Andrea Velasquez, a junior at Morris Innovative High School, recently won first place in a local amateur photography contest.
Ruth Park, an artist in Dalton, created the contest in hopes to encourage photographers of all areas of expertise to submit their photos.
"I know that new artists and younger adults sometimes feel very separated from the gallery world, even though they can produce some amazing work." Park said. "It's a great experience to have your work shown for the first time, and it's a gift I can now give to people."
In between school and working two jobs, Velasquez found time to develop photography as a hobby. For the past three years, she has been practicing this craft during her free time.
For the contest, Velasquez submitted two black and white photos of her family from Guatemala. Velasquez said that one photo in particular was personally significant and from a special moment in her life.
Velasquez was visiting her family in Guatemala last summer when the photo was taken. Every year over the summer, her whole family comes together to celebrate her grandfather's birthday. Velasquez captured an authentic moment on camera just as her family began to laugh.
"We were celebrating my grandfather's birthday, and this year he turned 98," Velasquez said. "Everyone was laughing because one of my uncle's doesn't like hats, so we put one on his head and thought it was funny."
Three anonymous community members judged the competition and selected a first, second and third place winner as well as a people's choice winner.
According to one of the judges, Velasquez's photos were chosen based on authenticity, artistic lighting elements and the sense of being immersed with the photograph.
Velasquez was awarded the grand prize of $250. Her photos, as well as the other photo submissions, are on display at Native Kitchen inside The Mill at Crown Garden, 825 Chattanooga Ave Suite 3, Dalton, GA, now through January 29th.