Jack Simon's first-place photograph, "Kai's First Train Ride," takes some big chances and succeeds brilliantly. We don't see Kai's face, only the back of his head. What Kai sees through the window is likely of interest to him, but what we see is only a blur of shapes and color. And placing another compositional element right next to your main subject might be a distraction, but in this case it is Spider-Man, and that makes all the difference -- just as it must have for Kai.
Second-place winner Stan Chism's photograph, "Persephone Awaiting the Springtime," presents a classic subject, beautifully rendered. The delicacy of the model's pose -- how her limbs fold in toward the center -- suggests the fragility of new life about to emerge. I especially like the minimalism of this image: how just enough of the tub's edge was included to suggest an enclosure.
Toiya Black offers up a blast of summer fun in her third-place photograph, "Summertime." I loved the humor of this image: its neon colors, those enormous peepers staring at us through the goggles, the face slightly off kilter behind the symmetrical facade of the mask.
==I-- Dave Hibbard==
"Kai's First Train Ride" by Jack Simon
As a psychiatrist, Jack Simon looks at verbal and visual cues in his patients in order to expose a deeper psychological dilemma. He does not take the same approach with his photography -- at least, not consciously.
"Initially I was just interested in what was there visually," Simon says. "It's kind of the opposite of what I do in psychiatry. That's what attracted me."
In "Kai's First Train Ride," Simon was not looking to expose any deep meaning. He was simply documenting his grandson.
"What I was seeing was a charming little story playing out between these two boys and Spider-Man," Simon says, adding that he did not expect to capture his grandson's interesting -- perhaps haunting -- reflection. "My daughter isn't crazy about that photograph, actually, because of the way his face looks."
He doesn't read into the photograph or suppose any kind of hidden meaning, however.
"I don't really have an interpretation, because I was there and I know what was happening," Simon explains. The interpretation is for viewers to decide. He likes to present ambiguous and commonplace situations with his photography and let the audience do the rest.
Simon would venture that, while his pictures don't necessarily have any greater significance than what is plain to see, perhaps his photographer's mind works in concert with his professional training.
"As in psychiatry, there is a bit of the unconscious that plays a role in the pictures I take," he says. "A lot of times I may be surprised with what I've captured. Some of that is luck and some of that is perhaps something that I was unconsciously aware of when I took the picture."
Simon, who lived in Palo Alto for 40 years, is pleased to be recognized by the Palo Alto Weekly. And even though the two categories he took this year are the same two he won last year, he says that he was surprised all the same.
"It feels great," he says. "I had no idea I'd ever win a contest, period. Mostly what I'm doing is in a vacuum. Most people don't see what I do. It is a rewarding feeling."
-- Nick Veronin
"Persephone Awaiting the Springtime" by Stan Chism
"Persephone Awaiting Springtime" was inspired by a different but not separate artistic activity. I was writing a poem to commemorate a woman who was dying. She was of Norwegian descent and had raised two daughters with her husband. She was a fellow grandparent of our grandchildren. In my poem the central narrative that bound her life to her daughters to me and to our shared grandchildren was the myth of Demeter and Persephone. My realization of this primal narrative of the seasonal cycle of life through mother and daughter instantly brought to my memory my photo of the dormant maiden curled in a fetal posture. The idea of Persephone renewing the next generation and the generation of springtime was paired with the image.
"Summertime" by Toiya Black
This photo was taken at a birthday party in early summer of last year. When I saw my son, Dante, put these on, I knew I had to capture this moment, for it represented everything about summertime to me: kids, fun, innocence, color and water.
Who else to pull this look off than a 5-year-old who is more curious about how funny it would be to put these goggles on than about how good or bad he may look!