For Muskogee, Okla. Photographer Kimberly Smith, 2017 was a brilliant year. Not only did she win the PPA SW Sunset Print Award, but she also won First Place in the 2017 National Sunset Print Awards for “The Beauty of Innocence.” For this Master Artist, 2018 looks to be just as strong: Her 2018 submission “Leaving with Dignity” won the Sunset Print Award for Portraiture in the PPA SW District competition.
Reflecting on her back-to-back wins, Smith says she’s very excited that her work speaks to the judges. “Impact is so important. I put a lot of emotion behind the story in my images and the judges can tell,” she says. “It’s not just another pretty picture. When they see the title [of the image], I want them to brace for impact, I want them to feel something, and apparently, they did.”
The inspiration for “Leaving with Dignity” struck when Smith saw a black and white image of an older woman with a disheveled crown. She initially envisioned a queen leaving her throne for the last time. However, as she started working in postproduction, Smith says, “I noticed she had a peaceful look on her face, and I added a cloudy feel with rays of light. I felt like she was making her way into Heaven, with God saying, ‘well done, my good and faithful servant.’ I felt like she was leaving this world with dignity rather than leaving the throne. I chose to name “Leaving with Dignity” so people could form their own story.”
During the time between her “innocent” 2017 and her “dignified” 2018 PPA SW wins, Smith decided to step out of her comfort zone and teach an intermediate/advanced level course at the Texas School, which maxed out at 30 students – a rare feat for a first-time teacher. “I wanted to show the students how I create an image from start to finish,” she says.
For Smith, it isn’t just capturing an image that’s important, it’s telling the story. To pass along the techniques and methods to future generations is exciting. “One of my favorite projects for the class was when I printed about 30 copies of one of my photos to teach the students some of the ways I finish a print: enhancing the image with colored pencils, hand tearing the edges, matting, etc.”
Smith chose LexJet Sunset Bright Velvet Rag to use as a teaching tool because “I love the way it tears and the way it feels. It prints really nice.”