ARLINGTON, Va. — With many area schools continuing distance learning through the end of the academic year, students are missing out on traditional in-person experiences, such as prom and graduation. 

Matt Mendolsohn, an Arlington photographer, was feeling particularly melancholy thinking about all the school events his daughter, a junior at Yorktown High School, missed this year.  

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"It’s just sort of heartbreaking," Mendelsohn said.

While his daughter has another year left at her school, Mendolsohn said he felt great sadness for the school’s class of 2020. He called the recent social media photo challenge #ClassOf2020 "silly."

The challenge called on people to post their old graduation photos to honor seniors in high school and college. 

"The way to honor the class of 2020 is by putting attention on the class of 2020," Mendelsohn said. "Everybody's occupied with COVID and quarantine and so, nobody's really focused on them. So, they didn't get a prom, hey didn't get graduation, and no one cares because they've got other fish to fry." 

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Credit: Matt Mendelsohn

Therefore, he decided to put the seniors at Yorktown High School back in the spotlight. Mendelsohn is attempting to take at least 500 senior portraits.

Credit: Matt Mendelsohn

"You think, 'uh oh ... what have I gotten myself into?'" Mendelsohn laughed. 

With 35 years of experience, he said, this process is different and slower than usual because of COVID-19 restrictions. 

He’s wearing a mask, keeping his distance and using a long lens on his camera.

"All these appointment slots are an hour apart so there's no congregating," Mendelsohn continued.

However, the backdrop in every photo is the same. It’s the one unifying item, connecting the Yorktown class of 2020 as they try to document the brighter days of 2020.

"I'm just trying to get to the essence of what makes these kids who they are and what they're passionate about," Mendelsohn said.

And he’s doing it all at no cost.

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Mendelsohn wants to wrap up this project by mid-June, when Yorktown seniors would've had their graduation ceremony.

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Matt Mendelsohn is an experienced photojournalist who wants to capture the Yorktown High School Class of 2020. All photos are black & white and taken outdoors weather pending. Matt shoots from a safe distance wearing a mask and gloves.

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