This month National Camera Exchange in Roseville featured photography from two Andover High School seniors and a graduate at its first annual Student Collection exhibit.

The show, which ran June 6-10, featured work from seniors Ava Mares and Alaina Aarness and alumna Beatrice Young, who graduated June 2.

All the students have been taking photography classes since freshman year. During the 2018-2019 school year, when Mares and Ares were sophomores and Young was a junior, the girls look AP photography.

During the photography course they were required to create 24 images, with 12 of the photos focusing on their area of interest in photography and the other 12 displaying the skills they’ve learned over the course of the class. They were also required to submit five images to the AP College Board for review.

All the girls passed AP photography and wanted to continue learning, so their Andover High School photography teacher Michael Hecker developed a photography capstone course specifically for them, which lasted two trimesters during the 2018-2019 school year.

“This course really allowed the girls to explore photography in areas they’re interested in,” he said.

For the capstone project the girls were required to create four images that focused on their area of interest. Then they had to display them in a public exhibit.

“These girls have really progressed since their freshman year where they barely knew what a photo was to becoming amazing photographers,” Hecker said. “Their work, as they’ve grown, has gotten exponentially better, and I wanted to show that off. They’re a very self-motivated and talented group of photographers.”

Hecker contacted a number of venues about showcasing the girls’ photography. National Camera Exchange’s wedding portrait department sales manager Dave Johnson offered to create a new Student Collection exhibit and feature the Andover students at the company’s Roseville location.

“The Student Collection show was a way for us to help showcase their work,” Johnson said. “Oftentimes people don’t get to see what students are capable of, and we really wanted to highlight their amazing work.”

Johnson said National Camera Exchange will continue to host Student Collection shows featuring work from middle and high school students from across the Twin Cities.

“National Camera Exchange really provided me with a venue to showcase their amazing work,” Hecker said. “It’s really exciting to have their work in the public eye. It really led them to step up this year and put on a great show.”

Senior Ava Mares said she took up photography because she has aspirations to become a broadcast journalist.

“I think photography helps you create such a new and interesting perspective, and it’s a great way to communicate a story,” Mares said.

Graduate Beatrice Young was inspired pursue the craft because her grandfather was a photographer.

“I immediately fell in love with photography, and it has been so much fun to create whatever you want out of random pictures,” Young said.

Young will study film, visual arts and photography at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities this fall

“Being in photography has helped me develop new skills, and it has really helped me pick my major, and I’m so excited to continue and try bigger and better things,” Young said.

Senior Alaina Aarness was also inspired to pursue photography by her grandfather, who gave her his old camera. Aarness wants to study film making when she graduates high school.

“I love making photography, and it’s so entertaining for me,” she said.

For the capstone project, Mares created four images that featured photos of her friends, a compact disc and a pizza parlor. Mares said in her collection she focused on the Adobe Photoshop skills she has learned.

“I have learned so much over the years, and it has shown in the work I’ve done,” Mares said. “We’ve really learned how to make our photography our own and express the messages we want to convey.”

Aarness said the main theme of her capstone is reflections. It features two images from her trip to Florida, a photo of her friends with a string of lights and a studio shot of nail polish dripping into a bottle.

“When I first started photography, it was all about point and shoot,” Aarness said. “Now we’ve learned how to make the camera work for us to create the best photo possible.”

During their senior year, Aarness and Mares will work as teaching assistants for Hecker’s AP photography classes and will continue studying photography on their own.

Young’s capstone collection focuses on landscape shots she took while traveling. Her four images include a photo of fish in Pike’s Place Market in Seattle; Shark Fin Cove in Davenport, California; the Chicago skyline and the frozen Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis.

“When I first started photography it was hard knowing when to take photos and when to not,” Young said. “We really learned to take a bunch of photos to create our best photos that display a message.”

“A picture is worth a thousand words,” Hecker said. “These girls are now able to create photography that tells a rich story, and you can see things within it.”


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