COEUR d’ALENE — Each sincere smile, well-earned wrinkle and demure disposition tells a different tale.
"Everyone has a story to tell," Coeur d'Alene High School photography teacher Bruce Twitchell said during his class Friday morning.
His students recently exercised their storytelling abilities and photography skills when they visited Pacifica Senior Living Coeur d'Alene to capture the essences of several residents during the "Age of Wisdom" portrait shoot.
"I wish there were more places close by so we could do more of this," Twitchell said. "It really was a cool thing and good practice for them."
His advanced photo students were matched with a few subjects and tasked with creating appropriately lit and positioned portraits for the residents to keep. This project also helped sharpen the students' photo editing and interpersonal skills.
"Before, I was really nervous," said senior Shay High. "I was like, ‘Ooph, this is a lot of pressure,' because we're going to be showing the photos to them for their family and we want to make them good."
Shay said her first subject was a difficult one, but once she got rolling, she felt calm and at ease peering through her camera lens. She only took a few photos of this subject because she knew right away she caught something special when she snapped a profile shot.
"I instantly knew that was the one I was going to pick," she said. "No other people got a sideview, so I was like, ‘This is unique, this is the one I want to go with.'”
The "Age of Wisdom" assignment was one of Shay's first times experimenting with portraiture, and it's something she thinks more photo classes should do.
"Honestly, this was one of the best experiences that I’ve had," she said. "And just connecting with older people, I mean, they’re our history. Being able to talk with them for a little bit and get to know them while you’re taking pictures of them is really helpful and opens a new door for you."
Sophomore Connor Tenney photographed two individuals and a married couple. He said this was a good lesson for him to understand the importance of the photographer-subject relationship.
"At first you can make judgments easily, and after you get to know them and you realize their personality, you feel like you can connect with them better," he said. "That’s part of taking a good portrait, being able to connect with the subject."
Connor said he's glad the photos will be returned to the subjects.
"It was really nice to be able to go there and do it there because some of them wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to get a portrait taken," he said. "I really loved giving them that opportunity. And it helped us learn too. We’re getting better at portrait and learning about lighting and how to deal with people, how to interact with them. I feel like it was good for us and for them."
Twitchell said his students have a newfound respect for the older generations. He said this project also served as a reminder that youth eventually fades.
“What they learned is that they’re not going to be young and full of vigor forever. As you do get older your body, your mind changes,” he said. “Hopefully, this will get them to enjoy it and respect it while they have it."
The CHS "Age of Wisdom" advanced photography project will be on display in the Emerge art gallery, 208 N. Fourth St. in Coeur d'Alene, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. during Downtown Art Walk on Friday.
"I’ve only been in this class for two years, so it’s crazy that my work is already being displayed publicly,” Connor said. "I’m really excited."