Student Photographers Win ‘Atlanta Celebrates Photography’ Contest

Joelle Engolia (left) and Katie Odell are winners of Olympus’ Live-Drive & Photo Contest. ” It was by far the coolest camera I’ve ever used,” said Joelle. “It had so many advanced features that it made my Canon SLR look like a point and shoot. I loved the different art filters–that was the pretty much the only setting I used on the camera.”

Just after fall break of 2010, as most Oglethorpe students were returning from their vacations, Katie Odell ’12 and Joelle Engolia ’13 were celebrating their first big win.  No, these young women are not athletes–but budding photographers.

Over the break, they participated in Atlanta Celebrates Photography‘s Olympus Live-Drive and Photography Contest.  As part of entering the contest, both Katie and Joelle were allowed to try out Olympus’ new E-PL1, a revolutionary camera that boasts the size and simplicity of a point-and-shoot and the photographic optics of a DSLR.

Katie and Joelle won first and second place, respectively—earning them a collection of photography prizes from Atlanta’s own Showcase Photography and the honor of having their photos displayed at the store, enlarged to a 16×20 gallery wrap print.

Katie’s winning photo:  “I woke up on a Sunday morning to get a glass of water…on my way to the kitchen, I was awed by the most adorable image of the cats sleeping.  I tip-toed quietly to grab my camera to capture possibly the cutest image ever.”

Before having their photos entered in the contest, the girls first attended a workshop with award-winning photo-journalist Eli Reed, in which they and other contest hopefuls received professional advice from Reed.  They also learned of the E-PL1’s many features, in preparation for their 3-day loan of one of Olympus’s newest cameras.

“After going to the initial meeting to learn about the cameras, I didn’t feel too confident about winning,” explains Joelle.  “There were more people then I expected and many of them looked like professional photographers–I didn’t really think the odds were in my favor, but I was okay with it. I was just glad that I could try the Olympus E-PL 1.”

Joelle’s second-place photo transformed a familiar scene at Five Points into the abstract.  “I’m a big supporter of the person behind the camera…It is controlled by the person, not the other way around. It has to do with composition, the subject, the angle, etc. of the picture itself and the intent of the photographer. The camera is just trivial.”

After that, the two began snapping away for what turned out to be an award-winning experience.  Katie ended up winning the entire competition with a natural photo of her kittens, one that she’d least expected to win. 

“I had no idea that out of all the photos I took with the camera that that would be the winning shot because I didn’t put much thought into it.  I was just capturing the cuteness of the kittens.”  For Katie, participating in the contest was a real treat.  She works exclusively with film cameras and admits to being in the “stone age of photography,” where she continues to hand-color black and white photos with oil paints and uses coffee to tone her photographs.

“I have a couple of different film cameras, but my primary and favorite is my Rollei 35. It’s a funky and retro camera that’s still to this day is the world’s smallest film camera. It’s completely manual and it doesn’t even have a rangefinder.  I love it because it’s compact, it always surprises me, and it has a great history. [It] was my grandfather’s in the 1960s, then my mother’s in the 1970s when she lived and traveled around Europe, and [now] I have commandeered it in the 21st century and have taken it on all my world adventures.”

Though neither wanted to be professional photographers after they graduate, they both said that photography is an important aspect of their lives.

“I am continually drawn by the connectivity photography creates in my life. By having my photos of my experiences around, I don’t forget them, said Katie. “I want to be famous in whatever I end up doing, but I think I’m just going to stick with photography as a hobby for now and see where it takes me.”

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