Picture perfect

Bayonne High School photo students hit big time

Rebecca Poggialli, a senior at Bayonne High School, decided to take a chance and send off her photographs to American Photography Magazine.
She had been inspired by a photography class at school under the direction of Art Teacher Tom Hart and explorations in “film noir” – a style of black and white films that started in the silent film era, but had the most prominence in some films shot from the 1930s to the 1950s, which emphasized the seedy underside of the world and included femme fatal characters.
Hart had provided Poggialli with the link for submissions, and encouraged her to submit some of her works, even though the magazine had never published anyone as young as she was and never the work of a high school student.


“I was the only high school student to enter and the youngest the magazine every published.” — Rebecca Poggialli

But after seeing Poggialli’s photographs, the magazine publishers decided she would be the first.
Poggialli said she started shooting pictures as a freshman.
“I was the only high school student to enter and the youngest the magazine ever published,” she said.
“I always liked telling a story without words,” she said. “I like making things visual.”
While still not certain if she will be accepted to Point Park University in Pittsburgh, to which she applied, she is certain she wants to continue her studies in the photographic arts, either with the aim of teaching or some other field, such as photojournalism.
The piece published features a woman’s face with the shadow of a venetian blind partially obscuring it. Poggialli said she wanted to do something different, and watched a number of silent films in the film noir style. She then set up flash and flood lights in her basement and used her sister as a model. She took hundreds of shots, but the winning shot stood out, she said.

Film noir was inspirational

Hart’s film noir class had other success stories this year, too.
Earlier this year, students from Hart’s class and classes by fellow art teacher, Charlann Meluso, brought home 43 regional awards from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. Of these, Poggialli won four Gold Key awards, one Silver Key, and an honorable mention.
Aileen Harney, a senior at Bayonne High School, also won a Gold Key in the regional competitions last year, but did something even more significant since she was a gold medal winner in national competition, and also earned two other awards. She was among 22 students from Bayonne to submit work to the national competition this year.
“We’ve won silver medals before,” Hart said. “But we’ve never had a gold medal winner before.”
Harney was also influenced strongly by Hart’s film noir class. Her picture, called “Marlboro Mistress,” featured a woman, highlighted by a single strong light from above, smoking a cigarette with smoke curling up.
She said she got the taste for picture taking from her father, who was an amateur photographer.
“He gave me a camera, one of those Barbie ones, and I loved it,” she said.
Seeking to go to Montclair University to pursue a career in art studies, she said she was inspired by the film noir study, and enjoyed working with lights to obtain the effect.
Students – winners or not – who enter the national contest get to attend ceremonies at Carnegie Hall, where they get to strut out on to the stage.
Harney said it was an amazing moment for her, even if she only got to be on stage in front of everybody for a few seconds. She was honored among some of the best student artists in the country, and received accolades from a host of people, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“It was a great experience and a real rush,” she said. “You look at all those accomplished people. It was real cool.”

A little help from their friends

The photographic arts department, like arts in general, has operated under new, tighter budget constraints, which allows them to cover most of the cost for art supplies, but not for equipment. Fortunately, some equipment has been purchased, Hart said, through grants given to them by IMTT, special efforts by Richard Baccarella (principal of Bayonne High School), and former and current heads of the arts department.
“The administration has been very helpful when they can be,” Hart said, but he noted that IMTT, through the Adopt the School Program, has provided the program with equipment it could not afford to purchase out of its $1,600 supply budget, including a new scanner as well as a backdrop for taking pictures and other equipment.
Meluso said the school may be looking to hold fundraisers in the future to help offset the costs associated with developing and other aspects of preparing for arts completion.

Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com.

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