Eyes on target 

Frozen moments of illumination fill our pages — both online and in print — with the 21st annual Metro Times Photo Contest.

Leapin’ lens caps! The latest installment of Metro Times’ Photo Contest is officially the biggest ever, having delivered to our doorstep more submissions (530, yow!) than we’ve ever seen. But we know what to do with all that energy, inspiration and talent — and so does CPOP Gallery where all of the contest pictures will be on view for a week, beginning tonight (see below). What’s perfectly in focus from the range of subjects and approaches this time around is that the shutterbug has bitten folks all over the metro area and well beyond, resulting in a whole lot of takin’ going on. And in this case, quality goes hand in hand with quantity. So do more submissions mean more difficulty for our judges in picking their favorites? You bet, though we didn’t hear any complaints from our three experts as they waded through pile after pile of inspired work in black-and-white and color.

Judging the submissions this year were a trio of top-notch Detroit photography professionals:

One of the hottest young photographers on the Motor City scene, Angie Baan is a frequent contributor to Metro Times. She’s got an infallible eye that’s equally at home shooting arts stories and glamour, club life and the streets of our kaleidoscopic town.

Dirk Bakker, the longtime head of the Detroit Institute of Arts photography department, is internationally renowned for a series of ethnographic art books containing some of the most elegant and sumptuous images in the field. His photographic forays into the mysteries of Mayan and Mexican culture are represented by Hill Gallery in Birmingham.

Felecia Hunt-Taylor, a photo archivist with the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, is a Detroit-based photographer with a keen interest in both the artistic and educational possibilities of this lucid medium. Her work is represented by JRainey Gallery in Detroit.

The weeklong exhibition at CPOP Gallery (4160 Woodward Ave., Detroit; call 313-833-9901) that opens 6-9 p.m. on Wednesday, May 29 will fill two whole floors of that mind-bending venue. It includes the first-, second- and third-place winners in each category, as well as the 20 honorable mention winners and all of the other fascinating shots in this, our most ambitious contest ever. Prizes and certificates will be awarded just after 7 p.m. — and while you peruse the hundreds of entries, you’re invited to partake of refreshments from Majestic Cafe and live entertainment. Whether you can make it downtown or not, be sure to check out all 26 finalists in our online interactive gallery at photocontest.metrotimes.com.

So polish up those eyeballs, watch the birdie, say cheese and hold that pose. Here’s lookin’ at us. —George Tysh


First Place, color

Chris Gustafson, Redford

"I'll push the edge," Chris Gustafson says. Case in point: "Cat Nap," a striking image of a young woman in her early 20s depicted in a very personal moment.

The self-taught artist has been enjoying photography as a hobby for around 20 years. "When I was about 15 or 16, my mom's boyfriend was the first person to put a camera into my hands," he adds. Gustafson says he "took some pictures here and there," and hadn't entered a contest since he was in his early teens. Around that same time, he took several classes at a community college — his only photo classes.

The inspiration to do model photography came to Gustafson because of a former girlfriend. "I was dating a gorgeous girl, so I started taking pictures of her. The feedback was positive, and other girls saw the pictures and wanted me to take some of them too," he says.

Wishing to find a wider variety of photography subjects, Gustafson went to an Internet site for models where he met Kimi Mastalier, the model in "Cat Nap." Mastalier had previously done fetish photography, and Gustafson wanted to try something else. "I wanted to get her to do something that was different than what she was used to doing," he says. "She started getting into this pose and she seemed so relaxed, that I just went with it."

"Cat Nap," is part of a series of photos that Gustafson shot using a Nikon Coolpix 950 (cq) digital camera with a wide-angle lens converter. He used ambient light coupled with a Nikon SP 26 flash. Adobe Photoshop was used to diffuse the color layers, giving Mastalier's skin an ivory sheen. Gustafson spent hours in Photoshop making minor adjustments to the image. "I look at using Photoshop as being like building a puzzle," he says.

Working as a traveling sales rep for a skateboard merchandise company, Gustafson is constantly on the road in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. His love of photography fits perfectly into that scenario: "I meet interesting people and I have lots of time to work on my photography on my laptop at night in the hotel."

Judges’ comments

Dirk Bakker: "I would call this photograph instantly alluring. There’s a dreamy world there you want to step into the moment you lay eyes on it. This is probably the most accomplished picture in the whole competition. All the right choices are here: composition, color, and it insinuates all sorts of stuff. The best photographs are the ones you’re never quite done with."

Felecia Hunt-Taylor: "I see it as confrontational. As a voyeur, it’s in my face and makes me want to know more. She’s relaxed and in her own world."


Second Place, color

Anthony Lanzilote, Detroit

A student in photography at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Anthony Lanzilote enters his junior year in September, but this summer he’s looking forward to studying painting at Wayne State University. And the shot that he took of a house in Fraser around 10 o’clock one night betrays a painter’s interest in the subtleties of color. Working with a Hasselblad and an 80 mm lens, Lanzilote set his camera on a tripod for a roughly minute-long exposure with Fugi NPS (160 ASA) film. The gutsy results seem to combine Belgian surrealist René Magritte’s poetic imagery and minimal abstractionist Ad Reinhardt’s somber palette.

Judges’ comments

Hunt-Taylor: "It’s the mystique about it — just enough information, but not enough."

