Here’s What Tacoma Looks Like to the Students of Mt. Tahoma High School

Tacoma has a population of roughly 200,000. That means roughly 200,000 different opinions of what this city actually looks like and the view of a high school student is unique among those.

When Peter Johnson, founder of Detective Media and a Mt. Tahoma teacher, asked me if I’d be interested in partnering with some of his students, I was intrigued. After bouncing a few ideas back and forth, we decided to ask his two photography classes this simple question: “What does Tacoma look like to you?”

The following is a collection of their best answers along with commentary from some of the photographers.

*See individual photos for credits. Header photo by Ja’Kuan Williams, 12th grade

Emanuel Jacobo-Guzman, 10th grade

Going to be honest here, just took a photo of my friend looking at the view seeing how Tacoma has changed throughout the years, well our years. Never knew how it was back in the day. Probably was all full of green plants and clean water, but was soon introduced by industries and pollution. Wonder if all can be restored.

Victoria Nolasco Fuentes, 9th grade

I liked the sign because even though it’s a sign in a car place, that sign does mean something to me. In Tacoma I often see a lot of Latinos wherever I go. My roots/ethnicity mean a lot to me, and knowing that other people don’t take advantage, and value it makes me proud. That’s why I love that picture, because it represents me and my Latino community!

Amanda Hung, 9th grade

We stayed after school for a while to play tennis and a person pulled out the deck. They are playing thirteen.

Emanuel Jacobo-Guzman, 10th grade

Just seeing a plain number 12 gives me hope that most of the community don’t go overboard with the whole team of Seahawks or just the number 12.

Rosa Perez, 12th grade

I took these photos because all my life growing up, the waterfront is where I have all my memories, especially at that time of day. I love the streets of Tacoma, driving in the car with the music blasted. The bridge is one of my favorite places to drive through. I was trying to catch “Why I Love Tacoma” and what Tacoma is to me. I liked how I was able to catch that time of day.

Charlotte Richardson, 10th grade

I took this photo of the trail by my house because it is beautiful and I walk on it almost every day on my way home. To me, Tacoma represents nature and the adventures you can find if you look for them.

Ruth Kim, 10th grade

This is the photograph of my dad which I took right before we were leaving to Chambers Bay to exercise. We are originally from Korea. My family is living here only for a year and I like the Tacoma weather.

Amy Perez-Velez, 10th grade

I took this photo because what Tacoma means to me is family, friends, people you care about and the memories you have with them. I captured this photo because it is a memory with a friend I met in Tacoma. I value friendship and family very dearly. This photo shows the friendship I have and don’t want to lose any time soon.

Thuy-Ai Tran, 11th grade

I am Vietnamese so my family goes to HongKong Market a lot. I took that picture because actually I don’t like seafood but my sister loves it. And my mom wants me to eat seafood because she wants me to have good health but no, I hate seafood.

Alexis Moore, 10th grade

Tacoma to me is a very unique and diverse city. There is something interesting to see every day, whether it’s something new or historical. There will always be something to excite the eye. The pictures selected were to capture Tacoma’s raw beauty from the sky and water to the graffiti on the concrete wall, it’s all a piece of what makes Tacoma beautiful and worth capturing.

Victoria Nolasco Fuentes, 9th grade

The corner store is part of my childhood, since I grew up in that neighborhood I have been going to that store since I was around 4. Even to this day, my parents send me to get them little stuff: plates for parties, sodas for a get together, lemons for the tequila, or chips for a movie night. That store will forever be a part of my go-to list of stores!

Alexis Colvin, 9th grade

We all know or should know Tacoma’s reputation. It’s not a very beautiful place like Hawaii, but it’s also not a bad as people think. Tacoma does have some strange aspects to it. On my way walking to the Star Center, I was walking On Tyler Street. On that road we saw the fallen bike sign and I thought “Why not?” This is a great example of what Tacoma looks like to me because there is always something strange to see, or something that always catches someone’s eye.

