"For all those thousands of photos I took, I guess one finally paid off!”
That was Glenn Kujansuu’s reaction to winning first place in the 2004 Metro Times Photo Contest in the new category for experimental/digitally altered photography.
Metro Times holds the annual competition to provide an opportunity for amateur photographers to compete for a shot at getting published and displayed in an art gallery, this year at the Detroit Artists Market, 4719 Woodward Ave. Winners will be honored at the gallery at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, July 21 (tonight). The event is open to the public; the show will remain on display for a week. Each contest entrant will have at least one photo exhibited.
First place in black-and-white photography went to Kelly Hornfeld of Commerce Township. The top prize for color photography went to Monique Perreault of Grosse Pointe. John Wright, a grandfather from Sterling Heights, won an impressive four awards, placing in every category.
This year’s judges were John Cynar, Marilyn Zimmerman and Cybelle Codish. Cynar was just named the exhibit director at Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center and is a photographer himself; Zimmerman is a photographer who teaches the craft at Wayne State University. Codish is a frequent contributing photographer for Metro Times.
The contest gets bigger each year — more than 500 submissions were entered in 2004.
This year brings the advent of an attempt to separate “digitally-enhanced” from more traditional photography — the kind that is altered in the dark room or the equivalent thereof, but not more than that. These days, all manner of manipulation can be executed on a photo with a computer. “Photos” can be created almost without the aid of a camera. But even the earliest photographers used such equipment as flashes, umbrellas and shading devices to alter or enhance images. While the debate over what constitutes genuine photography rages on, Metro Times is glad to see that love for the genre is as strong now as it ever was.
1st place, color
Monique Perreault, 20, takes her camera everywhere. That’s not unusual for a photographer, but her camera isn’t typical. She uses a Holga, a cheap plastic camera often given to introductory film classes because it has limited settings and controls. Perreault loves the camera for the unique images it produces: sharp and clear in the center, fading and blurry toward the edges.
“It’s the biggest piece of crap,” says Perreault. “It’s plastic and falling apart and I had to tape it with a bunch of duct tape.”
While attending the School of the Visual Arts in New York City, Perreault says her classmates often scoffed at her battered, low-tech device.
Her winning photo depicts her boyfriend in the underwater walkway of the polar bear exhibit at the Detroit Zoo.
“I was really surprised I won … I’ve gotten so much flack at school for shooting with that camera, and so much negative feedback, but this [contest] was the first time I went out of my immediate community at school,” she says.
1st place, experimental/digitally altered
Glenn Kujansuu, who earned an honorable mention in last year’s contest, is quite the prolific photographer. He claims to have a catalog of more than 30,000 photos, both digital and film.
Making his living at a technology training company in Troy, Kujansuu admits photography is an “avid hobby.” His winning image portrays a dilapidated trolley car on Washington Boulevard. He used digital manipulation to sharpen the image, making it crisp and bright. He says he liked the new category.
Digital manipulation “is something you couldn’t have done in the darkroom a few years ago,” he says.
What about photographers who pooh-pooh digital alterations?
“It’s an elitist, purist attitude that takes that point of view,” says Kujansuu. “All art is manipulation, from brush-stroke techniques to an artist’s particular methodology.”
1st place, black and white
Last year, Kelly Hornfeld lost her grandfather. At the time, she was working on a series of family portraits and decided to try to capture her feelings of loss through her photography. In the winning photo, Hornfeld is the young woman on the right and her grandmother is seated. The violin on the wall belonged to her grandfather and the photo on the table (the only item Hornfeld deliberately put in place for the shoot) is her grandparents’ wedding photo.
“They’re kind of like documentaries,” says Hornfeld of her recent work. “They’re somewhat staged but often spontaneous as well. Basically this is a way for me to connect with and explore the relationships with my family.”
Hornfeld recently graduated from MSU with a degree in studio art and hopes to pursue photography as a career.
When John Wright was informed that he’d won in every contest category (though no first places), he mildly replied, “That’s great,” but declined to be interviewed because he was taking his grandkids to the zoo.
Wright kindly called back later. The 63-year-old says he first picked up photography when he was in the U.S. Air Force stationed in Pakistan in 1961. He bought a 35mm camera and took a trip into the Himalayas with some buddies to shoot landscapes.
“That’s how I started and I’ve been shooting ever since,” he says. “Now, I’m more into street photography and social documentary type work.”
For 30 years, Wright worked for a printing company and has been pursuing photography since retiring in 1995.
“It kind of freaked me out, being able to do what I wanted to do, finally,” he says.
Now he’s aiming for a first place. “I wonder what I’m going to have to do next year,” he says with a laugh.