• ap field trip

    Laura Totten   •   grades 9 -12   •   room 502
    laura.totten@mercerislandschools.org   •   206-230-6313    
    courses Digital Photography, Advanced Digital Photography, AP 2-D Art & Design
    extra curricular Key Club Adviser  •  Schoology  •  Instagram
    Hello Mercer Island students and families!

    I’m Laura Totten, and I've been the Digital Photography and AP 2-D Art and Design teacher at MIHS since 2013. Students can earn either CTE or Fine Arts credit for my classes, as well as earn college credit for Beginning Photography.

    Photography is a lifelong skill. Our photographs reveal all that's important in our lives: connections to our past, people and places we love, and ultimately serve as a record of our legacy. Photography is an artful language that gives voice to concepts we can’t easily explain, allowing us to communicate a range of human emotions distinctive to this medium.

    Through projects that build upon a series of fine art and industry skills, students learn, develop and apply:

    • Creative thinking: students excel by achieving unique outcomes for each project; unlike other classes where students are expected to formulate the same answer
    • Problem solving: failing forward since failure is part of the learning process, leading to resilience
    • Safety and community: classrooms are design studios where students share tools and equipment, work together to maintain equipment, follow rules and guidelines, and help one another
    • Artistic voice: distinct application of creative skills and combination of media 
    • Professional skills: time management, presentation, high expectations
    • Visual vocabulary: students learn and apply artful language from the Elements of Art and Principles of Design
    • Meet/exceed WA State Arts Standards: Create, Performing Presenting Producing, Responding, Connecting
    • Hands-on projects: experiential classes
    • Critical thinking: photo of the day and peer critiques, self-reflection
    • Workflow: concept planning, development, creation, presentation, self-evaluation
    • Personal Portfolio: series of work investigating a self-chosen topic 
    • Integrate technology: digital portfolio, Adobe Photoshop, WordPress
    • Exhibit work: school display, Showcase, MI library
    • Compete: PTA Reflections, WA State High School Photography Competition, MIVAL Scholarship, National Art Education Association Youth Art Month, MI Summer Celebration

    Students make and maintain an online portfolio of work they can include on college applications to show growth, creativity, critical thinking, and technological skills.

    I received my Masters in Teaching from Seattle University in 2012, and I have a B.A. in Journalism/Advertising. I've been working in the photography industry since 2000, and have had my own business since 2003. I've been blessed with photographing nearly 200 weddings, more than 300 families, the Seahawks and Sounders, and various bands and musicians for KEXP. Before I started my own business I assisted fine art, fashion, commercial, product, portrait, and wedding photographers for three years, giving me a wealth of experiences before starting my own company.

    Since 2005 I have been involved with Youth in Focus, a Seattle-based organization that offers free darkroom and digital classes to teens. Because of my incredible experience working with these students, I decided to pursue teaching so I could work with teens full time.

    My teaching philosophy is based on synergy, the concept defined as “two or more things functioning together to produce a result not independently obtainable.” By learning from and teaching to the strengths of my students, my classroom becomes a creative workshop where our experiences continuously build upon one another.

    This year we will study and incorporate Principles of Design and Elements of Art to create compelling images. Through a variety of lessons exploring master photographers and innovative techniques, students will define their artistic voice while building their technical and social skills in real-world settings. I believe every student has relevant insights and passions to share, and I look forward to discovering these jewels daily in my classroom.

    There are many ways for you to you be involved with your kids in this class. Ask them to teach you about composition and creating dynamic images by incorporating the Elements of Art. Teaching is the highest form of understanding, so you should be impressed when they can show you their skills! You could also plan a photo session as a family, document a life event, or capture your day by taking an interesting picture every hour. And ask to see their blog!

    Watching a documentary is a fun way to learn about working artists.

    • Finding Vivian Maier 

    • Annie Leibovitz: Life Through a Lens

    • Visual Acoustics

    • War Photographer 

    • Manufactured Landscapes

    • Rivers and Tides

    • Bill Cunningham New York

    You can also go to an art gallery or museum and talk about the work you see. Below is a list of some of my favorite local museums:

    •  Frye Art Museum (free) 

    •  Seattle Art Museum ($11 with school ID)

    •  Photographic Center Northwest (free)

    •  Henry Art Gallery (free with school ID)

    •  Western Bridge (free)

    •  Rare Medium (free)

    •  G. Gibson- ask to look in their cabinets for more artwork! (free)

    I love connecting with students, families, local businesses and community members. If you have ideas or wish to be involved with my class you can contact me via email: laura.totten@mercerislandchools.org

    I look forward to sharing the results of our class synergy ~
    Ms. Totten