This year marks the seventh annual juried youth photography competition and exhibit hosted by Photoworks at Glen Echo Park. In conjunction with this year’s theme — “Worlds Apart,” entrants submitted photographs that answer or interpret the question: “What makes us all the same and all so different?” “Show us your world, across the globe or around the corner in your own neighborhood,” the entry form challenged.
Open to students of photography, ages 18 and younger, past exhibits have drawn entrants as young as 10.
Kristen McNicholas, juror of the competition, selected 29 of the 67 images submitted for the final show. She is an Associate Photo Editor at National Geographic with the Your Shot photo community, an online space where photographers can submit and curate their photos, go “on assignment” and be published in National Geographic magazine.
McNicholas interned at the White House Photo Office during the Obama administration [she moved here from Upstate New York for that internship in 2016] and with Education Week. This is her first experience in the Photoworks Juried Youth Photography event.
Photoworks is a 40-year-old educational, gallery and collaboration space at Glen Echo Park. Director of Exhibitions Gayle Rothschild, who is both a fine art photographer and a photography teacher, noted the value McNicholas brings to the show. “As a photo editor, Kristen loves to guide photographers to challenge themselves to make their best work.”
McNicholas found jurying the show personally satisfying. “I love being able to nurture young artists in their craft, give them the opportunity to pursue their passion and inspire them to keep making photographs. Photography has a unique power to tell stories and evoke emotion in its audience upon initial impact,” she explained. “Being able to curate an exhibition for the next generation of visual storytellers was a huge honor for me.”
McNicholas took over from the prior juror enthusiastically. “The moment [I was asked to juror] a young photographers exhibition, I was instantly hooked,” she said.
As for best practices for judging a show like this, McNicholas said, “There’s no formula for curating an exhibition, but in my experience, it’s important that the images can visually complement each other while offering visual variety in the ways the photographers interpreted the theme.”
“When I curate a set of images,” she added, “I like to always take a step back and evaluate if I think the selection of images touch on different aspects of the ‘story,’ so to speak. I ask myself what the audience can learn from the curation.”
“Some of these young photographers will be the next generation of visual storytellers, without a doubt in my mind,” McNicholas said. “Through their photographs, I can get a sense of their creative voice, passion and sensitivity to the world around them and how we all connect. With this exhibition, the photographers had the opportunity to visually explore the ways in which we are the same through our differences, a visual feat not easily photographed. I was nothing but impressed and excited to see where photography takes each of them.”
While this is McNicholas’ first experience with the competition, that’s not the case for 17-year-old Walt Whitman High School student Renz Johnson. Johnson, who has been taking photographs for five years, has three images in this year’s exhibit; he won first-place last year when the theme was “Listen Up.” Rothschild said that, each year, the theme is meant to be “relevant to contemporary issues.” Two years ago, it was “Watch Me.”
Olivia Stanton, 16, has two photographs in the show. The James Hubert Blake High School student has been taking pictures for two years using a Canon Rebel T6 camera. “I took photography in school for a year and am taking it again this year,” said Stanton. “I take lots of classes at Photoworks, too. I’m not sure how I got into photography, but it has always been something I’ve enjoyed.”
“At some point, I just brought it to the next level by buying a real camera,” she said, adding that she would like to be a National Geographic photographer in the future
“Worlds Apart” is on display through Aug. 25 in the Photoworks Gallery in the First Floor Arcade at Glen Echo Park, 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo. Hours are Saturdays, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., and Sundays, 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Admission is free. Call 301-634-2274 or visit www.glenechophotoworks.org.