With the advent of digital photography has come the rapid democratization of the art form. Over the course of a decade or so, photography has been transformed in terms of accessibility and creation. Cameras are now ubiquitous — almost everybody has one in some form, from digital SLR to camera phone. At no other moment in history have people been able to so readily capture what's in front of them.
This year, Creative Loafing partnered with Atlanta Celebrates Photography for its My Atlanta exhibit, a pushpin show open to everyone and anyone in the metro area. 2010 was a record-setting year for the annual exhibit, tallying 713 photographs now on display at the Piedmont Park Community Center. CL's A&E Editor Debbie Michaud, Arts Columnist/Critic Cinqué Hicks, and Photo Assistant Tara-Lynne Pixley judged the hundreds of photos in 16 categories. This photo essay brings together a selection of the winners (an 8-year-old scored the Critics Choice award!) and some of our other favorites (check out the cover shot) that particularly captured the spirit of Atlanta, along with the heartfelt words of the artists.
This is a self-portrait of [me] and [my] brother Rick playing on our driveway. It was a self-timer shot while [I] arranged everything, including drawing the stair steps on the driveway. [My] photo makes [me] feel very close to [my] true feeling.
— Adam Shi, 8, Duluth
Winner: Critics Choice AND First Place 12 & under
"The Old Truck," 2010
I took this digital photo last month in Belfast, Maine. The truck is very old and in poor condition, but it was very interesting. The image looks "strange" because it's a High Dynamic Range (HDR) photo. These photos allow the viewer to see the bright and the dark areas of the image. This type of photography is new to me so I was ready to experiment, and I am happy with the results.
— Luis Pita, 68, Tucker
Winner: Third Place, Seniors
In my photography class at Paideia School my teacher, Holly White, asked us to document our day. This day I was with a couple of friends and my father asked us to take trash to the dumpster. My friend Robert was throwing the garbage into the dumpster when I imagined this scene in black and white. It looked really nice so I got out my camera and snapped a couple shots. I like the contrast between Robert and the dumpster. Almost complete opposites in black and white. Also I like how it takes you a while to figure out what he is doing. Like my photography teacher said, it almost looks like he could be jumping into a train car.
— Jack Duncan, 15, Atlanta
"Stoplights on a Cloudy Day," 2010
My photograph was inspired by the journey on my way to work. I almost reached my destination, and I noticed a stoplight, which happened to have a nice contrast with the clouds. Not only did the stoplight and the clouds have a nice visual contrast, but also a metaphorical contrast between the nature and the material world. I pulled out my camera and I decided to take a snapshot. After I developed this photograph, I came to the realization that this was possibly one of the best photographs I had ever taken in my life.
— Shahir Anwar, 17, Clarkston
"Santuario de Chimayó, New Mexico," 2006
The photo was taken at the Catholic religious shrine in the town of Chimayó in New Mexico, where pilgrims come to pray, much as they do in Mexico, to the Virgin of Guadalupe. I was trying to capture the essence of the shrine and pay tribute to the gorgeous colors and folk art spirit.
I like the colors and the detail of the ornaments, including the shoes. I love vibrant colors — they always make me feel more alive. [I do photography] to capture the essence of an experience or memory in its most distilled form as an image. I used to write poetry, and find that photography is similar to poetry in its search for the most concise expression.
— Marla Puziss, 54, Hapeville
Winner: First place, Adults
This has always been one of my favorite [photographs] because of its contrast and the feeling that the photograph gives off. The empty black space in the top left corner has always been one of my favorite parts of the picture because if that was lit up instead I would think completely different of the photograph. The black helps to portray the emptiness and loneliness of the subjects. I wanted the photograph to have a haunting yet gentle feeling to it and also wanted it to come off as if the two subjects were waiting for something, you just don't know what they are waiting for.
— Paula Harding, 18, Atlanta
Winner: Best use of black and white
"Sun Hair," 2010
I was on a boat with my friends when I took the photo, and I had to sit down on the ground because there wasn't any room on the seats, and it ended up being the coolest angle to get my best friend's hair blowing in the wind of the boat with the sun behind it. I took a bunch of them and the one I entered was my favorite. I thought it looked amazing how wild her hair was and it was the most perfect cloudy day.
