Traditionally the May Gallery’s Annual Juried Exhibition recognizes third, second, first and Best of Show places. But this year, after three hours of contemplation, the jury decided to recognize another photograph, adding an honorable mention. It was the first time in the May Gallery’s history that a fifth award was given.
The May Gallery holds a show to recognize the work of Webster University students. A monetary prize accompanies each award, and the winner of Best of Show gets his or her photograph permanently displayed in the Sverdrup Complex.
The newly created honorable mention award was given to Izaiah Johnson for his digital photograph entitled, “Paper bag.” It was not the only award Johnson received that night. He also won second place for his black and white film print entitled, “Moon.” Johnson is a senior photography major at Webster University.
“I am very shocked … I did not expect it, but it’s great,” Johnson said.
Though the option to submit photos to the gallery was extended to all students, Bill Barrett, head of the Photography Department, said he was surprised how few people submitted work compared to years past. Barrett said any student could submit, regardless of major or number of courses taken. Barrett said he hoped more students would have submitted photographs.
The panel consisted of two jurors, Jack Rinehart and Laura Wiley. Rinehart, a former faculty member at Webster and chief photographer of a St. Louis commercial studio, was a professor of Wiley’s 22 years ago. Wiley is currently the owner of Marketing Lift and an adjunct professor at Webster. She earned both her graduate and undergraduate degrees at Webster. Wiley was the Best of Show winner in the 1995 Annual Juried Exhibition.
Wiley commented on Johnson’s technique, saying his attention to detail and lighting was what made his photographs stand out.
“To find out one student had two pieces of work that were selected, that was really unique.” Wiley said.
Johnson celebrated his two wins with his roommate Kyle Florez. But Johnson was not the only one celebrating—Florez also earned first place for one of his submissions.
In addition to being roommates, Johnson and Florez are also collaborators on photo projects. Johnson said the two bounce ideas back and forth, critique each other’s work and motivate one another to create beyond the classroom.
“I’m on him a lot. I always tell him to do work instead of watching Netflix. Do something productive, something that is going to help your art,” Johnson said.
The judges spent the most time selecting which photograph would win Best of Show. Wiley said all five winning photographs exceeded expectations.
“I am so proud of the students. I surely did not expect this type of diversity and quality,” Wiley said. “We were so passionate about one more that we had to add an honorable mention.”
Best of Show was awarded to Kristen Pruser for a picture she took of a dancer in the studio in the Loretto Hilton Center for a class project. Along with the highest cash prize of $270, Pruser will be rewarded by having her photo hung in the newly renovated Sverdrup Complex.
Third place was given to Lily Voss for her photograph entitled, “The Professor.”
The Annual Juried Show will be showcased at the May Gallery until May 1.