Last month, I entered three of my favorite photographs that I’ve taken into the Washington State High School Photography Competition (WSHSPC). This year, 67 schools across the state participated. There were a total of 4,511 entries across 10 categories (traditional B&W film, abstract, animal, documentary, still life, portrait, architecture, landscape, people, manipulation).
I entered a portrait of my brother partially concealed behind a berry bush (above) into the traditional B&W category. The entry was recognized as a finalist at the WSHSPC (9th place)! This means that the judges of the competition selected my photo to be in the top 5% of all 4,511 entries.
I’m quite honored to have been recognized for my work, even if it’s not the biggest feat. I’d like to talk a little bit about the technical and creative processes that went into the photo.
On the technical side, I remember trying out contrast filters of various strengths and playing around with all sorts of different exposure settings. My goal was to attain a perfect balance between the rich black tones in my brother’s hair and eyes and the whites in his skin and the berry bush. I remember developing this same photo at least ten times across several weeks to attain this balance!
What sets film apart from digital photography is that there’s a lot less legroom in terms of post-production. It thus takes a lot more care and mindfulness to compose a powerful film image since you can’t rely too much on editing. For me, this called for some creative thinking. I felt that this image could, in a way, portray my brother’s personality. At home, he can be a very energetic and extroverted guy, which is represented in the half of his face that’s out in the open. On the other hand, when he’s around other people outside our family, he tends to become a bit more shy and timid, which is depicted through the concealed portion of his face. These creative considerations, in tandem with the overall aesthetic of the portrait, are some of the predominant reasons why I like this photo so much!