This article was written by BenitoLink intern Juliana Luna
The San Benito County Fair hosted exhibitions and family entertainments at Bolado Park Event Center on Oct 1-3. Four Jefferson Elementary School students earned first place in the fair’s photography competition. Each student, Kathy Miramontes, Atticus Ortiz, Justin Delgado, and Axel Miramontes each competed by submitting three photographs.
In addition, three students were awarded second place ribbons.
The three photographs taken by the four students represented the different stages in a semester; storytelling during the lockdown, coming back to school, and demonstrating photographic techniques they have learned in class.
The lives of students changed when distance learning began. At Jefferson Elementary, it prevented them from seeing their friends and having fun outside. “I couldn’t spend as much time with my friends, and I couldn’t play at the school playground,” said Daniel.
“When everything happened, many schools suddenly stopped,” said photography teacher Kirti Bassendine. Jefferson prepared a remote learning system and “they were already geared on working remotely online.”
Before the pandemic, Bassendine, who has reported for BenitoLink, was preparing to teach photography and launch a project called ‘My Home, My San Benito.’ The project was made possible by a grant from E-Cubed Foundation. The foundation has contributed to help rural schools students to experience visual arts.
She said photography plays a vital role in her life. “Photography is a wonderful skill for students to carry in their lives. Imagery is used in about anything in the world. It’s an amazing expressive tool to use.”
Bassendine has taught photography since 1999. In class, she would have been teaching kids how to take photographs and learn skills to combine them into storytelling. When classes switched into remote learning, students received Bassendine’s photography lessons at home once a week.
During zoom sessions at home, students talked about their daily routines and expressed their emotions by taking photographs.
Over time, the classes became a healing project. They encouraged kids to go outside, look at nature and escape their Chromebook screens.
“The classes were about sharing the stories, and suddenly the project ‘My Home, My San Benito’ turned into ‘My home,’” said Bassendine.
When schools reopened this year, the students received lessons on the history of photography, different techniques, and practiced with what they learned outside, said Jefferson Elementary teacher/principal Elizabeth Volmer.
“They were able to enjoy and engage in learning photography,” she said. “They had submitted their photographs to the San Benito County Fair and were excited to receive blue and red robbins.”
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