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Photographic perspectives of Cole High School students focus of Fort Sam Houston Museum exhibit

By David DeKunder | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | Dec. 27, 2019

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas —

Perspectives on military life, nature and architecture through the camera lens of Cole High School students is the theme of a new exhibit that opened at the Fort Sam Houston Museum Dec. 10.

Students, parents, teachers and administrators from Cole High School got to view the photo exhibit during a reception at the Fort Sam Houston Museum, located in the Quadrangle at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, on the evening of Dec. 10. Also attending the reception were school officials and board members with the Fort Sam Houston Independent School District.

Cole High School is located on JBSA-Fort Sam Houston and educates the children of service members.

The photo exhibit contains 101 images from 17 students in the Cole photography program, with 31 photos displayed and spread out among five panels and 70 in a digital gallery shown on a screen in the exhibit area. Each of the photos displayed on the panels has the name of the student underneath it with a caption written by the photographer explaining the background and meaning of the picture.

The student images focus on the areas of military life, nature and San Antonio architecture.

Brenda Marafioto, Cole photography/journalism teacher, said the photos in the exhibit were taken by students in both the beginning and advanced commercial photography classes. The images were taken during the 2018-19 school year at locations at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, downtown San Antonio and surrounding natural areas.

“We have a wide range of students’ work that is being exhibited, from freshman to senior,” Marafioto said.

Marafioto said the exhibit images capture the perspectives and viewpoints of the student photographers who took the photos.

“As we go to various sites, we look at how to show a location or an image in a way people don’t always see it,” Marafioto said. “We’re always looking to capture someone’s attention or capture their interest with a unique view of our everyday world. If you look at the exhibits, it’s like our world, our city in that sort of thing and that’s the kind of crux of what we’re trying to show is that we all share this space but we all don’t see it the same.”

A total of 132 images were submitted to the museum for the exhibit. Dr. Bryan Howard, Fort Sam Houston Museum curator, said a group including himself, Fort Sam Houston Museum director Jacqueline Davis, retired Army Lt. Col. William Meder and Master Sgt. Corinne Hotchkiss of the 93rd Intelligence Squadron at JBSA-Lackland, selected the photos that are in the exhibit.

“The quality of the images was top notch. You could tell these photographers knew what they were doing,” Howard said.

Howard said the photos show the perspectives of military school-age children, an important segment of the military population.

“These students, they’re the sons and daughters of active-duty military,” Howard said. “Their experiences are part of the overall military experience and many of them are from Texas, but many are not. This is a vision of their world around them and what they experience as military families.”

Two Cole students, Maricah Frank and Amanda DeLeon, spoke about their photos displayed in the exhibit.

Frank submitted a photo titled “Field Day” in the military life category. In her image is a row of upside down combat helmets on the ground in the parking lot in front of the U.S. Army South headquarters, the former Brooke Army Medical Center building. Inside some of the upside down helmets are personal items of troops, including bananas, fruit, a can of vegetable juice, a notebook and a canteen.

She explained the meaning of her photo.

“It shows a lot of the story that’s not told,” Frank said. “The little things tell a whole other side, not just the training, but how they organize stuff, how they use their equipment in other ways like storing their food, notebooks when they’re busy. I hope people really look at it and think about the stuff the soldiers do. It’s a very simple picture, but I think it’s very powerful and it tells a story.”

DeLeon’s photo is titled “Soaring.” The image shows a huge bird flying above a tree in Brackenridge Park collecting branches to start a nest.

She said the photo she took of the bird reminded her of her experiences of moving from place to place as a military child.

“For me, the way I look at it is how they’re making a home wherever they know they need to make a home,” DeLeon said. “For me, that’s how I saw my dad, wherever we moved he made that place our home. It may have not been our actual home, but it’s kind of a military thing, wherever you go you find a way to make that place your new home and that’s the way I see it.”

A parent of a Cole High School student, Amanda Bennett, said she liked how the exhibit and exhibit opening reception was put together.

“I thought it was very well done,” Bennett said. “It was more like a traditional gallery setting. I like how they included more photos on a slide show on a high definition TV.”

Bennett said she likes the subject matters that Marafioto has the photography students focus on. She said the photos the students take on military life are emotionally moving.

This is the second time the museum has hosted an exhibit of photos done by Cole students. The first exhibit featuring the photography of Cole students opened at the museum in August 2018.

Marafioto said the Fort Sam Houston Museum has helped in the growth of the Cole photography program by giving it exposure to both the JBSA and San Antonio communities through their exhibits of the students’ photos.

“They have been an incredible partner with us,” Marafioto said. “They’re so generous to give us space and printing so that the rest of JBSA-Fort Sam Houston knows what goes on at the high school because we are kind of tucked away. This let’s everyone who’s on post, whether they don’t have kids or they’re only here training or they’re here for a short time, to see some of the family and the student life that goes on as part of JBSA-Fort Sam Houston.”

Howard said the museum is pleased to provide space for the student photo exhibit. He said the museum hopes to continue the partnership with the Cole photography program.

“These students are all part of the military family,” Howard said. “So that’s our mission is to look at Fort Sam and its people. They’re part of the community here, too.”

The Fort Sam Houston Museum is free and open to both Department of Defense cardholders and the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday and noon to 5 p.m. Saturday. Visitors who want to come to the museum, but do not have Department of Defense access to get into JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, should refer to the JBSA website at http://www.jbsa.af.mil/library/visitorinformation.asp for base entry requirements.

To contact the museum, call 210-221-1886.