Mustafa Agha found it inspiring to be amongst a room full of people admiring students’ photography at the recent Mercer Island High School (MIHS) Art Show at Island House.
The MIHS junior, who hones his skills in Laura Anders’ advanced placement 2-D photography class, said he enjoys the freedom that photography offers him in being able to focus on a plethora of subjects and situations. Living in the moment at the event, Agha snapped an image of his friend’s parents holding their son’s artwork.
Agha was one of about 140 of Anders’ students — from beginners to advanced — who displayed their work at the show on Dec. 9. They raised $1,200 from photo sales and donated $320 of the amount to Mercer Island Youth and Family Services.
Each student in the four beginning classes and one advanced course presented one photo apiece that showcased nature, people and objects. Anders said she encourages her students to think creatively in her classes when bringing their photos to life. They incorporate lighting and focus effects and work with angles and scale during their photo sessions.
Anders has been teaching photography at MIHS for nine years and enjoys the medium because there’s no one set answer to whatever question she poses to her students.
“I love that my class naturally encourages students to figure out what it is about them that makes them unique and then to express that in a meaningful way through their photography,” said Anders, adding that the students collaborate on projects, bring energy to the class and teach her things along the way.
Through their photography, students can apply their skills and personality to whatever awaits them in life down the line.
Anders originally worked as a copywriter and moved into the photography realm, first as an assistant to wedding and commercial photographers and she spent one summer in France assisting a fashion photographer. She ran her own photography business and later thrived in the role as the marketing photographer for the Seahawks and Sounders.
“I didn’t realize that I was learning all these skills that would then become my next career,” said Anders, who took a photography class in college to get rolling.
Agha’s MIHS arts journey began with taking a beginning acoustic guitar class for one semester as a freshman. He soon changed his tune class-wise.
“I thought it was fine, but I thought there was something more in the arts that interests me more, so I heard that there was a photography course,” he said.
Fast-forward to his junior year and Agha submitted a photo to the Dec. 9 event of his friends hanging out in the school Commons wearing winter clothing, including one pal donning pajamas. Agha wasn’t finished, as he further captured their “winter spirit” with a wide overlay to resemble snow to complete the scene.
Agha likens his portfolio to a yearbook, noting that advanced students can submit their collected works to the college board.
“Photos are something you can keep forever. I think it’s really empowering to take photos of your friends,” he said.