San Francisco-based photographer Aaron Wojack says his project, “Blowing Minds,” which depicts a unique high school in Lower Manhattan, came about through a “series of twists and turns.” Wojack had been living in New York City and wanted to explore youth culture. A teacher he knew was working on a theatre program with her Restorative Justice team at the Leadership and Public Service High School located in lower Manhattan. The program was canceled but since he already had clearance to photograph in the school he broadened his focus to the students, teachers and school. Wojack chose to shoot this digitally using both natural light and on-camera flash as light sources. He had to work quickly. “Teenagers don’t have a ton of patience. I also found that if I stayed in one place too long the kids would start acting and posing together. I was more interested in off-guard moments and occasionally pulling individuals off to the side to spend a moment and make a more traditional portrait, but even these were happening in just a few minutes.”
The school has a unique history, Wojack says. “‘Leadership’ was originally an office building, but converted to a school in 1993. The school was in session during the attacks of 9/11 and a number of the current staff were working at the time. The school was obviously closed for a time, and used as a morgue for the bodies retrieved from the wreckage.” “Blowing Minds” was shot between January and June of 2013.