Photo Realists

Contest participants join together at the Plainview-Old Bethpage Library.
Contest participants join together at the Plainview-Old Bethpage Library.

Students shine in library contest

Every year, the Plainview-Old Bethpage Library allows shutterbugs of Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy (POBJFK) High School the opportunity to show off their talents in a big way by means of an annual photography contest, with the participants’ work currently hung in the library’s lobby for the entire community to enjoy.

Friends of the Plainview-Old Bethpage Library member Jamie Stockhamer said that she founded the photography contest 18 years ago as a way of getting high school kids involved in their local library.

Plainview library recently held its annual photography contest.
Plainview library recently held its annual photography contest.

“I wanted to make a connection between the Friends of the Library and high school students, to get them aware of the library and to come in and see all that it has to offer the community,” she said. “So I thought the photo contest was a good way to get the art students in and it’s really worked well over the years.”

Carol Meschkow, Friends of the Plainview-Old Bethpage Library president, said that as photography has evolved over the years—from slaving over individual images with development chemicals in a dark room to editing digital photos on a computer—so too has the photography contest evolved to accommodate the ever-shifting artistic palettes of the high school’s art students.

Plainview 10th-grader Aaron Waltzer with his winning entry (top photo)
Plainview 10th-grader Aaron Waltzer with his winning entry (top photo)

“A lot of the work that the students were doing in the darkroom faded and now they’re very excited about the work they can do with graphics on the computer,” she said. “A lot of the students think film is very old-fashioned, but we still have several excellent entries with students using film. Black and white film especially is still quite popular with some of the photography and art students.”

There were numerous categories for the students to compete in, including film, digital and computer graphics, and the contest was coordinated with POBJFK art teacher Karen Smith, who has been involved with the event for its entire 18-year run. Multiple winners in each category were crowned at a ceremony held in the library’s auditorium, attended by the participants’ friends and families, but according to Meschkow, everyone involved was a winner in their own right.

“This year we’ve had over 140 entries, grades nine through 12, and what’s a very interesting is that they were juried before they came to us,” she said. “Their teachers have already narrowed down the initial entries so that every single child in our contest has already been singled out for their achievements in their own way. It’s a very rigorous process and our own judges decide the final winners and that’s when we give out our prizes and certificates.”

Plainview 12th-grader Evan Peskoff with his winning entry (top photo)
Plainview 12th-grader Evan Peskoff with his winning entry (top photo)

One of the winners was 10th grader Aaron Waltzer, whose second-place finish in the Darkroom Beginner category was based on a stunning black-and-white film photograph of a squirrel under a tree. Waltzer noted that he enjoyed the challenges of working with film over what he called the “easier” route of digital.

“It’s an art. It’s easier to do digital. In our class when you have to do a film project, we have to do four prints of film, but in digital you have to do 10. There’s more because it’s much easier to do in digital,” he said. “Fifteen years from now film is going to be some vague art that no one will probably know how to do and that’s a shame because film can be quite beautiful. [It] allows for happy little accidents that can improve a picture in ways you didn’t expect.”

Senior Evan Peskoff earned himself an honorable mention in the Computer Graphics Advanced category for his striking self-portrait that he extensively enhanced using Adobe Photoshop.

“This is my third year working with computer graphics. I took a picture of myself and superimposed it over a picture I took when my family and I visited the Alps last summer,” he said. “I adjusted the contrast and color scheme of the background and added lightning in PhotoShop. I really enjoy photography, but what I really want to do when I get older is learn how to design and make video games. I really had a lot of fun and participating in the photography contest.”

The participants are getting to enjoy their time in the spotlight, as all entries in the contest are hung up in the library’s lobby gallery—thanks to an extensive new picture-hanging set-up provided by the Friends of the Library—for the next several weeks, according to Meschkow. Sharing the art of Plainview’s youth with the community is all a part of what makes Plainview so very close-knit, she said.

“One of the things we’ve always thought was nice is that the library is the hub of the community and not everybody gets over to the high school to see the exhibits. By bringing this event to the library, the entire public can enjoy it,” she said. “It’s intergenerational. We have the student winners, their friends, their parents and their grandparents, all coming together here for the sake of art. Anything that’s significant is joyous and needs to be celebrated in a big way, because life has a lot of things that are not joyous and we’re so proud to be able to exhibit these pictures here so everybody in the community gets to enjoy them.”

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Chris Boyle is a reporter with Anton Media Group.

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