The Glass House site with its 49-acre landscape, endless vistas, and geometric-shaped buildings can be a photographer’s paradise. Julius Shulman, Pedro Guerrero, James Welling, Todd Eberle, Hiroshi Sugimoto and other luminaries have made the place their own.
Photography students at the high school and college levels have also roamed the paths and hillsides with their cameras, and the results—gorgeous, textured, eccentric—always surprise us. New Canaan High School Digital Media teacher Jeanne McDonagh teaches her students to pay attention to composition and to explore line, color, texture, space, and form. “Since many of the buildings resemble abstract sculptures,” she says, “our students approach the structures with an inquisitive eye, finding interesting and thoughtful angles that challenge the viewer to think when they view the photos.”
McDonagh also emphasizes that “the Glass House compound is a history lesson for my students. Because it is located in their town and represents the best of 20th-century design, for us not to embrace it as an outstanding art recourse would be a crime.”
“I have visited this site with students a dozen times,” McDonagh adds, “and it always surprises me that the students manage to find new and fresh points of view. This year the assignment was a color shoot and I was surprised to see how full of life the images were. Our timing was perfect, the last week in October when the landscape was alive with color. The students were taught how to enhance their shots in post-production to create more visually interesting compositions.”
In past years, McDonagh’s students have contributed to our media wall (three of our introductory videos involved student filmmakers and photographers) and the students themselves have won highest honors from the Scholastic Art Awards and the AP Breath Portfolios for bodies of work that included photographs from their trips to the Glass House. Works submitted to the College Board in the form of the AP Studio Art 2D Design Course have also earned the accolades from judges who look for mastery of art elements in photographic composition.
“Most students,” says McDonagh, “are really surprised at the size and shapes of the structures. They do not have any problems exploring their creative spirit as they enter this environment. They are always happy when they are there, moving from structure to structure experiencing them with a childlike curiosity. When we return to school, I often hear them saying, “That was really cool, Mrs. McDonagh.”
–Gwen North Reiss
The Glass House welcomes student groups, and teachers interested in a group tour can go to theglasshouse.org or contact Program Manager Kate Lichota any time during the year.