I Am Sam: Bria Webb on Lisa Krantz
Sam Houston high school senior, Bria Webb, took her first photojournalistic photographs under the mentorship of photographer Lisa Krantz. Ms. Krantz met Ms. Webb when she was documenting a year at the San Antonio high school for the San Antonio Express-News.
What did the other students think about Lisa being at Sam Houston High School? Sam was known for being a poorly educated, out of control school, and it seemed like the media only focused on the negatives. So students weren’t always welcoming to Lisa. In class, I can recall moments when students would ask the teacher “Miss, what’s that little lady doing here,” and the teacher didn’t know how to respond. The uncertainty of what the story really was going to be about caused the students to feel a little ambivalent about Lisa’s presence. There were times when students hated for her to be around. They would shield their faces or try to avoid being around her and then there were times when students loved having her around, snapping pictures of them.
The mood of Sam is always changing. One week you can walk into the school and it’s just the most lively place, students are happy, beating on the tables at lunch while another student raps to the beat, and a majority of the teachers are happy, cracking jokes with the students. Another week, teachers could be preaching about how attitudes need to change and students should start taking things more serious. That’s what Lisa grew to love, the vibe of Sam, the happiness, the sense of hope, faith, even the desperation at times to get the students to understand how important Sam is to the community and how important it is that students put more effort into school.
Has the public’s perspective about the school changed over time? Lisa sought to tell the inspiring stories that make up Sam and its student body. She wanted to bring the spirit of Sam to those who didn’t really understand the school. She was always searching for more depth because she wanted to do the story justice. Teachers and students saw her determination and admired her for it; to them it was like, finally, there’s someone here who wants to make everyone understand the real Sam Houston High School. Lisa’s relationship with the faculty and students reached a point to where they started to help her tell the story. They wanted to make sure she was at every event.
What did you think of Lisa’s photo-story? What about the other students and teachers? Lisa brought Sam to life through her photographs and audio. She shared an aspect of Sam that I don’t think most people [outside of the school] understood or knew about. In a school year, Sam students and the Sam Houston community, will go through so many things, positive and negative. The images truly reflect a year at Sam. The photo story is beautiful and filled with raw emotion. Students and teachers admired that it truly reflected all of Sam. It didn’t only focus on the negative. The story has a balance. It really surprised them that so much was included. She didn’t stop at the school but expanded it into students’ home-lives.
Why did you want to work with Lisa? When I first approached Lisa my intent was just to learn a little about her job. Like most people, I believed a photographer’s job was easy. When I found out Lisa was a photographer from the Express-News I thought it would be fun to shadow her for a day. What I didn’t expect to find out was that there was a lot more that goes into the job: mechanics, skill, knowing how to compose the image. There’s also a lot you get out of photojournalism—great experiences, an appreciation for culture, knowledge.
I remember going home that day and looking through all of Lisa’s pictures on her website. The first photo I saw was of this very malnourished, skinny girl in Zambia. I was captivated by the image. The way it was composed really struck me. The eyes of the girl pulled me in and made me want to know her story. That picture stayed in memory. After looking through all the images, I was rushed with so many different emotions, thoughts, and questions. I remember thinking, “This is your job: to travel, have all these great experiences with different cultures, meet new people almost every day, and compose these beautiful pictures.” I thought that this was the best job anyone could have.
What did you learn from your time with Lisa? Before I met Lisa I was smart, but I didn’t take advantage of it. I didn’t try to reach my full potential. I was shy and only did what I had to do to get by. Lisa taught me to take advantage of opportunities that are presented to me. I’ve learned to step outside of my comfort zone. She pulled me into a new world. I love working with her. Many people tell me I’m learning from the best, and I really believe that. She pushes me to want to do better with photography and life in general. Lisa’s the kind of mentor and teacher that sticks with me, always believes in me—sometimes more than I believe in myself. When I see her work ethic, it makes me want to work harder. I continue to work with her because she is my role model, the one who pushes me to take advantage of what the world has to offer.
Why is the relationship important to you? Without Lisa I don’t know where I would be. She came into my life at a point when I was confused and stepped in and provided support. She helped me realize that when you have a gift to express yourself through writing or pictures, you should use it. When I go out and shoot I get this feeling, like nothing else matters; it changes my mood, makes me happy, and I feel inspired.
Bria Webb, 18, is a senior at Sam Houston High School in San Antonio, Texas. She is ranked number one in her graduating class. She participates in theater, academic decathlon, student government, and yearbook. Last summer, she attended San Antonio College’s Urban Journalism Workshop where she was awarded three scholarships for her essay on the theme “Why I want to be a journalist.” She is currently applying to colleges and plans to major in photojournalism and creative writing.