The Class of 2020 may well be defined for their resilience. We know our graduates to be brave and strong, full of character and positive energy. When eighth-grade and long-time Waldorf School of Philadelphia parent, Jeremy Simon, offered to take the classes’ senior photos, we were so honored. Jeremy is a professional photographer that specializes in artistic portraiture and has his studio here in Philly on Herman Avenue.
Here is a word from Jeremy about this unique, artistic project he gave our Class of 2020…
At the Waldorf School of Philadelphia, the 8th-grade classes have had professional, well-respected photographers in the ranks of their parents who have volunteered their time and talent to take portraits of the students. As a photographer myself, I wanted to continue the tradition. However, this year, now that everyone is in quarantine, I was stuck with the challenge of not having the class available to create the photographs I initially envisioned.
Photography has been a part of my life since I was my daughter’s age. Throughout each of my three daughters’ careers as students, I have photographed everything, to the point that I’ve embarrassed them with the ubiquity of my presence, always hovering nearby with my camera.
Then the pandemic hit and everything came to an abrupt halt. That being said, I still really wanted to shoot my daughter’s class’ photos. This, if for no other reason, was to keep up the tradition of the class’ venerated past of excellent photography. I was not about to let a pandemic stop me from continuing this tradition.
The idea of capturing an image through a window with me on the outside and the student safely indoors seemed like an easy way to get around the restrictions of quarantine.
“I myself was incredibly excited about it; I’ve always photographed people through windows.”
I would like to say that I came up with the idea of “photographing through the window” myself, but it was already all over social media. Just as Van Gogh learned the technique of pointillism from Lucien and Camille Pissarro, I too was inspired by the idea from Instagram and proceeded to schedule sessions with all the students in the 8th-grade class.
To be honest, I myself was also incredibly excited about it; I’ve always photographed people through windows, and admired the artistic effect of all the reflections, adding impressionistic nuances and mystery to the photographs. There’s a dreamy quality and the subject takes on the character of the reflections. It adds a whole other dimension to the image: now I had the perfect excuse to use this wonderful technique as a pretext for “safety.”
Some have interpreted the project as an editorial statement about “seclusion” or “isolation,” however my intention was less about making an editorial statement and more about the artistic opportunity, with the reflections adding impressionistic overtones and interesting new shapes to the subject.
“Everyone was proud to be making artistic images in spite of the need for social distancing restrictions.”
I have been a film-based, black and white portrait photographer since 1999, and I only recently started to work in digital, which has opened up the world of “color” for me. I’ve recently been inspired by photographers using vibrant and ebullient colors (specifically Erik Madigan Heck, Paolo Roversi and Sarah Moon), and as I was shooting I was constantly looking for reflections of bright, colorful foliage reflecting in the windows.
By the time I had photographed all 16 kids, I found that I was looking more and more for what was reflecting in the windows, rather than the windows themselves. Still, even after 30 years of shooting black and white, it was very difficult for me not to look for graduating shades of gray with the subtle nuances of tone, and as a result, the final set of photographs have ended up being an almost even mixture of color as well as black and white.
I was surprised at how enthusiastic the students all were about the project and I think everyone was proud to be making artistic images in spite of the need for social distancing restrictions. It was an incredibly enjoyable project, and I hope that I have managed to capture the uniqueness of the Class of 2020 through my artistic rendering of the tradition of 8th-grade class photos.
About Jeremy Simon
Jeremy Simon specializes in black and white, family portrait photography, maternity photography, newborn photography, and dog photography. Jeremy Simon has a family portrait studio based in historic Philadelphia and has actively had a photography studio since 2000.
After years of passionately pursuing fine art photography, both on his own and in school, he finally opened up a photo studio in downtown Denver Colorado, in 2000 on 17th Avenue. As a father of 3 daughters, and after photographing his own children, he quickly turned to photograph other families. After 11 years of having his studio, in 2011, out of a life long desire to move to Europe, he moved his family and studio to London, UK. After 3 years, and an unsuccessful attempt to renew his visa, he moved back to the United States. He now lives in historic Philadelphia where he has his studio, with easy access to the New York Metropolitan area.
The look and feel of his photographs echo the style from the glory days of black and white photography in the first half of the 20th century. The portraits are classic and crisp and are done with the intention of making the photographs that look like collectible fine art.