Student photos document life during a pandemic

We are living in unprecedented modern times.

A pandemic that spread across the globe has turned life as we knew it upside down, including education.

Students are participating in distance learning and teachers are finding new and creative ways to teach.

Shepaug Valley School art teacher Linda McMillan is among the local teachers who has brought a twist into the district’s now-virtual classroom.

“This is such an historical moment that I wanted the kids to be able to document it,” said McMillan, who teaches three photography classes at the Washington school.

For a recent assignment, she tasked students to document life during a pandemic - using just a camera.

The only requirement: the photos be black and white.

“It’s been interesting,” said junior Henry James of Roxbury of life during a global pandemic. “In history we study old pandemics…and now we realize we are living through a pandemic and its affect on everyone is going to be remembered.”

“I thought the assignment was very cool,” said junior Katherine Hodge of Roxbury. “I thought it was very good to be able to do something that documents this historical event.”

Before the students began their assignment, McMillan said she discussed with students via Zoom classes the various ways people throughout history have documented life.

She cited the photographs of, for example, Dorothea Lange, who photographed during the Great Depression, and present-day photographers in Lithuania and Italy who are capturing the images of today.

“I told them to go out and take pictures… to document their lives,” the teacher related. “To take pics of everything that has changed…just bringing home groceries has new meaning now.”

She reminded students to think about “what’s different now, what’s changed and what they would want someone in 50 years to see when they look at the image.”

“I was blown away when the first pictures came in,” she said. “They were really rocking it.”

The students used their phones because they don’t have access to the cameras at school.

“We’re documenting this history and I really enjoy finding ways to express how I’m spending my time, feeling, and how I’m taking precautions to protect myself from getting (the virus),” Henry said of the assignment

McMillan said students are also now working on another assignment that resemble the “Humans of New York” page on Facebook.

Humans of New York is a photoblog of street portraits and interviews taken in New York City.

Students have been asked to interview someone - either someone they are living with during the stay-at-home order, or another person via video chat - and document the interview.

“We’re going to keep coming back to this in as many ways as possible,” McMillan said of incorporating the events of today into the curriculum.

“We are still trying to complete curriculum, but change how we achieve it,” she said.

For more photographs, visit