Faces in the hall
Austin High School has been turned inside out.
At least that’s what AHS alumnus David Albino likes to say when he looks at the huge photos pasted to the south side of the school building. Albino and AHS alumna Mariah Paaverud took all 80 student portraits and 12 faculty portraits themselves and affixed the images to the building with the help of the Austin Fire Department at the end of October.
Albino said the project was inspired by an international photography movement spearheaded by the artist JR. JR’s project is called “Inside Out” and encourages people to use black and white portraits to tell the stories of the billions of people on earth.
“He wants visual statements to turn the world inside out,” Albino said of JR. “We were inspired by that project.”
“He was saying photography can change the world,” Paaverud added.
Albino and Paaverud don’t claim to be trying to change the world, but they are hoping to change Austin a bit. Their photos represent the importance of public education and teachers, Paaverud said. They also showcase the individuality of each face on the wall.
“It’s really empowering,” Albino said. “Just the image alone is powerful enough to stop you.
“I may have taken the pictures, but they’re the actual subjects and they’re the important part of all this.”
Although Albino and Paaverud were the people behind the lenses, they had help from several other people. Trapper Van Engelenburg, Jennifer Wiebrand and AHS photography teacher Lisa Beschnett all collaborated to make the project a success. According to Albino, Wiebrand was the brains behind bringing the fire department in to help hang the prints, which reach to the top of the building.
Wiebrand and Van Engelenburg also helped gather supplies, including the Tyvek vinyl used for the prints and the wheat paste used to adhere the prints to the brick building.
Much of Albino and Paaverud’s photography know-how can be traced back to that brick building. Both alumni took classes from Beschnett in high school and have stayed in touch with her since they graduated.
“We both took a massive amount of photography classes here,” Paaverud said. “We had a lot of Austin Public School District participation (with the project).”
In fact, the whole project was financially supported by an AHS alum who wishes to remain anonymous. Albino said the school district didn’t pay for the project at all; instead, the cost was covered by a generous donation from the anonymous alum.
Albino and Paaverud are just glad the project came together so well after all the work they put in throughout September and October.
“It’s cool to have something this big in such a small town,” Paaverud said. “It’s there to show the empowerment of teachers — the power of education.”