Local photographer Kial James aims to “capture 2020 grads from the Lost Year”

We often turn to local award-winning photographer Kial James for lifestyle photography in our Sierra FoodWineArt magazine. Kial does excellent work, and his latest project — pro bono portrait photography for graduating seniors — caught our attention.

“2020 has been a year unlike any other in our living history. As a father to two graduating students this year, I’ve been inspired to offer something new and unique,” Kial writes. “A free portrait program designed to give every graduating student in Western Nevada County a chance to showcase what was lost through a one-of-kind 15 minute portrait session.”

“What’s the catch?” Kial asks. “No catch at all. As a longtime area photographer and father of five beautiful children, two of which are graduating this year, I wanted to find a way to give back to the community through my art.

“Having photographed thousands of students at multiple local schools over the years, I felt this was a unique way to give back, as inspired by photographer, Matt Mendelsohn who did a similar project in the Northeast.

And Kial adds: “Portrait session done with all social distancing guidelines and no physical interaction between the photographer and the grad. Photographer will wear a N95 mask as well as disposable gloves for each portrait shoot. Safety is our #1 priority.” More details are here.

As Kial mentioned, Arlington, VA, photojournalist Matt Mendelsohn launched a similar project on the East Coast: “I ask each student, ‘What makes you you?’ And we go from there.”

You can see it here.

Matt Mendelsohn’s Instagram feed is a veritable who’s who, featuring portraits of Stephen Hawking, Ray Charles, Nicole Kidman, Bill Clinton, Chris Rock and countless other famous figures,” according to an article in Arlington Magazine. “During his 35 years as a professional photographer (including stints with USA Today and UPI), he’s covered the Gulf War, the Rodney King trial, heads of state, heartthrobs and heroes.

“Now he’s set an ambitious goal amid the backdrop of the COVID-19 crisis: to photograph every member of Yorktown High School’s Class of 2020.

“The idea for Not Forgotten: The Yorktown Seniors of 2020, came to Mendelsohn two nights ago, around 1:30 a.m. Earlier in the day my daughter had tried on her Spring Fling dress and gone outside. I went into the street and took a few pictures and I felt sad for her. It’s crushing, all these rites of passages lost for these kids. Later on, I was lying in bed and scrolling through these endless Facebook posts of people sharing their high school yearbook photos to honor the Class of 2020.

“That’s when a concept started to gel. Why not honor this year’s seniors by actually capturing them? The next morning I emailed my neighbor, who knows everybody, and she reached out to five senior parents. That’s how we got the ball rolling.”

In another article about Matt’s project, The Washington Post concludes: “The photos are wildly popular, as the students and now other photographers are beginning to follow the project — “Not Forgotten: The Yorktown Seniors of 2020.”

We are fortunate that Kial is launching a similar project in our towns. It’s going to be an “excellent adventure” for graduating seniors and their friends and families.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

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