On Monday, the Green Band tackled the question of the much loved or reviled modern portrait, the selfie. Amanda writes, “We divvied up the board between facts and opinions. What is a selfie? What are the facts about them? How do we feel about them? As predicted, a lot of us had strong “personalized preferences” about selfies, and it took some practice being able to express those beliefs without offensive absolutes (i.e.: How can we change, “Selfies are so annoying, ohmigod” to “Personally, I prefer other forms of photography to tell a story because…”). We had to add reasons, change our phrasing, and construct meaning in a way that would not make people feel they are diminished or wrong for their belief.

In the afternoon, we read this article, where the author creates a rational, reasonable defense of the selfie. By the end of the day, kiddos were rethinking their own positions…”

Each student wrote a blog post where they briefly summarized their discussion and provided their level-headed opinions:

Khalia: Is taking seflies about vanity, or something else?
I think that selfies can be used to tell where you are with your friends and family. When you are with a friend and you are not going to be with them for a long time you can take a selfie.

Ally: Personally, I think selfies are kind of annoying. At first it was a cool trend but now I think it’s gone a little too far. It’s ok to take selfies to show your friends something cool you were at but there is a limit. You don’t have to go to school, take a selfie in your class, then take a selfie walking to the next class, then take a selfie in the bathroom. That’s 3 selfies in probably 15 minutes. That’s a little too far.

Oscar: For me personally i’m not so much into selfies, but i think they’re a cool concept. I really like the idea of taking a photo in a cool place that you want to remember by yourself. Because i think that if other people are taking a photo of you they probably won’t make it look as good as you would. But then everyone started doing it every where all the time and that gets a tad bit ANNOYING!!!!!!!!

Audrey: We all agreed that selfies are fine if it’s a moment, thing, person, or place you want to remember, but it can just sometimes get a tiny bit repetitive, but not very often.

Amelia: I think selfies are about either about getting a souvenir/remembrance or narcissism, depending on the photographer. Someone who goes to a place or does something special will take a selfie to show their friends and remember the good times they had. A narcissist will take a selfie because, to them, taking a selfie is as important as breathing. In general, the meaning of the selfie doesn’t just depend on the photography, but the quantity.

Lucie: Why do people take and share selfies?:
Sometimes to look good or to impress people, to feel good about themselves when someone likes or comments on their photo, to level up their photography skills for portraits, to be express artisticness, to share things with friends, expressing emotions in a photo or just for fun or to look funny.

Frances: We read a New York Times article about selfies. The article was really interesting because the writer was ver respectful and had great reasons and facts. I think selfies are away remembering places and people and also maybe a tiny bit of vanity. Vanity because people take a lot of pictures and then choose only the best but I mean if you took a really nice picture you would probably post it on instagram or whatever social site you go on but if you took a not so great picture you probably wouldn’t post that.

Julian: It’s also a little bit about vanity because some people take lots of selfies of themselves but only put the ones where they look really good on the internet. Like not the ones where they are eating or have their eyes closed. But you could also be saying that if you’re seeing famous monuments or something that your life is really interesting too. Which is also vain.

Kaia: Yesterday we talked about selfies, and what we think about them. I think that selfies can be a way to preserve a memory in a photo,or you can send it to your friends if your on vacation or something.
But, it can be sometimes disruptive to other people conversations, or when you say “SELFIE!!” all the time it can get pretty annoying for the people around you. A good tip for taking selfies is to edit and post it LATER so you don’t spend your WHOLE vacation editing selfies and posting them. (just a tip) :)

You can find the article they read here.


The Orange Band was given a very simple prompt for one of their photo safaris last week: they were told to take pictures of Silence in and around the school. Their interpretations varied, but the results were wonderful:














strobe photography

On Friday, Aaron came in to work with the Blue Band and show them how strobe photography works. They had discussed the work of Harold E. Edgerton, who had experimented with high speed photography in the 60s (the bullet flying through an apple, splitting cards in half, etc) and then they tried some of their own. The results are pretty stunning:













The blog has been difficult to post in the last week because the internet has been faulty at the school, but we’re back! Here’s a photo-look at what we’ve been up to:

Dave came in to talk to us about neuroscience and the way the eye works to communicate with the brain to send signals about what we see and what we construct. Turns out, our eye only really gathers information from a point the size of our two thumbnails together; the rest our brain fills in with what it can assume about what’s around us. “We are creating our reality at a cellular level,” he said, and demonstrated the tricks our eyes play on us with some pretty amazing optical illusions. The kids were a spectacular audience!




The Yellow Band started constructing a huge camera obscura in the media room and research lab by covering all entrances to make it really dark.




Trips to the darkroom have continued and are resulting in some beautiful black and white photos of life in San Francisco, from the perspective of a Brightworks student.


The Orange Band visited the California Academy of Sciences and did a photo safari in the garden.


Community Friday was a blast, as always.



And Ellen made a thought-provoking, awesome Photograph art display in the art studio using the letters from a nearby photography store that (really unfortunately) recently closed.



cow eyes

As part of their study of the eye, the Orange Band did a cow eye dissection to get a first hand look at the parts of an eye and the way it functions like a camera.









The Red Band followed suit on Friday.



the optics hall

As happens so often, the Exploratorium is one of the best resources for the arcs at Brightworks. This week, the Orange and Green bands visited the Optics Hall for a deeper exploration of lenses, optics, and eyes as they think about the mechanics of a camera.

The Orange Band went exploring with a focus on the eye, looking at the exhibits that experimented with dialating pupils, saw the white blood cells flowing through the eye, and over-saturated the cones in their foveae. They also observed a cow eye dissection in preparation for their own!









The Green Band went to the museum with a focus on light. Their explorations led them through the light exhibits as a follow-up to a discussion they had on Tuesday about the electromagnetic spectrum and the questions they asked, like: “What determines different colors?”, “Why don’t we feel color when we can feel other kids of light?”, “How is light made?” and “Why don’t I feel light entering my eye?”





Many of their questions were answered – which, of course, led to more questions. Endless curiosity.