Earlier this year we were hired by the School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania to photograph students and teachers interacting during class. Over the course a day we sat in on half a dozen classes ranging in subjects from film, Japanese studies, economics, history, and philosophy. We listened in on many interesting and informed discussions--all without having to worry about studying for any tests!
The above shot is from a discussion in Professor Simon Richter's film class. The classroom lights were dimmed and the windows were blacked out to allow him to screen movie clips for his students. We set up a minimal amount of lighting to mimic the effect of natural light streaming in through a window.
Not all the classrooms required setup lighting, Professor Struck's Religion and Literature class was held in a room blessed (fittingly) with a tall, cathedral-like window. The image of the professor jotting down notes from an ongoing class discussion benefits from that natural light mixing with the classroom lights. His gesture and the lighting have an easy, natural candid feel.
Professor Eudey's Economics class was held in a darkened lecture hall as she projected powerpoint slides as visual aides to her lesson. Here flash would have been a distraction. About a third of the students were armed and ready with laptops, their faces bathed in the glow of their individual computer screens adding mood to the more general glow of the larger projected screen at the front of the room. While some aspects of the college experience (the lecture hall) remain constant, other things have changed (note taking on laptops).
The glow of the projector sharply cut the contour of one side of Professor Kano and soft window light defined the other, while she discussed Japanese identity in a modern, post-isolated world.