Show puts photos in 'Focus'

Friday the 13th was nothing but good vibes for Fairfield County photographers as the Wilton Arts Council pulled the wraps off Focus ’15, its annual photography exhibition at Wilton Library.
Three Wilton students were among those who got a taste of celebrity that night as their photos were singled out as the best of the high school division for the crowd of well-wishers at the opening reception.
“It’s cool to see people looking at your photos,” said Isabelle Stone, whose photo Thalassophile received an honorable mention.
Isabella Jones agreed. “It makes me really happy to see all these people looking.” She also received an honorable mention for her entry, WaterFall. Both girls are students at Wilton High School, Isabella a sophomore and Isabelle a freshman.
They were among the 110 professional, amateur, student, and youth photographers who entered 186 photos in the annual event that was judged by Daryl Hawk, Sandy Gennrich and Sooo-Z Mastropietro.
Best of Show was awarded to Steve Barnes of West Haven, whose photo The Thief was a large print of a squirrel coming down a tree, appearing to look right into the camera.
Adult division winners were:

  • First place, Dave Pressler of Shelton, Charred Landscape.

  • Second place, Annalisa Harding of Westport, Angel’s Wings.

  • Third place, Ronald A. Lake of Stamford, Antarctica.

  • Fourth place, Ronald A. Lake of Stamford , The Long Haul Home — Massai Women.

  • Fifth place, Emily Kelting of New Canaan, Up, Up and Away.

Winning honorable mention were Vincent Balzano of Wilton, Susanne Brandt of Stamford, Robert Marsala of Waterbury, Matthew Collen of Milford, and David Kalman of Westport.
In the high school division, Bianca Socci of Wilton took first and second place with her photos City Life and Nightmare, respectively. Third place was awarded to Perry J. Seelert, also of Wilton, for Woman From Quispicanchi, Peru. Joining Isabelle and Isabella with an honorable mention was Daniel Bogaev of Weston for his photo Civilizations. His was a shot of the city of Athens taken through a hole in the Acropolis wall high above the city.

In the Len Freas Youth Awards division, first place was taken by Alexandra Avila of Westport for My Little Pony, second place went to Maggie Breault of Sandy Hook for Bridge, and third place was awarded to Nicole Van Pelt of Wilton for 1 & 1/2, a photo of one and one-half pears. Earning honorable mentions were Tim Landis of New Canaan for Bad Balance and Henri Connors of Wilton for Bronx Zoo Rodent.
Mr. Hawk, an international photographer from Wilton, has judged the competition for many years and said, “My first reaction is that creativity was pushed further to an extreme than ever before.
“The whole level of work continually gets better and better,” which he attributed to “a universal passion for photography. People are putting more energy and thought into what they are shooting.”
Many entries had the right combination of composition, light and subject matter that produces a “wow factor,” he said. “That’s what makes this contest so exciting.” He added the entrants should be proud “just to be on the wall.”

Bianca Socci’s winning photo in the high school division was an infrared photo she took with a camera borrowed from her teacher. “I was at school with a friend,” she said Friday evening. “It just happened by accident.” City Life is a series of shots taken at a Manhattan bus stop that she combined in Photoshop.
A senior at Wilton High, Bianca said she is thinking of studying graphic design in college, but added, “I’ve always loved taking photos” since taking her first picture as a sophomore.
Mr. Hawk said many of the entries in the high school division “were on the same level as professionals in so many ways.”
Isabella’s photo was the result of a serendipitous event. “I was in the car driving down the road with my parents. I told them to stop immediately.” The scene, she said, “stood out to me. You can see the grass and reflection of the trees in the lake.” The location is in South Kingston, R.I., at the peak of fall.
Isabella said she’s been taking photos since fifth grade. “It’s been a passion ever since. … I bring a camera everywhere.”
Isabelle’s shot also was not planned. She was on her way to a photo shoot with a friend and she just snapped this picture of her before they went.
“I like the blue in her eyes and the blue on the wall behind her,” she said, adding that it was nicer then what she had planned.
Isabelle said she shoots mostly portraits and “that’s all I ever do on weekends. I think it’s cool expressing an emotion through one picture.”
A freshman at Wilton High School, she said her award was “an honor.”

Adult division

As for the adults, Mr. Hawk said David Pressler of Shelton is “one of the most talented, innovative and creative photographers I know.”
His winning entry, Charred Landscape, is not a landscape anyone would see outdoors. He painted an image with ground graphite and India ink on transparent 35 mm colorless film and then photographed it with a macro-lens on a light table, backlighting the image.
“It is a photo of a symbolic landscape,” he said, “so it is innovative and unexpected.”
He said his intention is to encourage people to “learn to look in order to see. If you open your eyes and look at the small things, you’ll be amazed at what you can see.”
This is the 17th annual photography exhibition presented by the Wilton Arts Council. Sponsors were Alice Snyder Real Estate, Beardsley Framing, Milford Photo, Photographic Solutions, and Rockwell Art & Framing. Musical entertainment at the opening reception was provided by Martha Lind, Charlie Williams and Dennis Hyde.
The show will be up through March 28 at Wilton Library on Old Ridgefield Road.