco.

Basic Education

Basic Education

Last year I was travelling through Thailand and ended up teaching at a school in Mae Sot. The kids who attend the school are sons and daughters of Burmese migrant workers and refugees. The children vary in age, from a few years old up to mid-teens. The children are pictured in a lunchroom that doubles as a classroom. Meal times are important as many of the parents send their kids to school simply so they can be fed. A Burmese migrant named James manages the school on a day-to-day basis and his duties can vary from disciplining kids and singing songs to arranging for health check-ups for his students or taking kids to the hospital.

Editor’s note: The two NGOs involved with the school are the Aiya Fund (who fund the school and provide daily meals) and Action Enfants Birmans (a Swiss NGO that sends volunteers to the school).

Photographer: Tan Hussain

I’m a student from Birmingham, England.

Rising Up

Rising Up

When you grow up as a street child in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, there are very few chances to make your way out of poverty. You have to scrounge for what you can—money, clothing, food. But places like Bunju, a secondary school for boys who previously lived on the street, offer opportunities for education and skilled vocation. The boys shown here train in the performing arts — song, dance, drums — and compete as a group in Tanzania and Zanzibar to make money for themselves. Bunju gave them a chance at a better life than living on the street. The boy in the middle is going to Juilliard now: a success story that shows that even the poorest of the poor, with the chance to develop their talent and skills, can make it to the top.

Photographer: Hayley Boyle

Hayley is a student at La Salle University in Philadelphia. She’s learning the world person by person and place by place. She might not be able to save the world, but she’ll die trying.

A Religious Education

A Religious Education

Recently, the Christian Brothers and the other religious orders in Ireland have been at the center of a clerical child abuse scandal. The people of Ireland, long seen as faithful Roman Catholics, have begun to question the role of the church in society. I attend an all-boys high school founded by the Christian Brothers in 1847, and while there are no longer any brothers on the teaching staff of the school, their legacy is to be seen everywhere. An Icon of Mary and the baby Jesus hangs on the stairway. Pictures of Edmund Ignatius Rice — the order’s founder — hang on the walls. But cobwebs cover these religious symbols, and next year we’re set to move to a newer facility a few miles away. Perhaps it’s the end of a era of education here, on Tower Hill, in a little town in the center of Ireland.

Photographer: Benn Hogan

I’m 15 years old and a high school student in the heart of Ireland. If there was a Photographers Anonymous Support group, I’d be there.

The Distance

The Distance

High school for me wasn’t about sitting in a classroom taking notes and prepping for SATs. I felt like my school day began the minute I laced up my running shoes. Being part of a team meant training everyday, traveling to competitions, pushing personal limits, feeding off the wins, and bouncing back from the losses. Our coach Courtney Campbell was the quintessential role model. He constantly challenged us to go harder and think smarter, as he was also the the school’s computer science teacher. That man shaped who I am today. This photo was taken after running in the Virginia State XC Championships. As miserable as it looks, it’s one of the highlights of my life thus far.

Photo taken by Mark Nuzzaco, Matt’s father.

Photographer: Matt Nuzzaco

Matt works in the tech industry in San Francisco. He enjoys Hasselblad cameras, squirrels, and robots.

In Good Company

In Good Company

On the rare occasion that I meet other people who attended Hill House International Junior School, we reminisce and share a range of nostalgic tales, but it’s the uniform we remember most. The knickerbocker pants, the oxfords, the knee-highs, and always the crimson and gold striped cravat. We were the most unmistakable uniformed children in London. If there’s anything we take solace in, it’s the fact that Prince Charles attended Hill House too. Look at how he turned out!

Photo taken by Abdul Hamid Hussain, Naz’s father.

Photographer: Naz Hamid

Naz Hamid is the principal of Weightshift, a design, development, content, and ideation studio in San Francisco and Chicago.

Lessons in City Life

Lessons in City Life

My high school experience has been less than typical. Every morning, I navigate the NYC subway system to Wall Street where I take classes on the 11th floor of an office building. I haven’t experienced any scary old teachers, bitchy cheerleaders, dumb jocks (or any jocks, really), or backstabbing. My friends, supportive and nearly drama-free, have shaped my high school experience more than any lesson in trigonometry or symbiosis. My friends who laugh all the time, who spend Friday morning in math class and Friday night taking crosstown buses to see the sun set over the Hudson River, who get pierced together, cry together, and travel the world together. It has been worth all the while.

Photographer: Emma Pulido

Emma Pulido is a student from New York City. Photography has taught her how to draw lines, to cross them, and to see every moment as a rare and fleeting occurance.



During my undergraduate days in Sagunto, Spain, some afternoons needed a bit of spicing up. One day we barrelled down a huge hill on a stroller turned into a makeshift sleigh. Despite getting yelled at by the campus maintenance crew several times, we continued beating our speed records, hitting a peak of 24 miles per hour.

Photographer: Tiago Baltazar
Dead Man Walking

Dead Man Walking

Attending film school in New York didn’t provide a typical college experience. We didn’t have pep rallies, quad, or late night study groups in the library. But we did have entertaining escapades: out of control U-Hauls, ill-advised experiments to figure out the ideal formula for fake blood, eighteen hour shoots in below zero weather in a park somewhere in the Bronx, etc. Shown here is our attempt to dirty the feet of an actor playing a corpse fresh from the grave. This being New York, there was no real dirt readily available, but the ingenious art director made do with a hastily acquired box of brownie mix.

Photographer: Wren Noble

Wren is a photographer and producer living and working in New York City. She will be moving to Montreal this fall to pursue her MFA.

