All Around the World: Dana’s International Photo Competition

This past month Dana students may have noticed something different about the board in the Student Affairs hallway; it has been plastered with many photos depicting all sorts of exotic and beautiful scenes. These photos were the finalists in Ms. McQuillan’s international photo competition. Students, teachers, and faculty recently had the chance to vote on these photos to decide which was the best overall, had the best sense of place, the best landscape, and which was most expressive/poetic. Although all the photos were different in subject and aesthetic quality, they had one thing in common: they were from foreign countries around the world. These submissions are of anything taken outside of the United States that express something of a culture; that perhaps celebrate or shed light on something unique to a place that is foreign to us, explains photography teacher Ms. McQuillan.

The competition ushered nearly 90 submissions, 70 from our student body and the rest from Dana’s faculty. Of those submissions, 25 were selected by Ms. McQuillan as the finalists to be voted on by the entire school. Elements critiqued in the photos included lighting, framing, point of view, composition, interesting subject matter, detail, ideas, and beauty. The anonymity of the photographers enabled everyone to vote solely based on the quality of the photo, and added an element of surprise to the announcement of the winners. As beautiful as the pictures themselves were, so were the stories behind each photograph and the memories that they elicit for the photographer.

Sherry Shen’s photo, which won for best overall photo, was taken while she was home in China and visiting Suzhou, a small city outside of Shanghai. “I didn’t plan to go there [the tea house] but it was raining, my family and I had to find shelter from the rain so we went into a tea house. I started taking pictures of the things around me and that’s when I took the picture of the roof of the tea house,” says Shen ‘13. Shen captured the traditional bamboo rooftop as rain trickled down it onto the ground. Shen submitted her piece because it allowed her present her work from her independent study in the class, Photography III, and it allowed Shen to combine her interest in photography and her background as an international student into the competition. “Instead of making a speech or writing something down, photography is the best way for me to express myself,” says Shen. Shen also recognized that by participating in the competition she was able to, “bring a piece of [her] culture to Dana to share with everyone.” Shen’s photo is more than just a rooftop to her; “I believe my photo could reveal my identity as an international student who is willing to share her culture with the Dana community.”

As a way to share her home life in the country of Rwanda, Claudine Humure ‘13 submitted a photograph of a Rwandan open market; a place she loves to go to and reminds her of home. The shop Humure captured in her photo is one that is filled with piles toys stacked high on shelves and on top of one another. In the bottom left corner we can see the back of a young boy carrying a backpack, he seems to be contemplating which game or toy to purchase, since there is quite the selection. The photo won best sense of place and holds great importance to Humure because, “there aren’t any open markets that I’ve seen here in America.” For Humure, this photograph serves as a way to bring a piece of her home back to America and Dana.

Taken in the rural country of Tanzania, Maddy Dickey’s photo portrays the endless, yellow, grasslands of the Ngorongoro crater. Lying gracefully in the center of the photo is Dickey’s subject, a majestic lion staring out at the tall grass. “I had never seen a lion before, so I took advantage of this wonderful opportunity to document my experience and the beauty of the lion,” says Dickey ‘14. Dickey explained that she had been in Tanzania on a community service trip this past summer; one of the activities was a safari that led her to see the diverse wildlife of Africa, such as zebras, flamingos, and wildebeests. “The only reason the lion is alone–lions usually travel in prides– is because he was hurt and had been abandoned,” says Dickey. Dickey further explained that when taking a closer look at the lion she could see “he had scratches on him and looked weak and tired.” Dickey, a student of Ms. McQuillan’s, who has learned a lot about the mechanics of photography, was completely unprepared for this photograph; She had too many photos and no memory left on her camera frantically, she erased her duplicates. “Considering the pressure I was under with time in taking the picture, I’m actually quite surprised I was able to take such a sharp and thoughtful picture,” says Dickey. Dickey’s photo won for best landscape.

One twist to the photo competition was the opportunity teachers were given to submit their photos. Because of this, Ms. Rich was able to receive her award for most expressive photo. “I submitted the photograph because it tells a story,” explains Ms. Rich. Last August, Ms. Rich traveled to China and Hong Kong with her camera by her side. The photo was “taken in Shanghai at a funeral service. The service was held by the family in the courtyard of a Buddhist temple.” Ms. Rich spotted her subject while preparing to enter the temple for a tea ceremony. Depicted is an elderly Asian women, her eyes closed, as if she praying; she is also holding incense in front of her, a practice typical of a Buddhist funeral service. Ms. Rich has been taking photographs for the past twenty-five years and believes that, “the arts should play a big role in all of our lives…they help you see the world more precisely and accurately.”

Every submission to the competition has a story and a meaning to the photographer and to the people who pass by them daily. “The modest exhibit is a way to both celebrate the countries of our own international students, and also to share the pictures taken outside the United States by those lucky travelers amongst us,” says Ms. McQuillan. This photo competition enabled the international community to share their homes and cultures and it also allowed students from America to explore the world around them and share their findings with the Dana community.

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