By Kaniece Tell
Susan Edgley, a Brookhaven College student, first learned she won a $500 prize for a photograph she submitted to Thin Line Fest through a congratulatory social media post shared by her photography professor.
“I thought he had made a mistake,” Edgley said, seconds after seeing and holding her translucent, etched award for the first time following Thin Line, a five-day documentary film, music and photography festival held in Denton April 18-22. “I saw a lot of great photos in the photo galleries, and I thought he must have made a mistake,” Edgley said.
But there had been no mistake. Edgley won one of the top prizes in the festival’s photography contest. More than 700 photographs were submitted to the festival by more than 200 photographers. Three judges culled the images down to 105 finalist images, which were shot by 57 photographers from all over the U.S. and Canada, as well as photographers from as far away as Poland, Switzerland, Germany and the U.K.
The festival printed the finalists’ photographs and hung the prints in two of the festival’s three galleries, which were on display throughout the fest. The judges selected four of Edgley’s images for the exhibition.
For the past three years, Daniel Rodrigue, journalism and photography professor, served as a judge in Thin Line’s photography contests. He regularly prompted students to enter the contests. While Rodrigue was not a judge in this year’s contest, he did speak on two featured panels – one on instant film and another on photojournalism.
“I’m not at all surprised that Susan won,” Rodrigue said. “It may be because spring is in the air, but this is hands down the most complimented exhibition we’ve hosted down in The Basement Gallery since we started exhibiting our students’ photography back in 2011.”
Edgley’s winning photograph is currently on exhibition in The Basement Gallery, in the lowest level of L Building and will be on display through May 10. Edgley’s exhibition, “Pistils and Thorns,” includes 29 macro photography shots of colorful flowers, prickly cacti and a few insects.
Edgley’s winning photograph was entered in the Abstract category. The four other categories were Truth, People, Natural Beauty and Urban. Long-time photojournalist and photographer Al Key, Thin Line’s director of photography, served as one of the three judges.
In his judging notes, which he shared with The Courier, Key wrote: “Abstract photography alludes to images that exist in thought, or as an idea. Susan Edgley’s concept for her image met that criteria. The anthers of a flower being held up by their invisible filaments, created by a shallow depth of field, are seemingly floating in space – like stars in the sky. Simplicity – proving that, less is more.”
But Edgley said she almost did not enter her images. “Just hours before I entered, I was panicking before the deadline because I have hundreds of photos that I could have submitted,” she said. She was busy that day, but said she remembered Rodrigue telling her class they should submit photos.
“It feels awesome,” Edgley said, while holding the etched award. “It’s a confirmation that my work is good, really. This is only the third contest I’ve ever entered.”
Edgley said “Pistils and Thorns” was inspired by photos with amazing details. She said she loves beautiful floral shots, and she is captivated by what is inside them. To get the flowers’ details, Edgley used a macro lens, a specialized lens that allows for one-to-one magnification of subjects and captures close-up detail.
Rodrigue, who includes lessons on macro photography in his advanced photography courses, said macro lenses are typically used for photographing small subjects, such as insects and flowers, at very close distances, but that a macro lens also doubles as a great portrait lenses because of the shallow depth of field it can create.
Edgley said she began experimenting with macro photography with items around her home and backyard before focusing on flowers and other plants.
Edgley said, “I started visiting public gardens around the D-FW area and really began focusing on photographing botanicals.” She said she hopes people are inspired to spend more time outdoors and appreciate what nature holds for everyone.