Prints That Win: Deeply Attached

For Bend, Ore. photographer Julia Kelleher, photography is a family affair. Her photography studio, Jewel Images, is celebrating 10 years of capturing family milestones, including the arrival of newborns, pregnancy and other family portraits. Kelleher also shares her own family moments through the photographs she enters in yearly competitions.

“I try to enter my son every year,” Kelleher says. “My goal is to someday create an album of annual competition images for him from when he was very little to when he’s 18 or 19 years old.”

Recently, Kelleher’s quest resulted in a Sunset Print Award for her winning portrait, “Deeply Attached,” in the PPA Western District 2017 competition.

The portrait depicts her young son holding a toy dog attached to a blanket, a gift given to him by his aunt when he was born. Dean’s toy goes by many names, such as “Blankey” or “Stuffy.”

Prints That Win: Urban Assault

For a professional photographer who has made a career of portraits featuring Santa Claus, the PPA Southwest District winner in the artist category, titled “Urban Assault,” was a huge departure for Chris Smith, M.Photog.

Smith captured the Sunset Print Award-winning image during a SWAT team training session in Midlothian, Texas, when he was requested to shoot the training. It turned out to be an ideal opportunity to get creative for print competition.

“Competition work is something that I do for myself because it is so detailed,” Smith says. “It is very therapeutic digging into that level of detail.”

Prints That Win: The Next Step

When Vanessa Longuski took her Sunset Print Award-winning photo, “The Next Step,” she was in the middle of a wedding photo shoot in Lansing, Mich., on the steps of the Michigan State Capitol building.

To get the dramatic shot, she simply got lucky during a time crunch on the couple’s wedding day. The videographer was filming the bride and groom, and the image was one of only two photos without him in it.

Longuski began her photography career as an unofficial yearbook photographer at Bad Axe High School in Michigan. She went on to study arts photography at Central Michigan University, but she knew she wouldn’t be able to make a living with tradition darkroom experience, so she switched to digital. She started her own business two months before graduation and bought a studio less than a year later.

Since opening the studio in 2008, she has photographed 300 weddings and is currently working toward her PPA master’s degree. Longuski offers portrait and commercial work in addition to wedding photography, and says her passion for her work is fueled by making “people happy by doing something for them … it’s what I love to do every day.” Capturing natural poses and facial expressions is the key to helping her subjects feel and look at ease.

She’s inspired by her customers because “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them, I love working with them,” she says.

Print competitions, like the Sunset Print Award in the PPA North East District, keeps the learning process alive for her. “Winning is a great feeling … to know I accomplished something,” she says.

Prints that Win: A Calculating Commander

Armonk, New York photographer June Greenspan has spent her professional career trying to capture people and their passions. Fascinated by diverse occupations and interests, Greenspan spends her time photographing the unique individuals she encounters. “Most of my work is from my travels, and the people I see when I travel,” she says. “I am a people photographer.”

When visiting Gettysburg with her husband, she spotted a reenactor dressed as a confederate soldier. In that moment, she wondered why the man was there and knew she had to photograph him. “I became like a director,” Greenspan explains, giving him directions on how to pose.  The result of this encounter: a Sunset Print Award in the Master Artist category at the North-East District PPA print competition for her piece, “A Calculating Commander.”

Prints That Win: Blowing Out of a Creative Funk

A small junk store in Rio, Nevada was the last place Kelly Zimmerman expected to capture her Sunset Print Award-winning image, “Blowing Out of a Creative Funk.” However, she was instantly captivated by the old fans sitting in the store window.

“[The store] had this little display set up, and I loved the concept of all of these fans. I don’t know why, it just drew me in,” Zimmerman says. “The image alone wasn’t much to speak of, but I was just inspired by the fans with the crumpled papers.”

Prints That Win: Oriental Inspiration

On the day this Sunset Award-Winning photo was taken, photographer Steven Yahr was at a bridal portrait photoshoot. “The bride wasn’t there yet,” says Yahr, “and the image evolved from that scene.” The simple elegance of the shot is true to his signature style.

“I just did a program for a group in New York, showing some of the processing I do in photoshop to make images look different from rest,” he says, “I noticed that on almost all my images that have done well, they’re simple subjects that have an artistic flare to them.” He believes that balance of painterly backgrounds with simple subjects is ultimately what makes his images stand apart from the rest.