2013-03-15 / People

Photos inspire club members

Neighbors
By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer


Jennifer Kirk, right, started the photography program at the South Portland Boys and Girls Club five years ago. This year, the group consisted of 12 members, including Alyssa D’Andrea, whose photo of Portland Head Light was selected as a national winner last year. (Jack Flagler photo) Jennifer Kirk, right, started the photography program at the South Portland Boys and Girls Club five years ago. This year, the group consisted of 12 members, including Alyssa D’Andrea, whose photo of Portland Head Light was selected as a national winner last year. (Jack Flagler photo) When Jennifer Kirk started working at the Boys and Girls Club of Southern Maine about five years ago, she learned of an annual photography contest for club members across the country. The program was available to members of any club, but the South Portland location, either through lack of interest or lack of resources, had never participated.

So Kirk, of South Portland, decided to step up to run the photography program, despite no formal training. Now, Kirk said she and the photographers are “in the groove,” with photos from South Portland members entered into the national contest for the fifth consecutive year.

Each Tuesday afternoon, Kirk and 12 children from the club ages 6 to 18 traveled to a different location in Maine to take photos for a few hours. Those settings included scenic Maine destinations such as the pier on Old Orchard Beach or Portland Head Light to city locations such as Monument Square or Mill Creek Park. The group even recently took photos at an alpaca farm.

Kirk said the group is lucky to live in southern Maine, with so many options to photograph close by.

“We wouldn’t be able to get that somewhere else,” she said.

Thephotosfromthe12young photographers, all girls this year, were displayed at the South Portland clubhouse along with work from the Portland and Lewiston/Auburn clubhouse members to the public the week of Monday, March 4. The students mounted their photos on a colored backboard with help from local gallery owner Stephen Popp.

The photos were also reviewed by a group of judges that included faculty members from Maine College of Art and community leaders from South Portland, such as the mayor and the city manager.

The judges will select their favorite photos from four different age groups and four different categories, then those photos are judged again at a regional show in New England.

At that point, the selected photos move on to yet another level, and national winners for each category and age group are selected in June. Most the photos from the southern Maine club members were taken with digital cameras, save for a handful taken with a 35- mm camera.

Kirk joked the photography group always loved the weekly trips “because I always bought hot chocolate and doughnuts” after the afternoon trips, but some of the young photographers have cultivated an interest that may extend later in life.

Last year, South Portland club member Alyssa D’Andrea’s photo of a plane passing over Portland Head Light on an overcast day was selected as the national winner for the “surroundings” category in the 16- to 18- year-old age group.

D’Andrea, now 17, said she always was interested in taking pictures, but “never really tried” until she joined the program at the Boys and Girls club three years ago. Now, D’Andrea wants to pursue photography after high school, either at Southern Maine Community College or the University of Connecticut.

Kirk doesn’t give too much advice about what to photograph. She said she prefers to let members explore and find creative angles on subjects individually. However, she does encourage them to separate from the larger group, go off on their own and find a different perspective on a subject other than a still shot at eye level.

“Don’t take the same picture someone else is taking,” Kirk tells members.

“It’s OK to get funky taking pictures. What you see might not be what someone else sees.”

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