19th Annual Palo Alto Weekly Photo Contest
First Place, Peninsula Images


"Private Lives"
By Brant Wenegrat

Click on photo for larger image.

About 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.

-- Katia Savchuk