© TIM DETERT
A Sony World Photography Awards student program.
Now in its third year, the Sony World Photography Awards have continued to develop a groundbreaking and successful initiative that creates a unique opportunity for both photography institutions and their students. ‘Student Focus’ is a truly international venture that stretches across 6 continents including over 100 educational institutions from: North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia & Australasia.
Student Focus offers its participants the chance to gain important experience in a professional capacity. The program consists of a global competition, master class workshops and seminars scheduled during the Sony World Photography Awards Events and Ceremony that takes place in Cannes each year.
Two students from every participating institution are chosen by their tutors to enter the online competition to represent their school with the aim of being one of the 6 schools chosen to be flown to Cannes to participate in the final stage of the competition. The overall winner will be presented at the Sony World Photography Awards and receive 50,000 Euros worth of photographic equipment, for themselves and their school.
The 2009 program saw Jamia Millia Islamia University from India win the over all program. However, representing North America competing for the prize was the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale who made the long trip over to Cannes, France.
Students Grant Goldstein and Tim Detret and tutor Will Cadieux tell us about their experiences below.
Will Cadieux, Tutor
What was it like for your institution to represent North America for Student Focus?
When I accepted on behalf of The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale to participate in Student Focus 2009, I truly had no expectation of traveling to Cannes, France the following April. Our students produce excellent work and we our proud of the number of graduates who have achieved both national and international recognition. Yet we were challenging other photography schools that are known for their competitive success…a place on the short list to Cannes seemed elusive.
Winning the Sony World Photography Awards Student Focus for North America has brought The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale great notoriety among the Art Institutes International and has given us a fantastic bragging opportunity when we talk about our photography program with potential students! I am overwhelmed by the immensity of Detert's and Goldstein's accomplishment and its impact on our school.
How was the experience of meeting with universities from across the globe?
In Cannes I had the extraordinary opportunity to meet the students and professors from five other universities representing each continent. The event was enriched with intellectual nuances as we shared personal, educational, and photographic experiences. While learning different approaches to creating images and discussing challenges each school faces amongst cultural mores and institutional structures, we developed a unique comradery that transcended lingual and ethnic barriers.
The students shared their portfolios and maintained full conversations without words, generated by the strength of their images. We bonded through photography and communicated with simple gestures that each of us understood intellectually and emotionally.
Has it impacted your teaching in anyway and inspired your students?
During workshops and gatherings I spoke to the World Photography Academy photographic professionals who wrote our textbooks. In the classroom and as an academic director I am able to share with my students the stories that Mary Ellen Mark, Tom Ang, and others shared with us. Arbitrary names have been replaced with personalities, mannerisms, and personal philosophies. My clearer understanding of their works enables me to honestly represent them to our students. These photographers have changed from iconic examples to approachable contemporaries.
Do you have any plans for Student Focus 2010?
We are participating in the 2010 Student Focus with much enthusiasm. The faculty is encouraging greater participation throughout the program and pushing our students to create stronger, more impactful images. Deteret and Goldstein have set a high standard and created a tough challenge for our students this year, but I am hopeful that we can once again represent North America. To do so a second time would be an extraordinary achievement.
Now we speak to students Tim and Grant:
What was your experience of Student Focus in Cannes?
Cannes was beautiful and picturesque; the food, and the people were nothing but accommodating. It was great to get out of the United States and explore another culture. It was also great to be able to take part in the competition and be honored alongside the world's great photographers, and also to have my work displayed along the Cannes boardwalk.
I must admit that I originally had underestimated the importance of this entire “mission”. There are so many different photo contests out there that they almost all blend into one big unidentifiable and unapproachable mass.
How was it to meet students from around the world?
It was great to meet the other students and find out where they were from and hear about their background and experiences back in their countries.
How did it feel to represent to USA?
Once I got told that we actually won the North American competition and that I will be flown out to Europe I understood the weight of this achievement. For me, being an international student from Germany, it was quite funny to represent North America. It feels like an even greater honor to represent a foreign continent, which is roughly 70 times the size of my country.
It felt great to represent the United States at the Sony World Photography Awards. To know that I was one of the best student photographers in the US was mind blowing and such an honor. To not only be the best in the state of Florida, but in the entire US was fantastic because we beat out such prestigious universities such as RIT and Brooks.
Where there any special moments for you?
The most glorious moment was to run into my own image being XXL under display right on “la Croisette” - Cannes famous and busy beach walk. As an upcoming commercial photographer one of my dreams is to claim a mega poster on Times Square – this definitely felt like a step into the right direction!
What did you gain from the program?
I have gained a better understanding of the other competitors' backgrounds and cultures. I was able to hear and learn from the guest speakers about their experiences, their passion, and technique.
The time and the activities offered through Sony and the World Photography Awards were professional and exciting. I would have never dreamed of being able to chat with immortal photography heroes like Marry Ellen Mark or Tom Ang. It was an unforgettable opportunity, which reinforced and nourished my own encouragement, motivation and the believe in my own success.
For more information and to participate in Student Focus visit www.worldphotographyawards.org/studentfocus