Briann Santos, 10th grade

Tacoma is my home away from home and that’s what I wanted to capture in my photos. I wanted my photos to speak my truth. My truth is my family is a group of hardworking, honest people. Since we came to this country from Saipan, we have never been more devoted to our family. We put each other first, no matter what obstacles stand in our way. We have our own share of troubles but if there is anything that can overcome that, it would be my family and me.

Amanda Hung, 9th grade

It was taken in the car. But Tacoma, the surrounding area, seems to be a bit dull.

Dylan Downing, 10th grade

With my photo, I was not trying to capture anything in particular I was just taking photos of my house because the project was about what Tacoma is to you and Tacoma is my home. So, I just took pictures around my house like a few in front, a few on the side, and a few in the back.

Victoria Nolasco Fuentes, 9th grade

The one with the knuckles shows me that there are people that get along, no matter their skin color! Believe it or not, the white knuckle, is a Mexican dude. They have both taught me that you can grow a wonderful, and special friendship with whoever. Together they have a brother type of friendship. They protect each other and their friends. I had never seen a friendship that is so tight. They can play with each other and get mad at each other, but at the end of the day, they know they got each other’s back, and that is what matters!

Gisselle Reyes-Villagomez, 12th grade

Tacoma to me, from my perspective as a teenage mother, is different from what it is to others. Everything in my life revolves around my son, Fabian. My likes now depend mostly on him because he’s a toddler, he’s more independent. That’s why I decided to take pictures of him at his favorite place: the park.

Tacoma is a breathtaking place full of wonders. Most wonders are hidden within our friends and family and the places we live. We don’t get to see the important things because we are too busy being occupied by everyday things. There are so many things that you probably wouldn’t notice unless you really stopped to look. Take time to stop and appreciate the places you go. Under all of the buildings, houses, bridges, and factories there is value, it is up to you to find it.

Sonia Moran, 10th grade

Eric Le, 10th grade

I was trying to take a photo of what it probably looked like for kids back in the day.

Amanda Hung, 9th grade

I hadn’t seen bok choy before and didn’t think they were real. So I took a photo of it at the market.

Steve Kwon, 10th grade

I’ve been in Tacoma, Washington since September 2017. Since I’ve been here by myself, I didn’t have time to see my family in Korea. There were 2 times when I got to see my family. It was during winter break, and in mid-March. When my mom came during winter break, she didn’t come to Washington where I lived, she stayed in LA, where my aunt lived.

But during mid-March, my grandmother came to Washington to see me. Since my grandmother had her sister living in Washington state, we went on a tour of downtown Seattle, and the place where I live, Tacoma. We had a very fun time and have a very good memory of staying together. When I was taking a tour of Washington, I ate lots of good stuff and saw lots of stuff.

When we were by the port, I saw a 2 big seagulls sitting on a trash can eating garbage. It was one of the biggest seagulls I have ever seen in my life, and even though it was on the trash can and smelled a little bit, I thought I would never take a picture of a seagull as big as an eagle. It made me think again of all the memories I had with my grandmother and reminded me of my grandmother’s wishes for me to be a good man that can be very helpful to our society later.

Emanuel Jacobo-Guzman, 10th grade

Rock Trading Post: Walking around downtown, and just looking at this site was the weirdest encounter I had, and I just had to take a picture of it. I wonder how long it’s been there.

Amanda Hung, 9th grade

I wasn’t specifically looking for anything. Rather, I looked for something interesting in Tacoma. As I rode on the bus to the mall, I thought this could be used as the photo for the project. I found that to be a bit vintage, going along, the car.

Alexis Colvin, 9th grade

In my photo of the mysterious pathway, I thought it would be a great idea to take a picture because there are some beautiful spots of Tacoma. That same day of seeing the fallen bike sign, I walked one of the trails at the Star Center. I got high up, and I looked down and I saw the trail I walked. Why not take a mysterious picture of an unknown beautiful trail leading to who knows what? So I sat down at the edge of the cliff and took the picture.

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