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Photos by Hernandez decorate Washington’s walls

  • Those who enter Washington Elementary School are immediately greeted with 20 poster-sized, strikingly attractive, colorful framed photos of students learning and having fun. The photos were taken by Charles City High School senior Norma Hernandez. (Press photo James Grob.)

  • Those who enter Washington Elementary School are immediately greeted with 20 poster-sized, strikingly attractive, colorful framed photos of students learning and having fun. The photos were taken by Charles City High School senior Norma Hernandez. (Press photo James Grob.)

  • Those who enter Washington Elementary School are immediately greeted with 20 poster-sized, strikingly attractive, colorful framed photos of students learning and having fun. The photos were taken by Charles City High School senior Norma Hernandez. (Press photo James Grob.)

  • Those who enter Washington Elementary School are immediately greeted with 20 poster-sized, strikingly attractive, colorful framed photos of students learning and having fun. The photos were taken by Charles City High School senior Norma Hernandez. (Press photo James Grob.)

  • Those who enter Washington Elementary School are immediately greeted with 20 poster-sized, strikingly attractive, colorful framed photos of students learning and having fun. The photos were taken by Charles City High School senior Norma Hernandez. (Press photo James Grob.)

By James Grob, jgrob@charlescitypress.com

Those who enter Washington Elementary School are immediately greeted with 20 poster-sized, strikingly attractive, colorful framed photos of students learning and having fun.

No matter how big a hurry you might be in, it’s really hard not to stop and look for a minute.

Thank high school student and photographer Norma Hernandez for that.

“These all were taken the same day, during the school’s Thanksgiving festivals,” said Hernandez, pointing out different photos of young students making turkey cookies, enjoying a hay ride or playing on the playground.

Hernandez became seriously interested in photography as a hobby — now perhaps a career — about a year ago, when she took the discipline in a high school art class.

“I started photography last year when I took Tia McInroy’s class,” she said. “I figured I wanted to go into photography.”

Now she intends to go to Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo after graduation to further study photography, and is considering Northern Iowa after that, perhaps for some business classes. After that wants to set out on her own.

Hernandez has taken some senior photos for classmates, takes photos on the school’s yearbook staff and takes photos at many school athletic, fine arts and other events.

“It all started when I took some photos of the school’s fall musical, ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,’” she said.

“Justin DeVore introduced me to this project,” she said about the school district’s communications director. “He gave me a day to take pictures.”

Hernandez, a high school senior, even had the confidence to make some helpful suggestions to an experienced Press reporter/photographer as he prepared to take her photo for this article.

“I like to catch them in action,” she said of her photography. “Take as many photos as you can, and out of that batch, there should be at least a couple of good photos.”

The 20 photos on the walls at the Washington Elementary entryway were selected from more than 700 photos Hernandez took in one day.

Washington started the school year with a fresh, new and inviting look, with fresh coats of paint, directional signage and other visual improvements. Among them, the school’s hallways were filled with about 60 candid, poster-sized photographs of Washington students in the classrooms learning and outside playing.

“Really this is to make the environment more invitational,” Washington Principal Kara Shannon said at the time. “Obviously having pictures of the kids throughout the hallway is really fun for them. And they have fun seeing themselves, so that’s pretty neat.”

Most of the photos of students at work and play were taken by photographer Madison Lievrouw, who worked as an intern with the school district’s communication department last school year. Shannon said the staff will periodically change the photos, removing the old and replacing them with new ones.

“I think we’re very fortunate to have Justin DeVore utilize these kids for projects like this,” said Charles City art teacher Tia McInroy. “He had Norma take hundreds of photos for the fall musical, and he has more art projects in line. It connects very well, and makes it a real world experience.”

McInroy said that in her class, she works with students on the principles of art, “as in what makes a photograph or any work of art look good.” She said that giving a student a project gives them valuable real world experience.

“This provides a public audience,” McInroy said. “It’s broad and specific, and not just art for art’s sake. It’s for a purpose, and it reaches out to the community.”

Hernandez said that projects like this put more pressure and responsibility on her, but that’s reflective of the real world, outside of high school.

She said she found action shots to be the most challenging.

“I would say trying to catch them playing and running around was more difficult,” Hernandez said.

Another challenge for Hernandez was laying the 20 selected photos out in way that would be attractive.

“For the layout it was kind of difficult,” she said. “We had to figure out the sizes of the frames, and figure out an arrangement that looked best.”

She credited Charles City Middle School custodian Joel Berends for his “major help to get this project going.”

Hernandez and McInroy used a computer program to figure out all the different sizes and how to place them, but Berends did much of the physical labor.

“He drilled all the holes and placed everything physically for her,” McInroy said. “We try to get a good layout and a good overall design.”

Since the hallway photographs at Washington are an ongoing project, it’s likely that other students will be saddled with the task in future school years, after she graduates. Hernandez enjoys the idea that she may be establishing a photography legacy in Charles City.

“I’d like to see that,” she smiled.

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