Skip to content

Kensington CAPA students showcase “The Beauty of Time” photo and film project focused on older adults

A group of Kensington CAPA students took portraits of five Philadelphia women ages 59 to 86 and directed and produced a documentary film about their lives. 

Kensington CAPA junior Alondra Hernandez, 16, and Roya Razzazan, 59, pose in front of a portrait of Razzazan. (Photo by Yosheline Gomez-Benitez)

Kensington Creative and Performing Arts High School student James Boulware says taking the perfect photo is all about timing. 

He points to his favorite photo he took as part of a class project within Kensington CAPA’s Digital Media Production program. Pictured is Kathy McGovern, 76, laughing. To capture that moment, Boulware directed McGovern to talk to her friend off-camera.  

“I feel the build-up, I see the emotion, I feel their energy, I see them start to get happy, and I just wait. I just wait and I capture it,” he said. 

Boulware is among about 20 Kensington CAPA students who showcased their photography and film project, entitled “The Beauty of Time,” on Thursday. The students took portraits of five Philadelphia women ages 59 to 86 and directed and produced a documentary film about their lives. 

The exhibit is the accumulation of a partnership with the Lutheran Settlement House center for older adults and a $1,000 grant from the Philly Service Award, The Philly Service Award is a new non-profit that funds high school students’ community service projects. 

Kensington CAPA senior James Boulware, 18, in front of his favorite photo, a portrait of Kathy McGovern, 76. (Photo by Shymira Hightower)

Inside the Lutheran Settlement House on Frankford Avenue near Master Street, the portraits of the women — joyful, embracing each other, holding flowers, sitting in front of bright backdrops — decorate the walls. 

“It really was a student-centered project,” said Beannie Feighan-Drach, Kensington CAPA’s Director of Community Partners and Student Activities. 

During the length of one digital media production course, the students took on varying roles — some photographers, cinematographers, audio engineers, gaffers, editors, interviewers, and set designers, and some wore multiple hats. Drach recalled one student giving the women pep talks before their interviews. 

“They did it from start to finish,” Drach said. 

Kensington CAPA senior Shymira Hightower said the course taught her how to get the perfect shot and how to manage a group of people without being “overbearing.” But beyond taking the photos, the teenagers also formed unexpected friendships with the older women. 

“We're not used to that type of interaction. So this was really refreshing,” Hightower said. 

“Within a day it just clicked,” Boulware added. 

“The best part was getting to know these ladies,” said Kensington CAPA junior Alondra Hernandez.

Kensington CAPA senior Shymira Hightower, 18, poses in front of her favorite photo, a portrait of Zina Williams, 60. Hightower will attend the University of the Arts in the fall. (Photo by James Boulware)

Hernandez, 16, said she loved hearing the women’s life stories, especially Roya Razzazan’s. Hernandez said Razzazan, 59, waited about 30 years to move to the United States from Iran.

“She said that through all that, she was still happy as she was still hoping for her opportunity to move to the United States,” Hernandez said. 

In some ways, Razzazan’s experience paralleled Hernandez’s, who moved from Puerto Rico to Philadelphia in 2020. In Puerto Rico, Hernandez felt like her dream of becoming a photographer was out of reach. 

Then she came to Kensington CAPA, and eventually joined the Digital Media Production program. Now being surrounded by all her and her peers’ photos gets her emotional. 

“I'm really thankful, infinitely thankful. If it wasn't for that plane I caught in September 2020, I don't know where I would be right now,” she said.  “I wouldn't be living my dream.” 

Feighan-Drach witnessed the students evolve throughout the course. The first time they met the older women, “we had to help them through it,” Feighan-Drach said. 

But after that, the students took more initiative by helping the women off their chairs and speaking louder to them when they needed to. 

“They really learned how to adapt... And in the end, they fell in love with them,” Feighan-Drach said. “We shouldn't just be teaching them subject matter. Far more important is teaching them to be people. And we did that.” 

Boulware said realizing the womens’ many hardships was humbling. He learned that life isn’t necessarily going to go as planned. 

“Dang, I really will have my ups and downs, but I just gotta be strong. I really gotta pull through,” Boulware said. 

At the end of each interview, all the women gave the same piece of advice to the teens, Feighan-Drach said: “Stay in school.”

Hernandez, Boulware, and Hightower are already on that track. 

Hernandez is determined to become a professional photographer after she graduates from high school. And both Boulware and Hightower have been accepted to the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and will be attending in September. Boulware plans to major in photography and graphic design and Hightower in fine arts and ceramics.  

The photo exhibit will remain on display through March 15. 

Have any questions, comments, or concerns about this story? Send an email to