21st Annual
Palo Alto Weekly Photo Contest
First Place, Views Beyond the Bay Area


"La Lavenderia"
By Mary Bender

Click on photo for larger image.

About Mary Bender

Mary Bender's photos capture more than just light. Each of her photos tells a story.

At 58, Bender said she has a passion for photojournalism because she feels like a spy when she takes pictures. "I'm watching from the sidelines," she said. "It tells more than a snapshot or a travel shot or a portrait." In 2012, Bender traveled to Cuba with a group of photographers from Foothill College. She shadowed local photographers, taking pictures of daily life in Havana and Santiago de Cuba. "They invited us in and then went about their business," she said about "Lavenderia," her photo taken in a communal courtyard, where several families lived.

"Their laundry was hanging up, and chickens were running around." Bender became fascinated with clotheslines in Cuba, where washing machines are few and far between. "I loved taking laundry pictures," she said. She graduated from Stanford University with a bachelor's degree in art history and earned her teaching credential from San Francisco State University, going on to be an art educator for around 25 years. Most of her work has been with nonprofits, such as the Community School of Music and Arts in Mountain View and Photo Philanthropy.

Despite her years of experience in the world of photography, Bender said she is still trying to improve. "I've taken lots of bad (photos)," she said. "It's easy to snap, snap, snap ... but it's very hard to craft it, to capture, to be watchful, to be patient. ... It's a constant challenge."

-- Lauren-Marie Sliter


Judge's Comment

There were many strong images in this category, making it difficult to single out a few for recognition. Everyone who submitted work is to be congratulated. Often, it is an unexpected detail that makes an image exceptional. In the case of Mary Bender's image "Lavenderia," the three small birds are a delightful surprise. They provide a humorous contrast to the man busy with the laundry.

-- David Hibbard

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