On Friday, September 25, 2020, Governor Phil Murphy visited Red Bank Borough Public Schools to witness how schools were preparing for the upcoming school year. Lambda Sister and Red Bank Borough Education Association President, Carol Boehm, was there to greet the Governor and escort him on the tour of the Middle School. Governor Murphy was very pleased to see what Red Bank had to offer in terms of safety precautions and procedures and commented how well Red Bank had prepared for teaching through a Pandemic.
Spotlight on Gallery Artist – Michele Contala, Lambda, New Jersey
An Open Artists’ Discussion on Creation, Technique & Opportunity 1. Briefly, tell me a little bit about yourself as an educator and as a photographer?
I am a retired sixth grade classroom teacher in the middle school. When our sixth grade was transferred from the elementary to the middle school, we began an after-school club originally titled The Videographer’s Club and later renamed the Technology Club. The pandemic did not slow us down this year. With access to Zoom and breakout rooms we completed our thirty-first year!
In the elementary school we borrowed a VHS camera (even an extension cord on our shoestring budgets) and filmed in real time Great Lives of Great People, Time Travelers to Ancient Rome and Greece, and Just Say No to Drugs. When we moved to the middle school, we were able to edit on a VHS system and continued with curriculum inspired projects through a grant from Eco-Lab. With a grant from Tech 2000 our new creative life began with an eMac. We added an iMac with a gift from the George Link Charitable Trust.
The focus of our club has been an orientation film for fifth graders and recently the township has added a district wide film festival. Bringing my love of photography to the students has enhanced our learning experience and created a bond. Students researched, wrote scripts, filmed, and edited their work. We work primarily on iMacs and iPads but all others are encouraged.In 2016, I applied for a grant for a community project through DKGNJ. We were able to preserve the legacy of our men and women who had served our country by filming their experiences as part of the Veteran’s Day Program. The DKGNJ grant enabled us to purchase two iPads and accessories. We continue each year and add to our archives. Thank you, DKG! The iPads allow us to continue to explore the art of film making with our Tech Club students. 2. As a photographer, where do you find your inspiration? Do you search for a particular subject or seem to just have the camera ready? I find inspiration in the beauty of the seasons, the innocents of a child, the wisdom of our elders, the smiles of loved ones, and in whimsical moments…. truly the world around us. If I am out and about, I usually have my camera and always my phone. 3. When you start framing your subject, is there a process that goes through your mind? As an example, your photograph in the Spring gallery called ‘Mac and Cheese’ is of two super cute donkeys. How did you get them to hold still and how many photographs did you shoot before you settled on one? ‘Mac and Cheese’ are two rescue donkeys that are part of a retired teacher’s dream filled with many rescues and much love. We were visiting the ‘farm’. Mac and Cheese were in the barn waiting for a treat and a nose rub. They were contained within the frame of the barn door. I shot about a dozen and did a short video.
4. Your other entry, Saco River Bridge, shows a very different subject. Is there a story behind this one? We were enjoying New Hampshire’s leaf peeking for the week. With NH known for its covered bridges we were on a mission. The Saco River Bridge is operational, so off we went exploring, parked the car, and with an easy walk we were at the river’s edge. It was a magnificent, clear day…. the beauty of the season. 5. Do you have any tips for others looking to take still photos? Clarity and composition are the two fundamentals of photography that I strive for. Lighting is key. Capturing action requires to be aware of shutter speeds and aperture settings reflect the depth of field. With today’s cameras and phones and built in editing capabilities, great photos are a click away. I do read my manuals and search for tutorials on You Tube. I’m just learning about a newly purchased camera, a computer in itself. Enjoy the moments…click joyfully. If we are lucky, we have captured a magical moment in time. 6. Have you entered your work in other competitions? Personally, I entered a dachshund on the bow of a boat wearing a life jacket for AAA’s Pet Calendar. Rosie’s parents loved it. AAA not as much. As a teacher I was involved in a two-year Home of the Free Photojournalism project sponsored by Canon, the New York Historical Society, Washington Mutual Bank, and Pulitzer Prize photographer, David Hume Kennerly. The project centered around our civil servants, and we were on locations throughout the township. A worker feeding a pig in the park with a sign that clearly stated, Do Not Feed the Animals, captured the judge’s attention year one. Three police officers talking to a group of kindergarteners was selected the second year and hung in the Corcoran Gallery of Art with 19 other photographs from the tristate area. It was an opportunity that I embraced with my students and their parents. As the students researched civil servants, subjects were photographed, selections were made, and I documented their journey. Each student received a bound photo book that captured the many facets of the project, from the moment we began to the thrill of seeing our photo hung in the museum in Washington, D.C. It was an exciting, magical, and unforgettable experience. Michele Contala