Sara Williams: How was School?

Artist Statement

In the series, “How Was School?” I documented rural high school students of varying ages in Higbee, MO.  I was allowed to photograph throughout Higbee High School for over 4 months, gathering participants and soliciting their responses to the question; “How has high school shaped you?” Inspired by my own institutional struggles and my younger brother’s recent entrance into high school, the portrait subjects and their texts illuminate the hopes, anxieties, and emotions of modern youth

About the Project 

  • Title of Work: How was School?
  • Medium: 12 x 12 photographs in 18 inch frames
  • Student's Name: Sara Williams
  • Major: Journalism (Convergence Journalism)
  • Anticipated Graduation Date: May 2022
  • Hometown: Wyckoff, New Jersey, United States
  • Student's Mentor: Joe Johnson
  • Mentor's Department: Visual Studies


Sarah Humfeld

Sara, your black and white photos are very powerful. I think 'pencil' speaks to me most powerfully, because he appears scholarly, but you can tell that there is something uneasy going on under the surface. Can you tell us more about the image and the quote in 'hand?'  Thanks for sharing. 


Sara Williams

Hi Sarah, thank you for your question. For safety reasons I will refer to the student in this photo as "X". 

X came to me after I posed the question, "how has school shaped you?" and asked if they could use one of their personal journal entries as a response.

This response is a journal entry from X that begins with a quote from the novel, "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee. In the following sentences, X refers to navigating an experience where a fellow student negitively impacted them.


Andrea Heiss

I also like "pencil" and the direct gaze of the individual.  In both "pencil" and "sunflower" the subjects' faces are illuminated, in part, by the sunshine flowing in from the window.  That sunlight combined with the school setting--the individual within the institution--asks the viewer to look at these individuals with care.


Sara Williams

Thank you for your appreciation Andrea!