KILLINGLY, Conn. (WTNH) — A photography class at Killingly High School is highlighting the light ‘Behind the Mask’ during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.
Danica Temple teaches photography classes at Killingly High School. Part of her lesson was to teach her students about two popular artists, “There’s JR who does the Inside Out Project which is like these giant installations around the world, and then there’s Brandon Stanton who runs Humans of New York.”
The two artists inspired her to come up with a special project for her students. She tells News 8 the inspiration coupled with the hardships of this past year set up the project perfectly. “ We got to a point where there were a lot of conversations in the classroom about how they were feeling, what was really hard about it.”
The students needed an outlet so the project turned into one. After a year full of COVID-19 rules and regulations, mask-wearing, and social distancing, they decided to showcase what was ‘Behind the Mask’
Justin Baker is a photography student and a junior at Killingly High School, “It was definitely difficult.” He didn’t realize how many students struggled through the year until he started hearing from them for the project.
Each student had to take five to ten portraits and collect stories from each participant.
Temple tells us, “I honestly when we started it was happy to get 50.”
They ended up getting 143 students and staff members to participate and share their quarantine stories.
Temple says, “It really has brought everybody together.”
The stories and smiles fill the main hallway and serve as a daily reminder to the entire school, they’re not alone.
“It was just really cool to bring the whole school together and finally feel like a school again instead of separated,” Baker tells News 8.
It not only made a huge impact on the students, but the staff as well, “And having the ability to read anonymously like how everyone else was doing and realize ‘okay I’m not in it alone, everybody’s feeling the same way, everyone’s doing their best to push forward.’ It helped heal, you’ve got this sense of weight lifted as a community.”
The project has since come down as the school prepares for the end of the year. However, Temple put all the stories and portraits into a book so the school will forever remember the year and the messages behind it.