Whether he’s training teachers to engage in online courses or photographing a classroom full of excited students, Burt Granofsky aims to click with people. It’s a skill he’s developed over time as both a classroom teacher and a professional photographer.
The ability to engage people is an important part of his work at EDC for EdTech Leaders Online (ETLO), which delivers capacity-building, scalable, online learning programs for state departments of education, school districts, virtual schools, colleges and universities, and other educational organizations.
In addition to developing online course materials and training teachers to use them for professional development, Granofsky has taken photos in project classrooms around the country. He also moonlights for EDC’s Communications Office: He’s the talent behind many of the portrait shots featured in this Staff Spotlight series, and his photos have appeared in our annual report and quarterly magazine EDC Update.
How did you get your start as a teacher and photographer?
My first teaching job was at an elementary school in Delaware, where I met a professional studio photographer. I wanted to learn more about photography, so he hired me as his assistant. He taught me about the technical and business aspects of photography. I still find myself reflecting on techniques he taught me. He was and still is a mentor to me.
Later, I moved back to Boston and taught fifth grade at The Learning Project, and I ran my freelance photography business on the side doing weddings and PR events. I came to EDC in 2003.
Describe your work for EdTech Leaders Online.
As an online facilitator, I work with teachers and administrators from different parts of the country to help them take advantage of our professional development training courses. I teach them how to use our ETLO training modules to build capacity for their schools and districts. I also develop some of the training materials. I’ve worked with groups from Massachusetts, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Missouri, and recently, I started working with a group from Mississippi.
Does anything surprise you about this work?
It challenges how I think about geography and access to technology. Sometimes schools in the more rural districts are at the forefront of exploring online learning opportunities because that’s how they’re able to access the latest professional development materials. They may be geographically restricted, but the Internet brings the world of learning to them.
Let’s talk about your photography. How do you get camera-shy subjects to relax?
I’d say 95 percent of the people I shoot are nervous about having their picture taken. So I try to find out a little bit about them so I can talk with them during the shoot. I ask them about their work and what they like to do. It helps them relax and helps me take more natural photos.
Can you give an example of an EDC photo shoot?
For EDC’s 50th anniversary, I had to take individual portrait shots of the EDC vice presidents. The common element was they each sat in the same translucent chair. It was challenging as far as setting up the equipment and lighting, and I only had a short time with each executive. That was an example where talking to people about their work was critically important to making them feel comfortable in front of the camera, and the project turned out to be a success.
What’s your next photo project?
I recently took a leave from work to spend time with my family and our new daughter. I became more interested in photographing old buildings and machines. Technology moves so fast, and it’s always changing. But there are all these physical relics of yesteryear surrounding us. My neighbor has a bunch of old cars in his yard. There’s an old Ford truck from the 1940s or ’50s that’s totally rusted out. It’s so cool, I want to go shoot it.