Westerville News & Public Opinion

Say cheese: Senior photo contest returns

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The Westerville Senior Center is now accepting entries for its ninth annual photo contest.

Entries can be submitted through July 22. A $10 entry fee allows senior center members to enter up to 15 photos, one in each of the contest’s categories.

With categories ranging from still life and artistic to animals and flowers, the event attracts a wide variety of entries. The digital-only contest began as a way to promote the then-new trend.

“This was built to promote digital photography nine years ago when digital hadn’t quite grabbed ahold yet,” program supervisor Chris Shirring said. “Some of our newer photographers that are new to us but have been photographing for years try to enter a film photo, but those are quickly removed.”

Despite the friendly nature of the contest, competition is fierce, and entries that might win other contests often don’t even place in the top three.

“Great photos don’t get recognized sometimes because they’ve got to really scrutinize the work,” Shirring said. “It’s really grown over the five years that I’ve been involved with it, from a couple hundred submissions by a dozen or so photographers to now we might reach 500 submissions this year.”

Last year’s contest featured more than 40 participants who submitted more than 400 photos, highlighting the event’s importance to the senior center, which prides itself on offering activities outside of the norm.

“Our group is unique because everything we do at the senior center is for anyone 55 or over,” Shirring said. “So we do a lot of things, from sporting events to drama events, and it’s just another realm of activities that we offer at the senior center.”

Judges will award a first, second and third place in each category. One Best in Show winner will be crowned at the contest’s reception and awards show from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Aug. 14.

Those judges don’t have an easy job, and Shirring said each year judges from different backgrounds are chosen. This year, he said, there are a “handful” of possible judges still in the running.

“In the past, we’ve had Otterbein graphic artists come in and judge or professional photographers from the Columbus area,” he said. “We try to have a team of people with different viewpoints. Everyone lends their hand and picks their favorite, and then discussion ensues about which photo really deserves to be a winner.”

Winners will be framed and hung in the gallery at the Westerville Community Center, and the Best in Show winner will get a prize, likely a camera bag and other items donated by the community.

Even with the high quality of the submissions, Shirring said the contest is more friendly than fierce.

“It’s more about social competitiveness and an opportunity to showcase your stuff,” he said. “So often, we as digital photographers have our things left on a drive somewhere on a computer or up on Facebook, and this is just another way to showcase everyone’s ability on a printed format.”

More information about the contest is available at westerville.org/seniorcenter.

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