Seeing Past Looking

Upper School photography teacher Donna Wilcox set her students loose with a rather quixotic instruction. “See something no one else will,” she told them. Then she broke it down in less lofty terms. “If you’ve seen this photo before, don’t take it again,” she said, pithily distilling the sine qua non for originality.

Then the students headed outside to find and capture beauty on the Country Day campus. This was the third year of the All-School Nature Photography Contest, in which Wilcox’s class, along with the entire Country Day community, was invited to participate. Wilcox, along with Middle School science teacher and Green School Coordinator Barbara Bromley, created the contest as part of Take A Child Outside Week.


Bromley and Wilcox judged the entries and their criteria valued composition and lighting, but also something broader than the traditional benchmarks of photograph quality: “We were looking for a depiction of the enjoyment of nature,” said Bromley. “We were looking for the creative eye that could find and capture some small part of the beauty around us.”

Wilcox cited sixth-grader Alison N.’s unconventional but compelling photograph as an illustration of that creative eye. “The image was low-resolution, but because of that the result was very painterly and beautiful in its own right,” Wilcox said. “Photos don’t have to be technically perfect to be appreciated.”

While Wilcox’s students are operating on an advanced level with a good deal of technical know-how, Bromley’s sixth-graders are working on something more fundamental. “When you start to frame and isolate the elements of a photograph, you learn a different way to see the world,” Bromley said.

“When students take the time to compose shots, then they’re not just looking at what’s around them; they’re actually seeing it.”


Gold Leaf
Riley E. ’21
Quinn B. ’17

Bronze Leaf
Alison N. ’21
William M. ’19
Julia R. ’17
Joseph C. ’18

Green Leaf: Honorable Mention
Alexa S. ’19
Joan M. ’21
Charles L. ’21
Nina S. ’20
Chandler S. ’17
Sam D. ’18
Aidan K. ’18
Quinn B. ’17