CHELMSFORD — Many photographers will agree that the most moving photos often come from the most ordinary of settings.
Chelmsford High School senior Sharon Chen would also agree, as her three-photo sequence of her mother making pan-fried dumplings won the 2022-23 CHS Celebrations and Traditions Photography Contest.
Chen’s photo was among 19 submissions to the contest, which was open to the student body for the first time this year after several years held within art educator Allison Gover’s photography courses. The contest is typically situated around the holidays to showcase the family celebrations, traditions and occasions of CHS students.
“It was really fun to see what the students turned in and the range of the photos they turned in,” said Gover. “I was impressed. We had a lot of great submissions from students in photography (classes) and we also had submissions from students who didn’t take photography. It’s good to do something fun when all assignments are grade-based and mandatory.”
As the winner, Chen received a collection of art supplies from Gover as well as art educators Madalena Alves and Diane Cogliano, who also judged the competition (Chen is also enrolled in Gover’s Studio Art III class).
Feeling frustrated by lack of ideas, Chen’s submission materialized while watching her mother meticulously craft 30 pan-fried dumplings for dinner on a December night.
“My mom was stationed like a robot in a loop carefully making this dish she learned 20 years ago from another Taiwanese woman here in America,” said Chen. “I figured it was fitting to the prompt and grabbed my camera right away to photograph the action. I especially liked how candid the photos were as I almost struggled to get relatively still photos while my mother kept working. Looking back at the photos I took, I couldn’t decide on just one to submit, so I combined three of the ones I deemed the best in showcasing the little story I was telling and submitted those.”
Gover, Alves and Cogliano were moved by the story of Chen’s photos. “We thought it was unique how they showed the combined steps of making dumplings in her family,” Gover said.
Chen, who is the co-president of the CHS Art Club, plans to study art and architectural history with the goal of becoming an urban landscape architect. “Although it isn’t studio art or photography, I plan on considering those as minors or joining some related clubs and activities,” she noted.
Freshman Nathan Hay followed a similar theme with his photograph of a single light on his Christmas tree, which was judged to be among the top submissions. “I was motivated to take my photos because of the wonderful light patterns and colors that I saw,” he said. “I find that the most amazing things can be found in the most unusual places.”
Along the same premise, sophomore Mike McCafferty’s single shot of a winged, bell-like ornament on his Christmas tree impressed Gover and her colleagues. It could be taken as a reference to the classic film “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Also among the top submissions was that of junior Loulouthi Geannaris, whose photo depicted a young boy fastidiously putting the finishing touches on a gingerbread house. Junior Michelle Shoup submitted a photo of a 30-plus foot Christmas tree constructed out of lobster traps, made more unique by the palm trees in the background.
Junior Dev Patel’s submission of a roman candle displays powerful hues of white-hot pink bursts and light orange flame, mindful of a typical July 4 evening. Similarly, sophomore Addison Burnham’s photograph of fireworks in mid-flight details orange and white streaks of flame against a background of cirrus clouds.
On the other side of the calendar, sophomore Brett Trainor submitted a photo of a solitary snowboard next to a small, well-used ramp of snow and ice. It tells the story of the end of a full, perhaps exhausting day of winter sports.
“We have such a diverse group of students who were able to photograph what represents their family and culture,” Gover said.