This year Mr. Duarte, a talented and creative photographer is joining the Arts program at Belmont Hill. Growing up in West Roxbury and going to school at Catholic Memorial, Mr. Duarte has been familiar with Belmont Hill for most of his life. His first direct connection to the school was through past faculty member, Mr. Morange. Mr. Duarte cites Mr. Morange as one of his mentors in photography. The two worked together professionally allowing for many opportunities to learn from each other. From Mr. Morange, Mr. Duarte learned more about Belmont Hill and the teaching position available. Photography has been an active part of his life and something he values dearly. While he was attending school at Bowdoin College, he delved into the world of photography after switching from his painting class. He says, “With painting, you’re the god of the canvas and can create whatever you want, but in photography there are limitations. You’re not bound by creativity but by what is in front of you.” Attracted to these limitations, Mr. Duarte found his artistic passion.
This year, I have the pleasure of working with Mr. Duarte for my independent study. Throughout our meetings in class and even during our interview, I noticed how incredibly insightful he was. His feedback on my work has always been thoughtful and incredibly beneficial. He encourages his students to think creatively without worrying about making mistakes or abiding by constructed “rules.” In Mr. Duarte’s class, there are no rules. He teaches Photography, Digital Video, and Form I Art, along with being the Technical Director in the Theater department. He’s a traditional photographer, who is experienced in film and working in the darkroom. As many schools are adopting solely digital processes, it was exciting for Mr. Duarte to hear about Belmont Hill’s teaching of darkroom processes. “It is a true privilege,” he says, “to come here and make and share important work with students while also introducing them to a different way of looking at our world.” For the past few weeks, some of Mr. Duarte’s work has been displayed in the gallery. Shot in large-format film, the photographs feature self-portraits and pictures of his families; family often being a theme that he uses in his work. His dad immigrated to the United States from Venezuela and attended Northeastern University on a full scholarship. At Northeastern, Mr. Duarte’s dad met his mother, an Irish-American woman, before his father unfortunately had to return to Venezuela to apply for a new visa. Both of his parents moved to Venezuela and lived there for the next seven years through an extremely challenging application process. However, there in Venezuela, Mr. Duarte was born. Coming from two parents with very distinct backgrounds, Mr. Duarte says that diversity is extremely important to him and it is reflected in his work. Through photography, he explores these distinct parts of himself and the themes of home and identity that exists in his life.
I first met Mr. Duarte while he was touring Belmont Hill last year. He told me a story of that day when he and Mr. Armstrong walked by the school seal next to Robsham. He noticed that students were avoiding the symbol, careful not to step on it. He admired that to us the sextant wasn’t simply brick on the ground, but rather it meant something more. Being a fan of traditions, he enjoys the traditions we have here at Belmont Hill, and is enthusiastically looking forward to being a part of them. Before Belmont Hill, Mr. Duarte worked in higher education but he now enjoys being able to interact with students inside and outside of the classroom. This winter, he will have the opportunity to do this coaching the ninth-grade hockey team.
Looking forward to his future here at Belmont Hill, Mr. Duarte hopes to continue to develop as an educator and expand the realm of photography here at Belmont Hill. He hopes to also keep many of the photography processes we practice here alive. His addition to the Art program has already proven to be incredibly valuable and I wish him the best of luck in his transition to Belmont Hill.