Tons of Talent | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian
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Tons of Talent

Picking the winner of our first photo contest required a bit of heavy lifting

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Judging our photo contest turned out to be a lot of fun. It also turned out to be a ton of work. Literally. We received more than 12,000 entries, and it fell to editorial assistants Michelle Strange and Chai Woodham to schlep heavy bag after heavy bag of photographs from the post office a few blocks away to our offices. Then they opened each entry and sorted its contents into our five categories—The Natural World, People, Americana, Travel and The Arts. Once the December 31 deadline for entries passed, picture editor Bonnie Stutski and associate art director Erik Washam plowed through the photographs, separating them into three piles: Yes, No and Maybe. I then went through the Maybes and upgraded to Yeses any that caught my eye. That's when the real fun began. Assistant editor Helen Starkweather—the contest's true hero—spread out all the Yeses on a conference table and rounded up art director Brian Noyes, associate picture editor Molly Roberts, Stutski and Washam to winnow each category to the ten best photographs. This was neither easy nor even always cordial. Sometimes, to maintain staff harmony, we had to vote by secret ballot.

Once we had our 50 finalist photographs, Starkweather gathered the entire staff and asked each person to vote on five grand prize finalists. Of those, the clear winner was Oscar Williams' dynamic picture of a boy running up a flight of stairs in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (see "Treasure Trove"). Williams wins $1,000 and a Canon EOS Elan 7e 35mm camera kit. The camera was donated by Canon. All 50 finalists may be seen at our Web site.

Interestingly, all five category winners are women: Susan Pyburn (Travel), Sarah T. Wolf (People), Irene Baron (Americana), Linka A. Odom (The Arts) and Marianne Soufas (The Natural World). Each wins $500 and a Canon EOS Rebel Ti 35mm camera kit. The cameras were donated by Canon. Congratulations to all!

The very first time New Delhi—based writer Jason Overdorf heard about the Marwari horse, he was hooked ("Saving the Raja's Horse"). "The Marwari began to disappear when the British Raj effectively ended centuries of cavalry battles among various Hindu Rajput clans," he says. "Then, when India won independence from Britain and ushered in democracy, stripping the Rajput royalty of their power, the horse became a symbol of the feudal lords' oppression of their subjects and was nearly wiped out. And finally, when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi abolished the privy purses that the erstwhile royalty received, the Marwari began a comeback as part of Rajasthan's modern tourist boom. So you had princely India, British India, socialist India and capitalist India all wrapped up in the story of this one amazing horse."

About Carey Winfrey
Carey Winfrey

Carey Winfrey was Smithsonian magazine's editor in chief for ten years, from 2001 to 2011.

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