Photo Essay: Students of Phoenix High’s Photography Class

Written 2010, December 14th:

Currently I am teaching a photography class to under-privileged students in Los Angeles at a high school named Phoenix High. These are the students that I ran my campaign for camera donations for (which you guys helped donate to). Teaching photography to these students is the high point of my week, as I love to interact with them and also see their passion for photography. Not only that, but it seems that photography is a wonderful outlet for them to express themselves creatively and also use as an escape for the difficult situations that many of them live in. You can watch a video I made on YouTube.

Although I wasn’t able to take portraits of all the students, I wanted to write a short photo-essay about them. I hope you can enjoy their stories as well. Also if you were wondering, I shot these photos all with my old Contax IIIa rangefinder with my 50mm 1.4 Zeiss Sonar lens with some cheap Kodax 400 Max film. I love the look and feel.


Now don’t judge Eddie by his appearance by his rapper-inspired sideburns and punk-inspired gauge earrings. He is shy and quiet in demeanor, and doesn’t say much. However when given the opportunity to speak, he shows great insight into photography and life. He is always enthusiastic to be in my class, and although shy– is always wiling to contribute to class discussions.

You can see some of his work on Flickr.


Salena is a bucket of sunshine. Whenever I see her, she always gives me a huge smile which warms my heart. She always seems to be in a jolly and festive mood, which rubs off on me as well. Selena has had experience in photography before, taking a film photography course. She showed me her work, and I was amazed to see her great portraits of people and landscapes. A huge pleasure to have her in my class.

You can see Selena’s work on Flickr.


Tyler has got to be one of the most hardcore out of all the photography students that I have. He is the type to get down on his stomach when taking shots to get creative angles, and even climb on trees. He came from London, so he speaks with a cool British accent. He aspires to be a journalist or photographer one day, and to document the tragedies that happens around the world everyday. He has a great eye for photography, and I am excited to see his future work.

You can see Tyler’s work on Flickr.


Mario is almost as shy as Eddie, but genuine in kindness and spirit. He was one of the first students that I befriended, and I even visited his home one day after school–test riding his road bike. He is currently shooting with a film Canon SLR and the guy definitely sees things that others don’t–a great mark of a photographer. I feel a special connection with him, and I hope that he continues to do well in his studies as well.

You can see Mario’s work on Flickr.


Out of all my students, Randy has to definitely be one of the most enthusiastic. He always has something to say during our class discussions, and is always leading the pack in our class’ photo-walks. I can feel the burning passion of photography radiating from Randy, and he is able to pull off amazing images with his cameraphone, a Motorola Droid. I also see a great fruitful future in photography for Randy, as he has the heart to do it.

You can see Randy’s work on Flickr.


Linn is part punk, part tom-boy, but totally sweet. She is definitely what you can call someone who goes “against the grain.” However her uniqueness definitely makes her stand out, and it is also apparent through her photography as well. As you can see by her portrait, she is the only one who posed. Not only that, but I feel that her eyes truly tell a story about her experiences and those to come. Linn is a wonderful part of our class.


Jose is a compulsive (and talented) graffiti artist. When I was interning at the school, I would always see him sketching graffiti on his binders as well on his papers. He has a cool and fresh style which is impressive to look at. Being an artist, it is fascinating to see him work as a photographer. He takes his time and is slow and methodical while taking his photos. I can definitely tell he has a ton of patience from his artwork, which carries over nicely into photography.

You can see his work on Flickr.


Andrew is the last student in this series, and also one of the most interesting. Under his beanie is what he calls his “Jew-Fro.” He comes off as tough with his large frame and punk-rock clothing, but you can also tell that he is a genuinely nice guy. Although his responses in class are often short and gruff, I can tell that he really enjoys being a part of class. He loves to give me a hard time in class, but deep down he is an intelligent guy, and has a great eye for architecture.

You can see Andrew’s work on Flickr.

Would you like to help support photography programs like this?

Thanks to all who donated their old point and shoot cameras to the Sukhee Chung Photography Foundation :)

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