Mud Mayhem

Mud Mayhem

Every year for May Day weekend, my school hosts a mud volleyball tournament. I experienced it for the first time this year, and it was crazy! Mud flew everywhere, whether intentionally thrown or just splattered by the impact of people falling.

Photographer: Kerry Bush

I’m a college student currently studying English at Manchester College in North Manchester, Indiana. However, I hope to transfer schools for the 2010 fall semester to study photography, which is my true passion.

School Spirits

School Spirits

Tradition dictates that my fraternity brothers bring a couch to the sideline of the Clarkson University men’s soccer games. Unfortunately, this ritual has fallen by the wayside after one of our members took things a bit too far after playing beer pong with gin.

Photographer: Ben Henschel

I am currently a student at Clarkson University, studying Business and Sociology/Cultural Studies.

The End of a Chapter

The End of a Chapter

On that late spring day, we didn’t prank each other, tease each other, or embark on any new adventures. We just sat, remembered stories we’ll someday tell our grandkids, laughed, smiled, and appreciated what we knew would be one of our last simple days together as friends.

Photographer: Jaimie Lorenzut

I am a student attending Kutztown University in Kutztown, Pennsylvania. I am studying Communications Design with a minor in Advertising and Public Relations.

Lucky Streak

Lucky Streak

In the darkest moment of finals week, when the university library is packed with students feverishly cramming for exams, a gang of buck-naked free spirits enters through the front door. They stroll through slowly, wishing students good luck on their exams, and finally descend the grand stairway to return to the night from whence they came.

Photographer: Daniel Steinbock

Daniel is a researcher, design educator, and musician in Palo Alto, California.



A typical spring day in Durham, England — save for the pomp and circumstance of one of the oldest universities in the UK holding a ceremony in a 1000-year-old cathedral next to a castle, for graduands from more than 60 countries. Magic!

Photographer: Kevin Spreitz

Kevin Spreitz is a fine art, documentary, and portrait photographer who travels constantly, but Collingwood, Canada is where he hangs his fedora.

Professor Charles Goslin

Professor Charles Goslin

My senior year of college I was “awarded” the daunting task of designing and creating a book for my graduating class. While researching, I was bewildered to discover that design professor Charles Goslin, who had been teaching at Pratt Institute since 1966, had never won nor been nominated for the school’s prestigious annual “Distinguished Professor” award. I decided to hell with it, I would just feature him as the Distinguished Professor in my book. It wouldn’t matter whether he won or not, everyone who had a copy of the book would think he did. I was told that this was ridiculous, unfair, and nonsensical, but responded with a shrug and a reminder that I had been given the freedom to do whatever I wanted — and that maybe someone should just make sure he won.

These naysayers were the least of my problems. My main obstacle was getting a photo of Goslin, an endearingly grouchy old man who absolutely loathed having his picture taken. The only tactic available to me was ambush. I gathered a small, stealthy crew, and we waited for him to finish teaching one afternoon. Upon settling down to eat his lunch, I gave the signal for the others to grab his chair so he couldn’t swivel away, put up a black background, and engage in a conversational distraction before he could realize what was happening. The man was extremely annoyed. He barked and complained, tried to escape, growled, and shouted that I was a nuisance. Secretly amused, he pointed his finger and told me to buzz off.

The book came out and he was teary-eyed at the mention. He won the award. He mentioned me in his speech at commencement. Afterwards, I thanked him for the shout-out (which had impressed my parents), and he thanked me for making him a centerfold. Goslin confessed that this was his favorite image of himself. He requested copies over the years, for a wall of portraits that people had drawn and painted of him, and to send to estranged family members he wanted to reunite with. It was heartbreaking but fitting that the last print I made of this photo was for his memorial service in 2007.

“I felt the same way the day before I got the award as I did the day after. And I shouldn’t feel any different. Otherwise, it’s a conceit trip. But it is nice. When I make an image of my own, it’s very concrete. It’s there. I can see it. I can enjoy it. But when I teach, it’s very abstract, so for someone to pat you on the head and say, ‘You’re alright, cousin. You’re not bad.’ That’s very nice. That’s concrete.”
—Charles Goslin, May 2003

Photographer: Steph Goralnick

Steph Goralnick is a photographer and graphic designer who lives in Brooklyn, NY.


Picture Day

Match the school pictures of @Pictory twitter followers to their tweets and avatars below.

Dear @Pictory: “my mom made me the matching barette, too! she amazes me.”

Dear @Pictory: “been a music fiend since i was a teen. wow @ me rockin the tape player@dvdherron

Dear @Pictory: “School pics of me and my brother from 1994.” @kateicam

Dear @Pictory: “Here’s my kindergarten photo. I was five.”

Dear @Pictory: “Pre-School. Late 80’s. Fun painting Props. lol.” @lostinprint

Dear @Pictory: “Quite random that I have this on my computer: my second grade school portrait.” @adampolselli

Dear @Pictory: “Here is my school picture. How much do you love the Asian afro?”

Dear @Pictory: “Let’s have some fun with the School Days theme. Tweet a school picture. Here’s mine.”

Dear @Pictory: “Not sure what grade I was in but here you go.”

Dear @Pictory: “This is a scan of a giant, life-sized portrait of me on my aunt’s fridge. Note the heart sticker.”

Dear @Pictory: “With bonus points for a self-made puffy paint shirt.”

Dear @Pictory: “I’d still wear this shirt if it came in my size.”

Showcase 12 of 37

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