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Classic Pose for a Classical Exeter Education

454 Presents 
Historic Portsmouth #454  

I used to teach writing at Exeter High School. I knew a little about the old Robinson Female Seminary, but never heard of the Emerson School for Boys until I stumbled over this picture in the Portsmouth Athenaeum archive. It had all the earmarks of a Douglas Armsden original. The former Kittery Point photographer had a knack for posing people in classical positions. (Continued below) 


The arrangement of these earnest boys on the front steps with their teacher is pure Armsden. Notice how the sign is strategically placed in the background. And notice how the boys are all looking admiringly at the teacher, their knees thrust forward to form a triangle. Sheer genius. This image could be the design for a frieze on a Greek temple, but also harkens to the famous statue-raising photograph of US Marines on Iwo Jima in World War II. The Emerson School included grades five through nine and offered a curriculum designed for boys trying to get into the nation's leading prep schools, especially the nearby Phillips Exeter Academy. According to Carol Walker Aten's book of Exeter postcards, the school was located in the home of George and Mabel Emerson at 75 High Street in Exeter. The buildings were purchased in 1972 by the Exeter Investment Company and renovated into condominiums and apartments. Doug Armsden's photo series shows the Emerson boys at study and at play -- and even talking to girls. (Courtesy Portsmouth Athenaeum) 

Boys at Emerson School, Exeter, NH by Douglas Armsden


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