March 23 will be a day that the class of 2020 will never forget. On that day, Gov. Northam announced schools would close for the rest of the academic year. Just like that, no prom. No graduation. No final send-off.
That’s when photographer Matt Mendelsohn stepped in. He got the idea to boost the spirits of the seniors at Arlington’s Yorktown High School and put his 35 years of experience to good use, creating the photo essay, Not Forgotten: The Yorktown Seniors of 2020.
Armed with his mask, gloves, backdrop and long lens, Mendelsohn has spent the last two months traveling around Arlington, trying to photograph the class of just over 500 seniors before what would have been their June 15 graduation ceremony.
“Some [photos] have a degree of whimsy and some of them are a baseball player who never got to play his senior year, sitting on the porch with his legs up on the rail, tossing a baseball to himself,” the professional photographer explains. “They’re meant to evoke a sense of what might have been.”
Just two weeks in, as word continued to spread about the project, Mendelsohn started to see a change around the neighborhood. “Suddenly, people are driving by, they see the backdrop, they see the senior and they are honking their horn and they are saying to the senior, ‘Good luck at college!’ It’s really fun. It sort of has restored things to their rightful place.” So here’s to the class of 2020, as they go off to college and continue to inspire the world around them.
This post originally appeared in our June/July 2020 print issue. For more local stories, subscribe to our weekly newsletters.