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Serendipity played a major role in several of the winning entries announced at the opening reception for Focus ’19, the photo exhibition mounted each year by the Wilton Arts Council. This year’s award winners were announced Friday evening, March 2, at Wilton Library.
Taking both best of show and first place in the adult division was Jacquelyn Etling of Trumbull with her infrared photos Country Road and The Berkshires, respectively.
First place in both the high school and youth divisions were taken by Wilton students. Victoria Andrew won top honors for her photo Abandoned in the high school division. Eighth grader Amanda Prather won her first place prize for The Light at the End of a Tunnel in the youth division.
Jacquelyn Etling has been taking photos since she was 7, often traveling to Wyoming and the Southwest with her father, who was a serious amateur. She used a little 110 camera, eventually graduating to one of her father’s old Nikons when she was 12.
Etling still travels out west where she has friends but her prize-winning photos in this show were taken in the Berkshire Mountain areas of Massachusetts and Connecticut. Both photos are examples of infrared photographs she shot with a modified digital camera.
They were taken last fall, with fall and spring being the best times for infrared shots because “the light is very crisp,” she said. As she travels, “I turn the GPS off and see where I end up,” she said.
The image, with a tree in the foreground and a cornfield behind it, appealed to her because of the angle as she drove by. It has also been shown in the Mattatuck Museum’s juried member show, Mixmaster.
While not a professional, Etling considers herself a serious photographer who specializes in landscapes and art photography. She is a fan of 19th-century photography, working mostly in black and white. When not taking photos, Etling has taught art history at the college level. As the best of show winner, she will be invited back next year to act as a judge.
The West was inspiration for both Victoria Andrew and Jack Cromwell, both seniors at Wilton High School.
Victoria’s photo Abandoned is of an old couch in a deserted house. She took the photo last summer while on a National Geographic student expedition on photography that took her to Bodie, Calif., an abandoned mining town from the late 1800s. The couch was in one of the houses open to the public.
“There was a window, and the way the light was shining, it was cool, it highlighted the tear in the couch, it was so destroyed,” she said.
Victoria, who prefers shooting landscapes and wildlife, said she “really loves” photography and plans to major in it in college. This is the third time she has entered the Focus competition and the first time she has won.
Jack Cromwell shot his honorable mention photo, Where to Next, last August at Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. He was on vacation with a friend when he got his shot.
“I was sitting halfway up” a dune, he told The Bulletin, when his friend ran the rest of the way up, leaving footprints in the sand. “He’s holding a water bottle and I told him to stand still. It was like a movie, I was directing him.”
Jack shot “about 200 pictures” with his iPhone and picked this one in part because of the synergy among the sand, blue sky and white clouds.
This was Jack’s second entry into Focus. Last year, he came in third with an image of a cardinal he took in his backyard.
Amanda Prather has her dad to thank for finding the location for her award-winning shot at Steep Rock Preserve in Washington Depot, Conn.
“We were in a tunnel and it was February, all the water was frozen and there were these huge icicles,” she said, explaining how the shot came about. “My brother was messing around and he was slipping and falling, but it looked like he was dancing when I took it. I just thought it was a really cool photo. It ended up looking really good.”
Amanda, who got her shot with her iPhone 8-plus, said she often goes into New York City with her father to take pictures. “We just enjoy taking photos a lot,” she said.
This is the third year Amanda has entered Focus. She won first place when she was in sixth grade.
One of the youngest entrants was Amelia Yerenkova, a first grader at Miller-Driscoll who won third place for her photo Fish Show.
Amelia was on vacation with her family in Ukraine when she got the shot of fish in a fountain. They reminded her of her own fish at home, she said.
Amelia used “a little pink camera” her parents gave her and entered the show after she heard about it from her dad. “I wanted to come and be in the competition,” she said.
There were 181 entries submitted by 106 photographers representing 25 towns in Connecticut and New York. Of those, there were 13 entrants in the youth division and 19 entrants in the high school division. The photos will remain on display through March 29.
According to Focus ’19 chair Beth Schneider, the competition has attracted 4,400 entries over the years it has been presented. The judges this year were Joan Fitzsimmons, professor of photography at Norwalk Community College, professional photographer Daryl Hawk, and Julie Frank, last year’s best of show winner.
Along with Schneider, this year’s volunteers were Paul Berger, Raeann Bromark, Anne Djupedal Gura, Wayne M. Gura, Arlene Hazlewood, Dennis Hyde, Mitch Katz, Erik Landegren, Cristina Samo, Jean Schlesinger, Paul Wear, and Sandra Wear.
Entertaining at the reception were musicians David Arrazinni, Dennis Hyde, Martha Lind and Richard Margo.