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  • Writer's pictureBruce Willey

Forest School, Bishop, CA

Favorite gig bar-none. Been doing this for three years now, once when they start school and near the end of the school year. It's astounding to see how fast they grow. My daughter goes to the school and she's the most difficult to photograph. She's mildly annoyed that I have invaded her school space only to take more pictures of her as if I don't have enough already.

This year I wanted to try something different. I envisioned photographing the kids as if they were in a small town museum nature diorama. Since we couldn't procure a stuffed big horn sheep and a mountain lion in pounce mode, I had to make some adjustments. I wanted that painted nature mural look on the back of the diorama so we placed the children in a little chair with the Mts. Tom, Basin, Emerson, and Humphreys in the background, out of focus enough so as not to distract from the wildlife. The Museum Scene Painters ethos and pathos is never to outshine the actual exhibits.

Then they sat down for me and we got to work. I directed them for one shot I have to get—the smiling school picture their parents and grandparents will want to hang on the fridge. After that, though, I let them free range as long as they sat in their chair. Some revealing and very funny things happen when a small kid whose mind and body is primed to run around, has to sit in front of an ancient man with a camera and a huge light inside a black box that makes lightening. I tell them the light is there to return their souls after the picture (souls) has been taken. This for some reason relaxes them and makes them trust me more.

In a few years they'll all be sitting in chairs for long periods of time. They'll do their school pictures in a darkened room with a drab backdrop and they will have to fake a smile. I feel a lot of gratitude that I can capture and release their souls while they are still wild.

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