Nathaley Figueroa ’09 reflects on her senior project from last school year. Her photos can be seen in the slide show at right or by viewing the gallery on Flickr.
For my senior project I had the opportunity to work with Michael J. Maloney, a professional photographer who covers most school events. I had always been interested in taking darkroom photography at Beaver, but I had scheduling conflicts because I took jazz band. Instead, I took the afterschool digital photography course, and that’s when I absolutely fell in love with photography.
Looking for a way to do more photography, I spoke with Michael at one of the many school events that he attends, and that’s when I learned that he is a very experienced photojournalist who has covered news and sports events around the world. (I just heard that he got invited to cover President Obama’s vacation on Martha’s Vineyard this summer.) When he agreed to let me shadow him for the four weeks of my senior project I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but I was excited.
He showed me his studio and his office where he edits his images and has a print and digital archive of all the photos he has taken over the years. I got to go with him to the various assignments including: the testing of a robotic fish and a boat at Olin College, an ice skater’s practice, Beaver’s musical Rent and our Heliconian Coffee House, portraits of company heads, and lots of other jobs.
It was a different experience every day, since I never knew where we would go or how the subjects would act in front of the camera. I got to practice taking pictures alongside him, and he taught me how to use a professional-caliber digital camera with a great lens and all about the editing process done behind the scenes. I learned that it is extremely important to be aware of how your subjects feel, because if they are uncomfortable in front of the camera that will definitely show in the picture. Lighting is half the battle, and thus placing the flashes and being aware of the available natural light is essential. To help me develop my own skills, he allowed me to use his studio for a couple of photo shoots, trying out different lights and some still life compositions of fruit and vegetables. I also did a “fashion” shoot with my classmate Rachael Dodson as the model. It was incredibly fun.
Along the way, Michael told me some amazing stories about his career and lifestyle as a photojournalist, back when he was doing assignments in other countries, in natural areas, and even underwater.
One assignment Michael thought would be fun and instructive for me was taking a portrait of Beaver’s Head of School, Peter Hutton. We set up a time to go to Mr. Hutton’s office, and I took over hundred frames of him in different poses using Michael’s camera and lights. I have known Mr. Hutton since I first came to Beaver in 7th grade, but his office is a place I hadn’t visited before, and I was nervous. I think he was nervous, too, because it took him a while to relax in front of the camera. In the end I got several great shots of him sitting at his desk looking like he was working.
I am very lucky to have had this opportunity and hope to continue learning more about photography in the years to come. Michael Maloney is a really dedicated photographer, and I am so glad I did my senior project with him.