Photographer documents Waldorf students’ childhoods through portraits

Owen Boram, Alohi Elliot and Indiana Huey, all age 14, have grown up on camera. Though the three aren’t Hollywood stars, they are the subjects of an eight-year project by Langley photographer Michael Stadler.

  • Friday, May 1, 2015 4:00pm
  • Life

Whidbey Island Waldorf students pose with photographer Michael Stadler for their eighth-grade class picture.

Owen Boram, Alohi Elliot and Indiana Huey, all age 14, have grown up on camera.

Though the three aren’t Hollywood stars, they are the subjects of an eight-year project by Langley photographer Michael Stadler.

The project, entitled “Transcending Youth,” follows the progression of a Whidbey Island Waldorf School class from first through eighth grade in a series of portraits.

A selection of each graduating student’s portraits will be displayed in Stadler’s new studio at 222 Anthes Ave. in Langley throughout the month of May.

A reception will take place from 4:30-7 p.m. Saturday, May 2 at the studio.

Stadler explained that the idea was posed to him by one of the students’ parents. Stadler is also the Waldorf school photographer.

About 10 of the original students have remained throughout the process. A total of 17 are graduating from middle school, and about 13 have come and gone throughout the years.

In the beginning, said Huey, he was a bit shy in front of the camera. In one of his first-year portraits, he covered his eyes with his hands, though his smile peeks out beneath.

By the time of their final photo shoots, he said, he and fellow students were equally comfortable and contemplative, recognizing the project’s completion.


Glancing through the photos Thursday evening, the students remarked upon certain memories of their own childhood and one another’s. Though Boram said he hadn’t noticed significant changes by looking in the mirror, they were quite evident when looking through the portraits.

Physically, the students said, the biggest changes have come in the form of hairstyles and weight fluctuations, losing “baby fat,” as Boram put it.

Mentally, they said, they gained a greater consciousness of the world around them.

“The bubble that we had is slowly popping,” said Elliot.

They were sheltered, she explained, in part through the Waldorf educational structure. Unlike most of their peers, they didn’t use electronics or social media.

Stadler noted that the changes are visible through their photos. In fifth and sixth grade, he said, there is a different look in their eyes.

“You can see something spark, or change,” he said.

Life events such as changes in interests and family dynamics also contributed the students’ changes in appearance.

As a child, Elliot was heavily involved in the arts, dreaming of becoming a professional ballerina as an adult.

Everything changed, she said, when she picked up a softball in fourth grade.

She’s now playing on the select team for the Snohomish Shock Softball Club and will soon be on her way to the World Series in California.

For Huey, he joked that it was fairly simple, amounting to “time and hormones.”

Boram noticed changes when his two elder siblings graduated from Waldorf and he began to acclimate more socially with peers.

Elliot and Boram noted that the boys began to pay more attention to their appearance in the later years, even becoming a bit competitive.

“You guys got pretty suave at the end there,” Stadler said.

“It was amazing how he could capture our different personalities,” Elliot said.

“He captured the things that stayed with us, like our personalities,” Boram said. “But he was also able to implicate the things that changed in us.”

Boram explained that his “stare,” a trait unique to him, remained throughout the years though several other physical appearances changed.

It’s almost like looking into their souls, Stadler said. “It’s you, you’re still there,” he said to Boram.

Stadler, a parent himself, said it has demonstrated to him the brevity of childhood.

“I will always have the vision of their youth in my mind,” Stadler said. “It’s been really touching to watch them grow up on film.”

 

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