Kyla Kiefer spotted the line of young monks in bright orange robes, among a crowd of older monks viewing a picture in the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand. She said the young monks looked like they ranged in age from 10 to 13 years old.
Kiefer said it was not socially acceptable to take pictures of monks unless they approached the monks first. Not wanting to accidentally offend the monks, Kiefer stood back and remembered a technique her photography professor taught her.
“Just have it (your camera) at your waist, point it up, and then just hope for the best,” Kiefer said.
Kiefer, a junior at Webster University, won this year’s Global Photo Contest with her photo entry of “Tranquility in Orange,” taken while she was studying abroad in Cha-am, Thailand during the spring 2013 semester.
Professor Christine Giancola-Youngberg taught Kiefer the technique called “shooting at the hip.” A technique when the photographer shoots without placing the camera to the eye.
“It can create a more candid photograph since the subject is often unaware of being photographed,” Giancola-Youngberg said. “The technique requires good observational skills, timing and patience.”
Kiefer said she heard Giancola-Youngberg’s voice in her head say “just go for it,” without knowing how the shot would look, and she did. She said the positive outcome of the picture was luck.
“I pulled my camera up and I was like ‘oh my gosh this looks great on my camera, hopefully when I blow it up it looks good.’ And it did,” Kiefer said.
Kiefer said her photo emphasizes the fact that Thailand is a primarily Buddhist country. It also shows insight as to how there is no age limit for being a monk.
“I find it really admirable that these boys have such self-control and self-discipline at such a young age,” Kiefer said.
On her way to her work-study job at the information desk, Kiefer saw her picture hanging on the wall by the adviser’s office in Sverdrup, with no recognition plaques. Kiefer had not heard anything back from the contest judges. Excited and curious as to why her picture was on display, she checked her email and realized she had won.
“I wasn’t expecting it. I walked by and saw it and I was like holy crap that’s the coolest thing ever,” Kiefer said. “It was just a whole freak incident, you know taking the picture, wandering by it in Sverdrup, then getting the email after I had already seen it.”
The photos submitted in the contest were judged by a group of six faculty members and administration in the International Studies Committee. One of the judges for the contest was Terri F. Reilly, adjunct faculty member for the communications and journalism department.
Judges received the pictures via email and picked their top three out of the 48 photos submitted. Reilly said it was hard to pick just three photos while recognizing the aesthetic value and also trying to figure out the photographer’s global experience.
“Some of the photographs were absolutely stunning, like National Geographic quality, and some were very interesting in terms of the way they were shot,” Reilly said. “Some were simplistic, there were a bunch of different kinds, it was really hard to decide my top three.”
Reilly chose Kiefer’s picture as one of her top three because she said it fulfilled a number of elements. She said the picture was aesthetically and artistically beautiful, but also represenative of typical Asia.
“Artistically it was gorgeous,” Reilly said. “Obviously you see the orange of the monks’ robes, and then it was very representational of what someone would think of Asia with the Buddhist Monks. It just really hits it.”
The Global Photo Contest is an annual event that is sponsored by the Center for International Education (CIE) and the Multicultural Center and International Student Affairs (MCISA)
Reilly said the contest was beneficial for everyone involved, promoting Webster’s internal goals, the artistic capabilities of the students and cultural awareness. She said the photos visually captivate students who might not have had a cultural experience yet and hopefully peak their interest and cultural aspirations.
“You know the old saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words,’ I think that you could hear about it from somebody, but you actually see that depth and breadth of that type of photography there,” Reilly said. “It’s a win-win for everyone, the students who take the pictures and students passing the photos in Sverdrup.”
Second-place winner David McDonald, senior; third-place winner Khanh Vu, graduate student; and honorable mention, senior Melissa Fritz’s photos are hanging on the wall along with Kiefer’s first-place photo.
“I’m still kind of in shock about it happening,” Kiefer said. “Every time I walk past it I’m like woohoo! I get a little excited every time.”
All the photos will be located in the Small Wall Gallery on the top floor of Sverdrup through the end of November.