Bakker: "This is the most courageous photo of the lot. It’s a photograph that almost wants to be overlooked and that’s where its power is."

Angie Baan: "I like the deep night mood."


Third Place, color

Jane Shauck, Beverly Hills

Jane Shauck is taking a year off from the real world. After receiving a degree in marketing from the University of Florida and spending 10 years in the business, Shauck decided to pursue her interest in photography and began taking classes at Oakland Community College.

This slightly baptismal image was made while Shauck was visiting the Blue Lagoon, an outdoor geothermal spa near Reykjavik, Iceland. The spa is located in the middle of a lava bed; Shauck calls it "very surreal." She was in the water at the time she made the image, holding her camera very high.

The shot was captured on Fuji Superia 200 ASA color film with a Canon E06-Rebel G. Shauck used a 35-80 mm zoom lens and doesn't recall the shutter speed or aperture setting.

Judges’ comments

Baan: "I like the moment that’s being caught, in a journalistic sense. But it has ethereal qualities — even though it’s a shot that wasn’t planned — the romantic softness of it."

Bakker: "There’s this terrific moment of animal abandon that you have to respond to."


First Place, black and white

Shannon Garrett, Ypsilanti

Shannon Garrett, First Place winner in the black-and-white category, seems to have caught her subjects unawares, turning them into actors in some timeless cinema vérité drama — a scene of introspective mystery from Ypsilanti. Her quietly stunning photograph frames an everyday, almost bland situation, transforming it into a moment of pure poetry. As such, it's solidly in the American documentary tradition of Walker Evans and Robert Frank, photographers who found their inspiration in the unglamourous, unspectacular, though often compelling details of our lives. Unfortunately, we were unable to contact her by press time, —George Tysh

Judge’s comment

Bakker: "It gives you the sense that you’ve walked in on something that you can’t even begin to imagine — an implied drama of something having gone wrong, but you’ll never find out what. It’s completely open-ended."


Second Place, black and white

Peggy Mugei, Farmington Hills

Peggy Mugei is looking to go beyond the physical when she takes a picture. "My recent work deals with the soul and the spirit," she says. Mugei, who was born in Germany, recently graduated from Oakland Community College with a degree in photography.

Mugei says the winning image, "Mummy," is meant to signify someone who is "getting up, as though from the dead." The picture was made with a medium-format camera using a technique called light painting. Mugei posed for the photo as a friend "painted" her with a flashlight. The camera was set for a long exposure (approximately 30 seconds), thus capturing multiple images of Mugei as she stood up. The result is a haunting image, reminiscent of the "spirit photography" of the late 19th century.

Mugei first began experimenting with light painting in a more basic fashion. "At first, I just aimed the flashlight at the camera and made patterns," she said. Now, she’s using the technique to depict concepts with deeper meaning.

Mugei says "Mummy" is her favorite picture. It reflects her move toward doing work that deals with philosophy and religion, two subjects in which she holds a strong interest. "I believe in strength in mind," she says.

Judge’s comment

Hunt-Taylor: "I’m a firm believer that we come back as someone or something else. It reminds me of the rebirth of the soul and whether the struggle is to stay or come back is up to the interpretation of the viewer. It touches me spiritually."


Third Place, black and white

Tim Carpenter, Hamtramck

Sandwiching negatives, a darkroom practice in which two or more negatives are used to create a single image, is long and arduous work. In order to get the perfect end product, the photographer must not only align the film in a very specific way, but also find the correct exposure time for the multiple negatives. It's a process that eats up time and resources.

Tim Carpenter doesn't shy away from the challenge of such darkroom activities. In fact, he considers making sandwich negatives to be his forte. Carpenter, a photo graduate of Sienna Heights University in Adrian, loves working in the darkroom. In fact, he just recently completed building his own darkroom at his Hamtramck home. While Carpenter has not pursued photography as a career (he works as a machinist), he plans to create more images in the coming year.

"This photo is part of a series on becoming invisible or disappearing," Carpenter says. The picture was made using two shots — the Detroit skyline as seen from Belle Isle is combined with a silhouette. "I blocked out a portion of her head and filled it in with the city," he explains.

Carpenter used a Nikon N-65 with a 35-80 mm lens and Ilford 100 Delta Pro film.

Judges’ comments

Baan: "This person took a chance, but the photograph is deliberate in a deep way, a representation of humanity."

Bakker: "It negates the idea of a landscape … that’s its power."


Thanks to intern Tricia Woolfenden for her research, interviews with our winners and writing of their statements.



Honorable Mention:

J. Biernat, Ferndale (2)

Halena Fisher, Ferndale

Chris Gustafson, Redford

Anthony Lanzilote, Detroit

Elsa Otero-Kackley, Rochester Hills

Joseph R. Ramos, Madison Heights

Marvin Shaouni, Royal Oak

David Szwast, Leonard

Matthew Taplinger, Berkley



Honorable Mention:

Monica Bordé, Taylor

Fabrizio Costantini, Royal Oak

Marty Gross, West Bloomfield

Chris Gustafson, Redford

Mark Johnson, Clinton Township

Sheila Palkoski, Whitmore Lake

Marvin Shaouni, Royal Oak

Lisa Switalski, Troy

Guyler Turner, Detroit

Katherine Zemenick, Birmingham George Tysh is arts editor of Metro Times. E-mail gtysh@metrotimes.com

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