Prints That Win: Mother

When Shayna Lohmann first started experimenting with photography as a middle school student, she didn’t expect it to become a possible career option. “I was kind of bad at it when I was in middle school,” she says. “But as soon as I got my first roll of film developed, and it came out perfect, I thought that this is meant to be.”

Lohmann studies photography at the Antonelli Institute in Erdenheim, PA.  Recently, she won the Sunset Print Award for her winning portrait in the Contemporary Portrait category for the Antonelli Institute Print Competition.  Her portrait named “Mother” depicts her own mother looking intently into the lens.

“My mom was sitting there and I thought the whole composition was great in that moment, so I took the shot,” she explains. “It was so raw and powerful, and I think the judges felt that way, too.”

During the summer, Lohmann likes to experiment with different styles and approaches saying, “I have been asking my friends and family to model for me and I pick out the outfits I want them to wear.”

She finds inspiration for her work in vintage fashion magazines and photographs. One of her favorite photographers is Helmut Newton, a successful fashion photographer born in Germany in 1920. “His photos were so stark, but had movement in them,” she says. “They were very natural.”  His work has inspired Lohmann to pursue fashion photography in the future.

“Once I graduate, I want to be a portrait photographer or a fashion photographer,” Lohmann says. “I really like looking through magazines and seeing all of the portraits; I think there’s something that’s special about photographs of people compared to other forms of photography. The emotion you can capture is crazy and amazing.”

Lohmann’s experiences with submitting her work in competitions has been overwhelmingly positive. “I learned that anything is possible,” she says. “You should never doubt yourself or compare yours to other prints because you don’t know what will happen.”

Prints That Win: The Chosen One

When Laura Wagoner’s son wanted to dress up as Harry Potter for a “character day” at school, she wasn’t planning on capturing a winning photograph from the event. “We were just having fun,” she says with a laugh. “My son was Harry, my daughter was Hermione Granger, and my little one was Draco Malfoy.”

Avid fans of the series by J.K. Rowling, her three kids were thrilled to portray their favorite characters. Wagoner did individual photographs of them, but this shot of her son immediately caught her eye, prompting her to enter it into the Minnesota Professional Photographer Association and Twin City Professional Photographer Association competitions, where she won the prestigious Sunset Print Award.

Wagoner has been photographing for years, ever since she took a class in 11th grade. “I knew I wanted to do something with art,” she says, “and after I took that class I just knew that was it.” She completed another five years of training and ultimately opened her own studio.

Prints That Win: La Petite Mademoiselle

About four years ago, Massachusetts-based photographer Andrea (Andy) Joliat came to a creative standstill. She felt stuck in her artistic endeavors, unable to create as she had in the past; the writer’s block of photography. In the hopes of overcoming this, she turned to her fellow photographers, interviewing them about their creative resources, and even writing an article (pg. 34-36) on the subject that was published in Professional Photographers Magazine.

As a photographer with three decades of experience, Joliat was determined to overcome the creative obstacles. “I’ve thought a lot about creativity and where people get ideas from,” she says. “They come from different places… I might see some colors that I like, and I’ll remember those colors and want to create something in that palate.” In her article, she discusses her methods of finding inspiration, many of which come from literature. Discovering and exploring these outlets of creativity – whether it’s color palates or Robert Frost – is imperative to developing one’s style.

The exquisite, Sunset Print Award-winning photograph, “La Petite Mademoiselle,” beautifully portrays Joliat’s knack for creating aesthetic, touching images. The viewer is immediately struck by the little girl’s expression of curiosity and reticence, paired with the light, pastel composition of the color palate.

Joliat became interested in photography after taking a course in college. “I just fell in love with it my senior year,” she says. After she graduated, she continued to the New England School for Photography, and she’s been a professional photographer ever since.

She photographs a wide variety of subjects, but portraits of children are among her specialties. “I feel like I can connect with them in a quiet way, and it brings out a good expression in the child that is usually thoughtful,” says Joliat. “I’m a fairly quiet person and I feel that they are comfortable around me.”