— Julie Rodriguez, 16, Alpharetta
Winner: Second place, Teens
"Yellow Votes Red Or Blue," 2008
I had only seconds to shoot [the photo] before the county staff would be back to shuffle us off to the next room to wait to vote. I was thinking that all the individuals probably would not hold up their voting cards, but I got lucky because only a couple of people did not. Everyone seemed so happy to be voting that day although we had waited and waited in line for at least an hour to cast our votes in the 2008 election before we got to this last wait station and we finally had a chance to sit. Their responding to my unplanned request to raise their cards for a photograph resulted in me having some unexpected fun. But seeing all the smiles I photographed conveyed that they enjoyed [it] as well. I do photography because I still get that rush or charge when I capture something I already had in mind and it actually turns out better than I had envisioned.
— Jacquelyn Foster-Rice, "Baby Boomer," Atlanta
Winner: Second place, Adults
"Nile Fisherman," 2008
The photo was taken while my wife and I were taking a tour of Egypt in 2008. We had just completed touring Kitchener's Garden on an island in the Nile at Aswan and while waiting on the dock for our boat I noticed several Egyptians working on their boats. The subject of the photo was repairing some netting and I was taken with how much he looked like Sean Connery. I snapped off one quick candid shot and it seems all the parameters just fell in place.
I was very pleased with this photo due to the clarity and color composition and also with the strength of character portrayed in the lines of the fellow's tanned face. I won first place in the West Cobb Senior Center Camera Club with this photo this past January and therefore selected it for entry in the Atlanta Celebrates Photography exhibition. I only became actively interested in photography since digital cameras came on the scene and am enjoying the art tremendously.
— Jim Rooks, 71, Acworth
Winner: First place, Seniors
"Las Palmeras," 2010
I was in my neighborhood, thinking about what I could photograph that would illustrate what Midtown is to me. I think the photograph shows in an almost abstract way, the simplicity of the place. It is not a soft image, but it conveys the feeling of the neighborhood; it is a picture that shows such a different side of Atlanta.
This photograph gives me a sense of timelessness. The subject could easily be from another time, another culture. This feeling of anonymity makes me want to leave behind the where and when and focus on what's in the picture.
I love photography because it is a means of showing things exactly as they are, through a creative image. A photograph always picks up the image that is in front of the lens, and it is up to the photographer to make it a picture worth taking. This photo, in my mind, really fits with the theme "My Atlanta." It is a representation of a part of where I live, and where I have grown up.
— Meg Harlan, 16, Atlanta
"Crying Silence," 2010
I took these photos for an art project at school [and I was thinking] I hope I get an A. They really make you think. You never really grow up.
— Susannah Bakke, 12, Atlanta
Winner: Second place, 12 & under
"Old Silver Moon Barber Shop," 2006
[I thought] the older men and the sign claiming the age of the barber shop complemented one other — enhancing the shop's claim of being the oldest one in the city. I also was thinking I needed to take the shot quickly — since it was to be a photojournalism type of shot - and I wanted to get the sign, the men, and the red and white barber pole in the photo before the men moved on down the street.
— Jacquelyn Foster-Rice, "Baby Boomer," Atlanta
Winner: Third Place, Adults
"Three Shadows on a Barn Door," 2010
This photograph is of a barn that my grandfather built in Dadeville, Ala. My grandparents recently bought the property in Alabama and decided to have a small farm. My mom will one day take over and inherit the land, which is one of her greatest dreams in life.
When I took the picture, it was just a typical day at the farm with my entire family. Whenever I go to the farm I am sure to have my camera in hand to capture moments that I cherish and will never forget. ... That day was a cloudy spring day, and we all woke up early to work before the expected rain came. My dad, grandfather, and my uncle were all hard at work building the first barn door. They had spent many hours working on the best way to build it, and the picture was taken right after they had finally hung the finished product. We all stood back to admire the new addition, and I noticed the three shadows were of the three men who had to have been the most proud. That was their pride and sense of accomplishment showing on the door.
To me, photography is an outlet. Seeing things through a camera lens is different from seeing it in person because certain objects and places make you have certain emotions and feelings. When you remember something, you think of the way it made you feel, maybe the way it smelled, the atmosphere of it all, etc. My biggest challenge in photography is trying to really capture the reality and the memory for what it is. I think that in this picture I was really able to do that.
— Meredith Campis, 16, Atlanta
"Fly Away," 2010
[When I took the photo] I was thinking how I wish I could grow wings and fly. I like the photograph because it shows my favorite color blue. It makes me feel very peaceful and calm. I take photographs because it's fun to capture moments. I chose this one [for the exhibition] because I didn't want to keep such a great picture to myself.
