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2008-08-06 12:07 a.m.

I teach photography to teenagers. I have a few standard assignments I use in almost all my class sessions. In one of the assignments I make a list of every student in the class. I add my name to the list, too. Everyone in the class gets a copy of the list. The assignment is to take five portraits of everyone on the list, including yourself.

Everyone gets pictures of one another. My students shoot me; I get to photograph them, too.

Recently I had a startling experience with this project.

There was one student that lit up like a forest fire when the camera got in front of her. Not like a 'ham' or the one that people call 'a real character' or anything like that. It was more that the second the camera was in front of her she melted into a sea of seductiveness and sex that washed over everyone around. Her eyes had more bedroom in them than Ikea and Bed, Bath, and Beyond put together.

She had all the girls and boys in the class sweating, fidgeting in their clothes, and wondering how it suddenly got so hot.

My body tingled as I took pictures of her. Her eyes were a siren singing to any flesh that would listen. I took a few more shots of her and then I had to move on.

There were other kids to shoot. Plus, I needed a moment to think.

How odd it was that she had that power. I shoot pictures of a lot of people. Most don't have that effect on me. What was different here?

It hit me: She'd done this before. More than once. Many times.

She knew what she was doing—maybe not consciously, but she knew deep in the marrow of her bones. And, this wasn't something that a fourteen or fifteen-year-old should know how to do. This girl was taught the gravity of her sex, and almost certainly not from her boyfriend or movies or books or even the internet.

A sadness has lingered in me since.