WILTON — For the second year in a row, Katie Sailer, has nabbed the top prize in the youth division of Wilton Arts Council’s photography exhibition.
“Focus ‘14,” the 16th annual juried photography presentation by Wilton Arts Council (WAC), is on view at Wilton Library through March 29. The show opened on March 7, and an opening reception and awards ceremony were held on March 14. That was the evening Katie learned of her second consecutive win.
“I was really surprised,” she told The Newtown Bee this week. When she walked into the exhibition, ribbons had already been placed on the photos that earned honors this year. During the awards ceremony, winners were also presented with certificates. The top three winners in each of the exhibition’s three categories were also presented with cash awards.
Katie’s winning entry this year, “Effervescence,” is a self-portrait with a twist: she took the photo after submerging herself underwater and took the picture from below the water’s surface. The young photographer particularly liked the way the bubbles gathered around her eyes.
Katie, who said she loves swimming, combined her love of being underwater, her love of underwater photography, and a growing love of photography in creating the work. To capture the winning image, Katie borrowed her sister’s camera, a Pentax Optio WG-2 Waterproof Digital Camera.
“I held it out in front of me and made bubbles under water and snapped a picture of myself,” she said. It took “a lot of pictures” to get the image she was happiest with. The one that won the WAC competition was one of her final attempts at capturing that shot.
The tenacity paid off. One judge was extremely surprised to see the image in the youngest division of the competition.
Daryl Hawk, the owner of Wilton-based Hawk Photography and one of this year’s judges, said there were a number of things about Katie’s photo that stood out to him.
“First of all, it was an extremely unusual photograph, with a fresh perspective,” said Mr Hawk. “And secondly, I thought it was very, very professional, especially considering it came from the youth division. I’m not used to seeing such professional-looking pictures in that division.
“It was just amazing, by someone who has the ability to have a great eye and think out of the box at the same time. It was a great combination,” added Mr Hawk, who has been judging for nearly two decades.
Andrew Romer (Andy Romer Photography) and Christopher Wisker (Christopher Wisker Photography) were also judges for “Focus ’14.”
Show chair Sandra Wear was also very impressed with Katie’s photograph.
“It’s clear to me that she has a talent for composition. Photography isn’t just ‘snap a picture,’ but also thinking about what it is you want your photo to say when people look at it,” she said. “The young people who love this art are finding ways to really take it to another level, perhaps that we haven’t seen before.
“It’s just great that they have this interest in, and they’re learning how to make a shot really great, and stand out,” Ms Wear added.
A seventh grader at Newtown Middle School, Katie said she has been dabbling in photography for a few years, inspired by others in her family who share the same interest. She is the daughter of two creative parents, Bonnie and Dan Sailer.
Katie won “Focus ‘13” last year with an image called “Crayons.” That one was a photo of crayons that had been submerged in a glass of soda water.
Photographers, whether members of WAC or not, were invited to enter up to two images for this year’s exhibition. Show chair Sandra Wear said 93 adult photographers entered a total of 161 images, 15 high school shutterbugs entered a total of 24 images, and 14 youth photographers — those up to eighth grade — entered 23 photos. Katie also entered a second self-portrait for consideration.
In addition to Katie’s win, Newtown was also represented in the awards circle this year by Maggie Breault. Maggie, 10, placed third in the youth division with her entry, “Rockscape.” The landscape photo is a dizzying view taken in Monument Valley, near the Four Corners in the southwest United States. Filled with horizontal shades of red, including oranges and pinks, the photo shows harsh, jagged rock edges intermingling with rounded canyon rims.
Maggie, a fourth grade student at the Academy of International Studies in Danbury, used a Nikon D40 for “Rockscape.” She used the same camera for her second entry, “Arizona Mud,” also shot in Monument Valley.
Like Katie, it was a return to the WAC awards circle for Maggie. The Sandy Hook shutterbug entered two photos last year, and earned honorable mentions for those efforts.
Other entries from Newtown were also received this year, according to Ms Wear. Paul Berger and Christopher Breault had two entries each for the show’s adult division.
“Wilton Arts Council Focus ‘14” is on exhibit through Saturday, March 29. Wilton Library is at 137 Old Ridgefield Road, in Wilton Center.
Regular hours are Monday through Thursday, 10 am to 8 pm; Friday, 10 am to 6 pm; Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm; and Sunday, 1 to 5 pm. For directions or additional information, visit www.wiltonlibrary.org or call 203-762-3950, extension 213.