Prints That Win: Alabaster Aster

For Dover, Ohio classic portrait artist Christine Walsh-Newton, working with people is one of the most rewarding aspects of being a photographer, so it would seem rather curious that her Sunset Award-winning print, “Alabaster Aster,” is something as simple – yet geometrically stunning – as a flower. “Working with people is great, I get to interact with them, but as a photographer, you don’t always have 100% control,” Walsh-Newton says. “Sometimes I just want to chill. Photographing flowers is sort of a means of meditation for me.”

Adding more meaning to her choice is the history of the Fuji Mum (in the Aster family) that is the subject of her winning piece. It was part of a bouquet given to her by her husband for their 19th wedding anniversary. “I rarely shoot flowers, unless it’s for my own entertainment, but I thought this would make for a great image, especially in black and white,” she says of “Alabaster Aster.” “I like to use alliteration for the titles of my flower pieces, and alabaster is a much more descriptive word than ‘white’, it was perfect for this selection.”

Be it flowers or portraits, you can see the influences of Tim Kelly and Monte Zucker, two pioneers in the field of classic portraiture in her work. “Even though Monte died in 2007, his publications have inspired my growth in portrait work,” she says. “I know it helps to have additional skill sets – educator, author, artist – to differentiate myself from other photographers. I also know that I can’t put all my eggs in one basket. It helps to have multiple areas of expertise. You need find a happy medium between being too specialized and trying to do everything. You don’t want to be single-minded or be a jack of all trades. Studying the works of Tim and Monte have helped me find that middle ground.”

When preparing for competitions, Walsh-Newton capitalizes on her versatile skills and previous experiences to create pieces that score well both emotionally and technically. “I’ve learned over the years that if you get the technical aspects dialed in – the shutter speed, ISO setting, and most importantly, the lighting – then you’ve already met the minimum elements for merit consideration.” Not one to settle for minimums, she emphasizes that the best part comes with the artistic narrative: “When the technical requirements are second nature, you can focus on the creativity and presentation and ensure that your story is being told.”

When it was time for the Professional Photographers of Ohio show, Walsh-Newton wanted the presentation of “Alabaster Aster” to be distinct. For printing, she chose LexJet Sunset Hot Press Rag 310g and then hand-deckled the edges. “I really love the way the image looks on the Sunset paper. It just pops!” she says of the final, show-ready image. “There is something special about black-and-white photography. It’s funny, I want the images to be high key, but I am such a low-key person.”

The juxtaposition works. Whether it’s the lively interaction with clients during portrait sessions or her meditative moments capturing the beauty of Mother Nature’s flowers, Master Photographer Christine Walsh-Newton uses the creativity of black-and-white images to convey her story to the world in a very colorful way.

Prints That Win: The Beauty of Innocence

For photographic craftsman Kimberly Smith of Muskogee, Okla., a hobby that started as a way to document the growth of her family through scrapbooking turned into a full-blown career. “I really was looking for a better camera to take better pictures of my kids. It turns out, not only did I find a better camera, I also found my passion,” she says.

Once Smith decided to pursue photography, she began looking for classes or other educational opportunities. A friend of hers suggested she reach out to Shannon Ledford of Broken Arrow, so that’s just what she did. “When I showed her my work, she said she could tell that I had a good eye,” Smith says. “She was so encouraging to me and my craft.” The two women bonded over photography and became fast friends, with Ledford inviting her to conventions, to her studio and into the lab for experience and training.

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.”

Guest Blog: The Power of Print Competition

By Christie Newell, winner of the 2016 National Sunset Print Award and co-owner of Sonshine Portrait Design in Germantown Hills, Ill.

Christie Newell, M.Photog., Cr. CPP, guest blogger

The ever-evolving photography industry vastly changes on a day-to-day basis. How do we stay ahead? How do we rise above the other photographers around us? What makes us grow? The answer to these questions and so many other questions is print competition.

I have been asked why I enter print competition. It can be misleading and make one think you are competing against other photographers. That is not the case. Yes, I am a photographer who creates art pieces for my clients, but I am also a print competitor, it just runs through my blood. I enter print competitions because I know how much I learn and grow. Improving my everyday work for my clients. By setting goals, reaching beyond what I think I am capable of and either failing or conquering.

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.”