Last month, five photography students, two of whom graduated in the previous school year, were awarded for their entries in the Nature Visions Photography Contest. The awards ceremony, which was held at the Hylton Performing Arts Center at George Mason, is one of the most prestigious photography events on the East Coast, as it boasts numerous internationally-known speakers and hundreds of attendees. Ten student finalists were chosen and received a prize of $100, while the grand prize winner received $500.
Five out of the 10 finalists were from Chantilly, and they were ecstatic about their accomplishments. Photography leader Betty Simmons also received an award for inspiring students over the years and mentoring so many of the student finalists.
“I was honestly surprised that I made it into the top 10 student finalists for this award,” junior Ashlyn Dearing said. “When I look at my own work, I’m very critical of it, so when I found out that I was selected out of the countless students that entered this award, it made me realize that my work doesn’t need to be perfect.”
In the last few years, a myriad of students have taken interest in the contest due to a new rule that all photographs may be submitted with no subject restrictions.
“I liked how the contest promoted creativity and individuality, and it was a little easier for me to get ideas about what my artwork would be,” senior Danielle Kranzburg said. “After looking around online for a bit of inspiration, I got a general idea of what I was going for and worked to bring it to life.”
Students find art to be a form of self-expression, and that fuels their passion for the mediums in which they choose to express themselves. Usually, they develop their love for art in some meaningful way to them.
“When I was younger, my mom was really into photography and as I grew up, my mom and I took pictures together,” junior Andrea Gonzalez said. “I stuck with it because it helps me express things I’m going through and sheds light on certain problems or aspects of society.”
The mission statement for Nature Visions Photo Expo, the organization that hosts the contest, is to promote and advance the appreciation of photography in the Mid-Atlantic region and surrounding communities. Artwork allows individuals to better understand each other and showcases personality, style, adventures and thoughts to mark the passage of time. Anyone can experience the joy of creating art and use it as a means to learn more about themselves or attain a deeper awareness of the world around them.
“The reason I got into photography is because I wanted an outlet to express myself but I had never been good at art, music or writing,” Dearing said. “When I explored photography, I finally found my outlet where I could express everything I was feeling without a single word.”