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Portrait of boy holding drawing.

Chris Churchill (Amesbury, MA), Boy with Drawing,Patrick O'Hearn, Elementary School, Dorchester, MA, 2005, Gelatin silver print, 40 x 32 inches, Edition of 5, courtesy of the artist

Children in a classroom. One child is in a wheelchair.

Chris Churchill (Amesbury, MA), E.J.,Patrick O'Hearn, Elementary School, Dorchester, MA, 2005, Gelatin silver print, 40 x 32 inches, Edition of 5, courtesy of the artist

Man looking out hallway window.

Chris Churchill (Amesbury, MA), Dr. William Henderson, Principal of the Patrick O'Hearn, Elementary School, Dorchester, MA, 2005, Gelatin silver print, 40 x 32 inches, Edition of 5, courtesy of the artist


Christopher Churchill’s project, which was part of a story for the Boston Globe Magazine, focuses on the Patrick O’Hearn Elementary School in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood. The school sits on Dorchester Avenue and serves children from diverse ethnic, linguistic, and ability backgrounds in grades K-5. O’Hearn’s principal, Dr. William Henderson has been an educator in Boston for the past 33 years, and principal of O’Hearn for the last 16. With a relatively low student to teacher ratio and a relatively small number of students, the school itself boasts a high level of parental involvement. O’Hearn is nationally-recognized for its full-inclusion program—integrating students with general, special, and gifted needs together in the same classroom—and Churchill’s images reflect this unique diversity, including his striking portrait of Dr. Henderson, who is visually-impaired himself.

Born in Maine, Churchill graduated from the Maine Photographic Workshops in 1998 then studied with John Goodman and Gus Kayafas in Boston. His recent exhibitions include a two-person show at Phillips Exeter Academy ( Exeter, NH) and a solo show at the Salt Institute of Documentary Studies ( Portland, ME). Churchill's work can be found in many collections and galleries including the Boston Public Library, The Addison Gallery of American Art ( Andover, MA), the Boston Drawing Project at the Bernard Toale Gallery and the DeCordova Museum Corporate Art Program ( Lincoln, MA). His editorial and commercial clients include Boston Magazine, The Sunday Globe Magazine, Harvard University, Hill Holliday Advertising Agency and The Federal Reserve Bank. Churchill currently teaches various classes at the Maine Photographic Workshops. Other projects include work on the Augusta Mental Health Institute in Maine and a series on religion in America.


To find truth in photography we must understand that the medium can reflect aesthetic choices on the part of the photographer, but at its heart, it is representational. This aspect offers us a shared human experience when viewing an image. The emotions we feel when looking at an image are the recognition of one’s self, not only in that photograph, but in the world as a whole. The medium of photography connects us to this process in a way that is unique and direct.

Although representational to an extent, it still excludes just enough information that we fill in the details with our imagination. What are the sounds of fourth grade? How do the tiles feel beneath your feet? Can you photograph twenty number two pencils and a secret whisper? As a photographer, the feeling of accomplishment comes from all these senses being heightened. The hope that you found something real in making an image can only be true when the entirety of yourself is present in that image and that moment—when all your memory, hate, fear, and love come together and find themselves in front of you.

When I first walked into the halls of the Patrick O’Hearn Elementary School all of these emotions and even more were displayed. I remembered how simple and complex life was at that age—how a playground could be the whole world and how the whole world was a playground. This school offered me insight into an ideal world that these children live in everyday. A place where we are all just simply human beings and differences do not matter. These children learn a respect for others and life that will raise the bar for future generations. I was honored to be a part of it for a short while.

Volunteer at your local school
Get involved with a local community library and read to children
Visit the Federation for Children with Special Needs’ (www.fcsn.org) website with a friend or family member to learn more about disabilities

Support for DOCUMENT was provided in part by Bee Digital and Zeff Photo Supply. The PRC is supported by Boston University and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, in addition to numerous individual and corporate contributors.