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May 26, 2004

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Peninsula People Peninsula People (May 26, 2004)

Steven Shpall Self Portraits First Place

Sitting at his desk, pondering a portrait, Steven Shpall noticed that his reflection in the desk was far more interesting than the image alone.

The result was a tandem self-portrait of sorts.

"It just sort of happened," said Shpall, who also placed first in the Views Beyond the Peninsula category and second in Peninsula Images, with an honorable mention in the Manipulated Images division.

Shpall's interest in the human face extends beyond the digital darkroom. A Mountain View-based dermatologist, he looks at patterns and spots every day, and uses the camera to document change over time.

"Dermatology is all visual so to explain things to people you need to use pictures," he said.

Now, as a portrait photographer, Shpall is taking his work home with him. -- Colleen Corcoran
Chris Marolf My Daughter Zoe Second Place

Chris Marolf, a photographer for 25 of his 40 years, used to primarily shoot street photography. But that changed a bit when he became a father three years ago. Suddenly, he became interested in portraiture -- though so far, his children have been the only subjects.

He said his pictures are not mere photo-album fluff, disdaining what he calls the "standard kid shot," such as the chocolate-smeared face. His goal is to produce work that is meaningful to others, despite featuring his own kin.

"I want to show children as real humans with real emotions," Marolf explained, adding that this winning photo is one of an ongoing series documenting his children's growth. Marolf is somewhat haunted by the fact that each moment of a child's development is fleeting. He wants to capture each stage with what he calls " a visual diary of how they grew up."

Marolf, a 15-year peninsula resident, believes he inherited photography from his own father, who always took shots of the family with cameras that fascinated his son. Though Marolf sometimes shoots in color, he chose black-and-white for this series because it lends itself better to indoor shooting. Also, he adds, it has a certain timeless quality. -- Avital Binshtock Laurie Aubuchon Parents of the Groom Third Place

While photographing a wedding at Los Altos Hills' Hidden Villa, Laurie Aubuchon lingered nearby as Lisa Fry, the groom's mother, typed her speech to her son during the ceremony. Just then David, her husband, came over to kiss her. Since Aubuchon has a penchant for unposed pictures, she seized the moment.

What she particularly loves about the photo is Lisa's cane in the background. "I like the context of being so beautiful with a disability," Aubuchon said. She also remembers that even though she knew David and Lisa Fry for just a day, she loved them. "They were so kind and comfortable to be around and joyful about the day."

Aubuchon, who grew up in Palo Alto, first tried her hand at photography as a student at Cal Poly. "I was just horrible," she said. After graduating, she went to Foothill College, where a photography teacher named Maryanne Patterson taught her how to see. "She gave me encouragement right from the very first day," Aubuchon recalled.

Also a painter, a sculptor and writer, Aubuchon believes photography is easier than many of the other arts, since it can capture emotion so quickly and truly. -- Avital Binshtock
Kija Lucas Man and Woman's Faces Honorable Mention

Kija Lucas, 25, took this shot because her friends needed a photo for their wedding invitation. Since the wedding was going to be at the Los Altos History Museum, the three friends met there and Lucas took a plethora of scenic shots with the museum as the backdrop.But there was a brief moment when the engaged couple forgot about the task at-hand.

"They just stopped paying attention for a second, and those are always the best shots," Lucas said.

Lucas started photography six years ago, when her father died and she inherited his camera. Since she wanted to learn to use it, she enrolled in Introduction to Photography at Foothill College. Lucas started shooting in color but moved into black-and-white when she learned how to develop her work.

Lucas, who is planning to transfer to San Francisco's Institute of Photography, believes that to get memorable close-ups, "you just have to pay really close attention to what's going on." -- Avital Binshtock
Yao-pi Hsu My Grandson and Rusty Honorable Mention

"Most of the time, I have a camera ready," said Yao-pi Hsu, 61. So when she visited her daughter's family on a rainy Seattle day, she was prepared.

Rusty the cat begged to be let inside while Hsu's 11-month-old grandson, Dominick, yearned to play with Rusty. Though Hsu's first inclination was to let Rusty in, she realized the opportunity and snapped four shots first. "It was such a quick moment," she said. "They talked to each other."

Hsu, a bioscience researcher at Stanford who has lived in Santa Clara since 1970, said her passion for photography blossomed eight years ago while visiting China, her native country. She noticed that the Yellow Mountains looked strikingly like a painting and, with no previous photography experience, took a picture that won third place in Palo Alto Weekly's 1997 Photo Contest. Now, Hsu displays her work in galleries, cafes and art shows. Photography, she said, has changed her worldview. "Now I look at things differently. I notice more detail and everything seems more interesting." -- Avital Binshtock

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