Palo Alto Weekly

Cover Story - June 4, 2010

Here's looking at you

2010 Photo Contest winners celebrate the beauty of life — both at home and abroad

by Karla Kane

Peninsula photographers have sharp eyes. And when they cast their sights on the world around them, focusing their camera lenses on slices of life and scenery that captured their attention, they captured our judges' as well. From San Francisco's Chinatown to Italy's Venice, from Palo Alto to Paris, the winning 2010 Palo Alto Weekly Photo Contest images showcase people and places with visual aplomb.

Weekly staff photographer Veronica Weber, local landscape photographers David Hibbard and Angela Buenning Filo, and Stanford photography teacher Brigitte Carnochan once again served as our panel of expert judges, selecting their favorites out of the many high-quality submissions.

The award-winning photographers will be honored at an opening reception on Tuesday, June 8, 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Palo Alto Art Center, 1313 Newell Road. The exhibit will be shown in the Queene Amirian Meeting Room at the Art Center from June 8 to June 20.

In recognition of their artistry, first-place adult winners received $250 cash, a $100 gift certificate to University Art and a one-year membership to the Palo Alto Art Center. Second-place adult winners received $200 and a $100 gift certificate to Jungle Digital. Third-place winners received $100 and a $100 gift certificate to Bear Images.

Youth first-place winners received $100. Second-place youth winners received a $50 gift certificate to University Art, and third-place youth winners received a $25 gift certificate to University Art.

Peninsula Images (Adult)

Judge's comments

The winning Peninsula Images are a varied lot this year: an imaginative laundry shot — so difficult to achieve; a beautifully lit mushroom still life; an idyllic figure resting in solitary splendor; a joyous black dog, his carefree gallop reflected on the glistening beach; and a mysterious oak portal (could it be an entrance to Alice's Wonderland?). Each image tells us something different about the photographer who made it. But what all five photographers share is a heightened sensitivity to and appreciation of the power of light to make an image unforgettable. We know and love the Peninsula on which we live, and we can be grateful to these five excellent photographers for showing us their own special views.

First place

Private Lives

Brant Wenegrat

Palo-Alto native Brant Wenegrat is interested in people, especially the inner worlds and private moments normally hidden from view.

While snapping pictures in San Francisco's Chinatown, his eye fixed on underwear hanging to dry in a third-floor window.

"It kind of was a little peek into their private lives," he said — hence the title of his winning entry in this year's contest.

On monthly strolls with his camera, Wenegrat focuses on details that tell a deeper story. He has a series highlighting tattoos, including a portrait that earned an honorable mention this year.

"My attention tends to be drawn to things that are emotionally interesting in some way," he said. "I've never been able to interest myself in taking landscapes ... things that don't have people or something about people in them."

Wenegrat probes psyches in his day job, as well. He is a psychiatrist in private practice and taught at Stanford University.

"People talk to you and are revealing in a way that is fascinating," he said.

Wenegrat intensified his photography hobby about the same time he entered private practice seven years ago, after dabbling for years. He once had a darkroom in a backyard shed but sticks to digital today; he enjoys editing photos even more than taking them.

"I'm what's called a Photoshop abuser," he said. In his winning image, he used a cropping tool to correct perspective.

Despite a long-held interest, Wenegrat never studied photography.

"To call me a photographer would really be a misuse of the term," he said. "I simply point the camera at things that seem interesting to me."

Wenegrat finds that taking pictures is therapeutic.

"Just the process of having a camera, looking for things to shoot, makes you attentive. ... I see it almost as a funny kind of exercise in mindfulness."

His photos have earned mixed reactions — one person called them "compelling and repugnant."

"That was my best review," he said.

Wenegrat has a loyal fan in his wife, who entered him into the contest and does not mind hanging his pictures around the house.

"My wife has been very patient in allowing me to turn our house into a third-grade museum," he said.

He will have another venue for his work in June, when his first exhibition goes up at Little House, a Menlo Park senior center. < Second place

Mushrooms

Steven Shpall

Artist's statement

It is a photo of an ordinary bunch of oyster mushrooms that came from the local farmers market. I was taken in by the symmetry and how majestic they looked.

Third place

Sunset Solitude

Mary Bender

Artist's statement

Each time we walk our favorite trails at the Palo Alto Baylands, I capture totally different pictures. The light, the tides, the clouds, the colors; all play a different scene for my camera. One favorite spot is the boat launch where we often sit at water level surrounded by a certain magic, letting the stresses of the day ebb away. This particular day, a gentleman was already there, at the center of a silent scene that we couldn't disturb. We watched from above as the sunset angled through, and I photographed the beauty of the Baylands solitude from a new vantage point.

Honorable mention

Beach Gallop

Greg Gatwood

Honorable mention

Exit Strategy

Joel Henner

—Katia Savchuk

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