Advanced Photography Oakland High School VAAMP

The advanced photography class at Oakland High School is composed of seniors in the Visual Arts Academy known as VAAMP. Below are images taken by students during fall semester of 2019.

Photo Journalism

The first unit of this semester focused on photo journalism. Throughout the unit, students contributed to 3 projects aimed at telling stories through their pictures about their hometown, Oakland.

Photo credit: Cito Acevedo

Oakland Is...

The first project from this unit was called Oakland Is… For this project students chose an event that happens in Oakland that they felt demonstrated the cultural vibrancy of the city we live in. Students attended events like First Friday in Uptown Oakland, Off the Grid at the Oakland Museum of California, and the Indigenous Red Market in the Fruitvale Village. Many of the images students took appeared on www.visitoakland.com‘s event calendar and on Visit Oakland's Instagram feed. You can find them by searching #oaklandisproject. Street photographer and Visit Oakland’s social media director, Paul Lim came into our class and discussed his craft and advised us on publishing photos to social media sites.

Photo Credits from left to right, top to bottom: Jessica Acetun-Toc (First Friday), Ofa Lanivia (Indigenous Red Market), Njeri Armstrong (First Friday), Leslie Zuniga-Vicarra (Indigenous Red Market), Seyouhn Glover (Off the Grid OMCA), Derrick Bui (First Friday), Derrick Nguyen (First Friday).

Union Point Encampment

The 2nd project in this unit aimed at documenting the struggles of un-housed residents of Oakland. To do this, we worked with a local artist named Hanh Nguyen. Hanh is currently un-housed and lives with his fiancée in an RV that is parked near Union Point Park where a large homeless encampment exists. When we met with Hanh, he was in the process of being evicted from Union Point by the City of Oakland along with other residents of the encampment. The day we went down to Union Point to shoot, the city arrived and issued bright orange eviction notices to residents telling them that they would have to move their vehicles or be towed. Many of the shots taken by our students will be a part of an installation about the experiences of the un-housed community in Oakland that will be on display at Roosevelt Middle School later this year.

Photo credits left to right, top to bottom: Danny Nguyen, Martin Pablo-Ramirez, Cito Acevedo, Angel Brady, Ahmed Eloudi

Project Class of 2020

The last event we covered was the homecoming rally and dance at Oakland High. The goal was to capture the experiences of the graduating class during their last homecoming celebration. Some of their images are being featured in an ongoing project in the San Francisco Chronicle about the class of 2020 at schools throughout the Bay Area. To see some of the shots submitted to the SF Chronicle go to https://projects.sfchronicle.com/class-of-2020/submissions/.

Photo credits left to right, top to bottom: Francisco Bautista-Cruz, Alex Gutierrez, Ling Yi Qiu, Seyouhn Glover, Ling Yi Qiu, Martin Pablo-Ramirez

Studio Lighting

In this unit, students learned to use and manipulate lighting in a studio setting to create a desired aesthetic effect. Throughout the unit, students built sets and shot artwork, plants and flowers, Christmas ornaments, and food and portraits of one another.

Photo Credit: Saul DeAnda

Food Photography

For this project, we worked with 2 local chefs. Destiny Nguyen, an 11th grader that loves to bake in her spare time. She brought in salted caramel cupcakes and creme brulee for students to shoot. The second was Chef Fred Beverley, creator of a local pop up company called Bread and Butter Catering. The shots of Chef Fred’s Banana Bread Pudding and Jambalaya were used to promote an event he hosted at Rosenblum Cellars in Jack London Square. Throughout the unit, students were advised by local food photographer Mick Jones. Mick talked with students about his own work and advised students on lighting technique during our shoot.

Photo credits left to right, top to bottom: Jessica Acetun-Toc, Alex Gutierrez, Ling Yi Qiu, Darin Saechao

Table Shots

From here students were given several projects to refine their lighting techniques. The shoots consisted of taking items that would fit on a table top, and experimenting with the composition of them, the perspective they were shot from, and the direction and type of lighting being used.

Photo Credits from left to right, top to bottom: Ivy Luu, Illena Saetern, Leslie Zuniga-Vizcarra, Derrick Bui, Cito Acevedo, Danny Nguyen


This project consisted of students using their knowledge of lighting techniques to take portraits of one another. Students used techniques that included butterfly, clamshell, Rembrandt, and split lighting. Students experimented with various types of lights and gels to create a desired aesthetic effect.

Photo credits from left to right, top to bottom: Emily Liang, Olivia Ward, Ivy Luu, Alex Gutierrez, Leslie Zuniga-Vizcarra, Derrick Nguyen, Jessica Acetun-Toc

Holiday Shoot

For this assignment, students positioned and lit Christmas ornaments and décor. Their shots were then used to create holiday cards that would be sold at the OUSD Winter Art Market.

Photo credits left to right, top to bottom: Ling Yi Qiu, Derrick Nguyen, Emily Liang, Danny Nguyen, Anthony Mata-Lopez, Saul DeAnda.

Strobe Photography

In this final unit of the semester, students experimented with strobe lights. Strobe photography involves using powerful flashes of light triggered by the firing of the photographers shutter. This unit culminated with students shooting seniors on the Oakland High Boys Varsity Basketball team. The shots will appear in the 2019/2020 Oakland High Yearbook. Students used strobes to freeze and manipulate motion, as well as to isolate light.

Photo credit: Cito Acevedo

Photo credit from left to right, top to bottom: Anthony Mata-Lopez, Ling Yi Qiu, Francisco Bautista-Cruz, Martin Pablo-Ramirez x2.