I first became interested in photographing inside schools about seven years ago. I was finishing up projects in which I had photographed my contemporaries dressed up as imaginary historical figures and also taken architectural shots inside houses whose décor had gone out of style. Specifically, I was interested in modernist spaces, as this was the near-ubiquitous style when I was going to grade school, and was a style that was self- consciously new. By the time the millennium rolled around, much of this design was showing its age. Yet aside from this wear, many school rooms were unaltered, almost completely frozen in time.
As I began exploring schools, I became fascinated with how a school day, which seems like an eternity to a child, is reduced to a few vivid, almost timeless moments in an adult’s memory. To better capture this, I have shot using natural light since the beginning of this project. My imagemaking has always been influenced by 17th-century Dutch painters like Jan Vermeer and Pieter de Hooch, whose use of natural light to illuminate everyday scenes brought a sense of the sublime to the mundane.
Initially, I shot interiors of many different schools in New England, which is where I lived at the time as a photography professor at the Maine College of Art. These shoots involved talking with each principal and showing him or her previous images in order to get permission to photograph. An amazing amount of work goes into getting access and permission; sometimes I would hit a dead end where my calls would not be returned and I’d have to move on to another school.