— Arielle Sterrett, 11, Acworth
Winner: Third place, 12 & under
When I was taking the photograph I was thinking about using my camera right! This was my first roll of film, let alone first time using a film camera. I was nervous. I was focusing on using my aperture right and shutter speed. I planned her outfit, searching through my mom's closet, looking for the most textured fabric I could find. When I rolled my film and developed it and pictures appeared, I became hooked on film photography.
I like the contrast from the rustic gas tank to the white fabric dress. I also love the hand in the photograph. When I was taking the picture, I kept asking my model to move her hand so I could see her palm more. It paid off. The image makes you curious about the subject because the figure is cut off.
I have always had an obsession with cameras and pictures. When I was little and my parents let me use a camera, I would take loads and loads of pictures. I love to look through the camera and capture images in my own creative way. Film is new to me, but I am already hooked. It is also a challenge because I only have 36 photos to take at one time, so more thought is put into each click of my camera.
— Lindsay Rohrer, 16, Duluth
Winner: First place, Teens
I have an attraction to blue skies in photographs and I am very sensitive to color against it; everything seems to pop. Along with that, I am fascinated by images that show the polarity between nature and man-made objects. McDonalds is such an iconic symbol; by showing a portion, people still visualize the rest of the sign and create their own narrative based on past experiences, even my 4-year-old niece, Sarah, said, "Why did you take a picture of the McDonalds sign?"
I love color in photography. When I see a color photograph and the colors play well against each other everything begins to makes sense. It is as if there is something greater and more universal going on in the world. That might sound contrived, but sometimes you need that in life. I always want to show the sky as the overarching symbol in any image because the sky is nature and wherever you are in the world, you are still reminded of that fact; you are still in nature.
My professor at Parsons said that my work has an "aesthetic of the bad" quality; this put a smile on my face. I love horror and science fiction films from the '80s with their use of color. It was vivid and beautiful: the silent dialogue within the narrative. I try to bring an ambiguous narrative within my work, with color and composition, for the viewer, I think this keeps the imagination alive and the rest just falls into place.
— P. Seth Thompson, 31, Fayetteville
Winner: Best use of color
"In a Pig's Eye," 2010
Big Pig was captured on a day trip to a petting zoo near Chattanooga, Tenn., in the early spring. This particular pig was trying to sleep and more than a little grumpy about my attempts to keep him awake. The most difficult part was to catch him with his eye open long enough for an exposure.
My favorite photographs are my macros concentrating on the little details of nature that make it exciting. With animals this almost always seems to lead to their eyes; they can be so filled with life and expression. As I provoked the animal to get the photograph, I was worried that this enormous hog would finally rise to its feet and that I would have to run and my concentration was constantly interrupted by toy goats chewing on my clothes and equipment.
I like the photograph because it has the effect of an old German engraving. Part of the appeal of photography to me is that the digital process has made it affordable for everyone and so it opens many more windows than when the expense of film limited its practice. It's a wonderful hobby that never stops growing. I chose to submit this photograph because it is one of my all-time favorites and has received many compliments from my friends. I have only been taking photos for four years so I am still a child in this hobby.
— Carole Freeman, 70, Kennesaw
Winner: Second place, Seniors
"A Woman and Child Sitting in Little 5," 2010
I wasn't really thinking about anything, I just decided to take their picture. They didn't pose or anything - it just happened to come out nice. My teacher said it had a very '70s feel to it. I personally like the expressions on both their faces, the woman looks kind of uncomfortable and is trying to force a smile, and the baby is just surprised and confused.
I'm a senior at Paideia high school and this is my first year doing photography. I had always taken art classes but the last year I was getting a little bit bored with drawing and painting. My art teacher noticed this, I guess, and recommended I take photography. I felt photography would be a nice break from what I had been doing for the past years and so far I have really enjoyed it.
— Jack Chapel, 17, Atlanta
"A Boy From Little 5," 2010
I thought it was interesting how he probably was no older than 10 or 11 and he is wearing this stylish outfit that made him look like a little hip-hop artist. He kind of reminded me of Kid Cudi. When I asked if I could take some pictures of him he started doing all these poses: He gave me the peace sign, he did a salute kind of thing, he leaned back and crossed his arms, and he posed like he was holding a gun, holding it sideways like some gangster. I just thought it was funny how there was this little kid who looked and posed just like any rapper you might see on TV or something. It just shows how much celebrities influence kids and all people really.
— Jack Chapel, 17, Atlanta
Viewers Choice award