Wilton students excel at Focus ’18

In a photography competition that had more entries than ever before, Wilton students excelled in the youth division of Focus ’18,  a division that international photographer and Focus judge Daryl Hawk said was “by far the strongest he’d ever seen.”

The show, presented by the Wilton Arts Council, is on display now at Wilton Library through March 29. It was organized by co-chairs Anne Djupedal Gura and Beth Schneider and features 233 photos from 142 photographers from 30 cities and towns in Connecticut and New York. Many of the photos are for sale.

Along with Hawk, judges for the show were photojournalist Larry Untermeyer and last year’s best of show winner Sandy Gennrich. They chose Norwalk photographer Julie Frank’s entry Glow as best of show.

Wilton photographers included Jack Cromwell, who took third place in the high school division, and youth entrants Aidan Thornbrough, who took first and third place, Erin Cromwell, who took second place, and honorable mention winners Fiona Conway, Ronan Conway, Nate DeFeo, and Meredith Mobyed.

Glow, entered by Frank, who was not at the awards ceremony on March 9, was a nearly life-size portrait of a light gray horse. Hawk said it had that “wow” factor the judges look for.

“It’s an extraordinary photo,” Untermeyer said. “ It looks like it’s going to come right at us.”

Hawk said the combination of color and lighting — with the background on both sides of the horse in total darkness — is what made the photo special.

“This more than any other photo had the wow factor judges look for,” he said.

But that was not intended to take away from the other entries. Untermeyer added that there were many photos he would have like to award ribbons to.

Also impressive were entries in the youth division, particularly Aidan Thornbrough’s first-place entry, Self-Portrait. The Middlebrook eighth grader said he came up with the idea for the photo and then set about executing it. “I like having an idea in mind and executing it rather than just seeing it,” he explained.

“I was going for an out-of-focus background,” he said, “and splashed water on the shower door.” The photo is of himself looking through those droplets, a shot he achieved by firing the camera remotely.

“This photo grabbed us immediately,” Hawk said. “It is so sophisticated. … It’s one of the best shots in the show. He sees things the way most people never see them.”

The photo took fourth place in the state PTA Reflections Art competition.

Taking second place in the youth division was Erin Cromwell, also an eighth grader at Middlebrook, who entered the competition for the first time. Her photo Naptime, of her cat yawning, was a serendipitous event.

Erin, who takes lots of photos of her cat Daisy, saw the animal napping on her mother’s bed and so she began snapping away with her smartphone. She snapped as Daisy was yawning, which Hawk described as “just fantastic.”

“She caught the cat with its tongue sticking out — it gets a reaction,” he said.

Erin’s brother Jack, a junior at Wilton High School, is also an avid photographer, although he specializes in birds and natural landscapes. His shot, Majesty, was of a cardinal in the snow. The bird’s red plumage dominates the snowy background.

“I love photography,” he said, adding he’s taken classes at Silvermine. One of his favorite places to shoot is his back yard, although he admitted to taking as many as 5,000 photos on a vacation. He plans to fulfill a future college arts requirement with photography and expects to pursue it as a hobby far into the future.

Hawk also wanted to point out a photo from the adult division that received honorable mention — Night in London by Maritza Garzón of Norwalk — as an example of a successful photo taken by someone who does not consider herself a photographer.

“It’s driven by color, light and composition,” he said of the photo of a woman walking toward Big Ben in the rain with a Union Jack umbrella.

“This is an example of someone who has an eye,” he said. “It doesn’t matter your equipment if you can see the shot. In my eyes, this had all the elements she was looking for.”

The complete list of winners:

Best of Show: Julie Frank of Norwalk for Glow.
Adult Division: first place to Rick Bannerot of Norwalk for “Havana Trompe – L’oeil;” second place to Anthony Festa of New Canaan for “Goblin Valley Moonset;” third place to Maritza Garzón of Norwalk, for “Sunset in Santorini;” fourth place to Robert Sachs of Norwalk for “Festival Allepey, India;” and fifth place to Matthew Collen of Milford for “Ocean City Pier.”
Honorable mention awards: Patricia Benham of Stratford for “Street Magician;” Lisa Berger of Newtown for “Malfunction Junction;” Maritza Garzón of Norwalk for “Night in London” and Erik Landegren of Bridgewater for “Sushi.”
High School Division: first place to Connor Golden of Weston, for “Horseman;” second place to Hannah Hirsch of Chappaqua, NY for “Polluted Democracy;” third place to Jack Cromwell of Wilton for “Majesty;” and honorable mentions to Brody Menzies of Mt. Kisco, NY for “Toledo” and Thomas Bogaev of Weston, CT for “Night Ride” and Native Man”.
Youth Division (old enough to hold a camera through eighth grade): first and third place to Aidan Thornbrough for “Self-Portrait” and “Exhale,” respectively; second place to Erin Cromwell for “Naptime;” and honorable mentions to Fiona Conway for “Seven;” Ronan Conway for “Disturbing Sights;” Nate DeFeo for “NYC Rooftop at Night;” and Meredith Mobyed for “South for the Winter.”