La Petite Mademoiselle_ Andrea Joliat_Her portrait of this little girl is both precious and impressive in technique. Joliat adjusted both the lighting and complexion of the girl, painting her cheeks and lips to create the effect of a little doll. “When I think back to that session, her personality was very observant. She watched things,” she says, “Maybe that’s why her eyes came out so much in the picture, because she was a curious little girl.”

As one can tell from her winning photo, Joliat successfully found her way through the creative block, delving into her past along the way. “When I was young, I used to explore my grandmothers garden, and it felt like a journey to walk through and discover things and not have anything in mind, but to just go in and look for something” she says, “And I think this ties back to creativity. I felt like I had to have a specific idea or goal each time when I went out to take photos. And I got to a point where I could just go and be open-minded, explore, and come across new things.”

Joliat, who has been entering her work in completions since the late ‘90s, has won many awards over the years. She highly recommends that photographers of all skill-levels participate in such events, though she has unique advice for them.

“I think people should take the constructive criticism that they get from the experience, but still do their own thing,” she says. “I see a lot of people thinking that their work has to look a certain way, or look like an image from someone they admire. So listen to the criticism, but always maintain your style.”

Prints That Win: Departing Flight

While stalking birds in the Everglades, Seymour, Wis.-based photographer Steven Kemp captured a Brown Pelican in mid-departure. Birds taking flight aren’t typically viewed as spectacular, noteworthy moments; however, the photography veteran has a knack for capturing the simple moments of life and transforming them into amazing ones.

The Sunset Print Award-winning photo, “Departing Flight,” was naturally exquisite and only needed minimal editing to be a winner. Kemp cropped out the trees and the shoreline in the background and smoothed out the rippled water. He printed the image on LexJet Sunset Production eSatin 250g photo paper, and it was ready for competition.

Prints That Win: Homestead

Veteran Michigan photographer, Kari Douma, has paid many visits to the winner’s circle at print competitions. Ever since her first competition in 2007, she has been capturing numerous show-stopping photographs that catch the judge’s eyes.

Her photograph, “Homestead,” is no exception. She won the Sunset Print Award at the PPA Northeast District in the spring, and was named the third-place winner at the National Sunset Print Awards in November. Coming across the scene captured in “Homestead” happened almost by chance.

An unseasonal spring snow in Montana inspired her to go for a ride in search of the perfect landscape. “We were driving on two track roads out in the middle of nowhere when I saw the scene and captured it,” she says. “I loved it so much that I wanted to come back at sunrise the next morning but I still liked the original one better from the day before.” After some slight editing in Photoshop, “Homestead” was primed to be a winner.

Prints That Win: The Boxer

Photographer Ben Tanzer may have left a theater degree behind, but he certainly kept his flair for the dramatic. In his “Identity Series,” he transforms himself into iconic characters, for self-portraits like “The Boxer,” a grungy interpretation with 1920’s style that recently won the Sunset Print Award at the Plymouth Center for the Arts Fine Art of Photography.

Tanzer_Ben_TheBoxerThe conceptualized image is a clear shout out to Cindy Sherman-esque photo and editing work. “I’ve always been drawn to Cindy Sherman — she was one of my first crushes ever, as a photographer,” Tanzer says. “The Boxer was my first piece for the Identity Series … I just became really interested in what it means to be human … and how we define ourselves by what it is that we do.”

For the competition print, Tanzer did some Photoshop work with overlays and brushes to create the gritty look, but says, “I don’t do a lot of what I call ‘liposuction editing.’ Just dodging and burning to emphasize certain areas.”

Tanzer_Ben_The_LadyIt’s a technique that he perfected in the second of the Identity Series in which he portrays a female karaoke singer in a low-cut, cleavage-bearing red dress.

The final competition print of “The Boxer” was a 9-by-9-inch square “Instagram cut,” as he calls it, that fit the mood of his self-portraits, thanks to the self-involved, “selfie” flavor the crop provided. The image was printed on Epson Cold Press Bright White 100% cotton rag paper.

While Tanzer, currently a production assistant for a Texas animation studio, has participated in photography shows for eight years, he’s been entering print competitions for just two years, and is looking to do more.

“There are a whole bunch of competitions out there,” he says. “And there are a lot of people around the country who care about this as much as I do.”