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Spring 2004
Diversity, Economics and Education
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The Story Behind the Pictures

TAKING PICTUES IN A PUBLIC SCHOOL CLASSROOM demands the near impossible from the photographer. Laden with bulky cameras and other gear, he must disappear within a confined space where everyone is staring at him but there is no place to hide.

It requires a professional finesse that photographers Mark Berndt and Gregg Segal have drawn upon from previous assignments. The secret to dissolving into the background, says Berndt, is patience. "It's about waiting until your novelty wears off so that the kids go back to doing what they were doing. I blend in and then sneak up so that I can try to get that authenticity." Adds Segal, the key is waiting for just the right moment when "a spark of learning is reflected in their expressions and gestures."

For this issue, Berndt and Segal were directed to capture moments that illustrate the alchemy that occurs between teacher and student. The veteran cameramen fanned out across the Los Angeles area — from 118th Street Elementary in Watts to UCLA's Corinne A. Seeds University Elementary School — to bring back remarkable photos that speak of the extraordinary interplay between teacher and pupil that occurs in this most ordinary of settings.

Says Berndt: "I love this kind of documentary work, where you celebrate what people do in their ordinary lives."

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