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Experts On Their Own Lives

Students use digital cameras to document their world

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Kids are easily our most frequently photographed subjects. The shutter release button is depressed innumerable times as they take their first steps, perform at a recital, dress up for prom or fall asleep with their head resting on the family dog. Parents, relatives and friends eagerly capture these moments of their lives.

But what happens when these kids are given the opportunity to document their own lives?

The result is My So-Called Digital Life (Santa Monica Press, ISBN: 1-59580-005-0), a photographic book that consists of images and essays produced by more than 2,000 California middle- and high-school students during 30 days in 2005. This collection of images, reflecting the students’ experiences at school, in their neighborhoods and in their homes, provides a unique view of today’s world through adolescent eyes.

Bob Pletka, technology director for the Covina-Valley Unified School District in Southern California, created the program, which included schools from both urban and rural areas throughout the state. He was inspired to begin the project after hearing photographer Rick Smolan speak on his “Day in the Life” series of photographic books.

“Rick Smolan had thousands of professional photographers who went out and took these photographs,” says Pletka. “That part I expected, but then he also had regular folks submitting photographs. It was so popular that he had thousands of photographs being submitted.

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