New Paltz Teen Photo Contest winners are announced

This Marcelina Martynek work took first prize in the Open Category of the teen photo contest.

This Marcelina Martynek work took first prize in the Open Category of the teen photo contest.

Six New Paltz high school and middle school students were awarded prizes in the third annual New Paltz Teen Photo Contest at a reception April 9 hosted by the Elting Memorial Library. Local photographers G. Steve Jordan, Matt Petricone and Lauren Thomas had the unenviable task of choosing the winners among 54 entries submitted by students in Kim Sturgis’ art classes at the middle school and Judi Esmond’s photography class at the high school.

“There’s a lot of talent here,” said Thomas, noting that the three judges did not always see eye to eye. “We have different sensibilities, we like different things,” she said.


Speaking to the assembled contestants, parents, teachers, library staff and community members about the art of photography, Thomas pointed out details of a number of the entries on display on the library’s walls. “Look at these that use multiple images. A lot of work went into them, and they came out very beautiful,” Thomas said. “They make me want to make up a story in my head about what happened in the image.” Thomas praised others for the students’ experimentation with varying depths of field or for their darkroom technique.

Elting Library director John Giralico did the honors of announcing the contest winners in three categories.


Lia Kucera took first prize in the portrait category for her color digital self-portrait.

Lia Kucera took first prize in the portrait category for her color digital self-portrait that appears to be shot through a layer of moving water. Iszy Szemcsak won an honorable mention in the portrait category for Trials of the Past, a moody shot of a girl standing in front of the old Mohonk Gatehouse at dusk in winter in which only the girl’s face catches the day’s fading light.

In the landscape category, first place went to Gillian Toman’s classic profile of Skytop backed by burnt orange-and-slate-blue clouds. “This is my first year of doing this. I was inspired by the sunsets on the mountains,” said eighth-grader Toman. “It’s definitely a hobby that I want to keep up.” In fact, she has begun selling her images on merchandise such as greeting cards, available on her mother’s Etsy site.

Also in the landscape category, Danielle Schmalz was awarded honorable mention for her vertiginous photo looking up a cluster of tree trunks with a woman’s face in the foreground; it was shot with a pinhole camera.

In the third category, simply called “other,” Marcelina Martynek took first prize for a dynamic black-and-white shot of a child in midair, jumping on a bed. “She’s really motivated, this girl,” said Judi Esmond proudly of her student. Martynek had been disappointed at not being allowed to enter the winning photo in a contest sponsored by the Arts Society of Kingston, having already entered two others. “So I suggested that she enter it in this one instead, and look! It won a prize.”

Honorable mention in the category went to Lorenzo Canadilla for Childhood, a photo depicting the splash created when a baby block is thrown into a puddle.

The competing photographs were on display at the library through April 14. The winners received modest cash prizes – plus something to brag about in their résumés when applying for college admission.