by Carole Verona
“I freaked out. There’s no way!” According to 17-year-old Robert Hass, that’s how he reacted when learning that his photograph, “Wissahickon Inn Sunset,” won first prize in the second annual photo contest sponsored by the Chestnut Hill Community Association. Robert was one of 40 photographers who submitted 225 entries for the competition.
A junior at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, Robert took his photo on the school’s campus. “I decided to call it ‘Wissahickon Inn Sunset’ because I wanted the building to look like a hotel, not a school. My grandmother once told me that people used to travel from the city to Chestnut Hill for summer vacations, and they would stay at the Wissahickon Inn.” Now the school’s main building at 500 West Willow Grove Ave., it was originally built by Henry Howard Houston in 1884.
While walking through the campus, Robert was inspired by the time of day and by the light. “I try to take pictures during the golden hour, when the sun is just setting,” he said. “I have always been a fan of photography and love taking pictures. I thought I would take this one with my iPhone to see the result. I decided to tilt the camera a little bit to give it an interesting angle, instead of just taking a straight vertical picture.” A budding filmmaker, Robert said he likes to look at life “through a frame.”
At school, he is also involved with video production, the film club, cross country and the Model United Nations Conference. He is in the cast of “Footloose,” which will be presented by Players, the school’s drama club, from Dec. 11 to 13. He also reviews movies on his blog, “Simple Cinema Reviews.” The Chestnut Hill teenager is now thinking about college and whether it’s best to attend film school or to get a broader liberal arts education as an undergraduate.
Second-prize winner Bob Gutowski, 65, was delighted that a 17-year-old edged him out of first place in the photography contest. “In another 45 years, maybe I’ll catch up to him,” he quipped.
While taking a class with Mt. Airy photographer Nick Kelsh, Bob was learning how to make manual adjustments on the camera when shooting a white scene. “As an exercise, I was trying to take one good picture every day for a month,” he said. His photo, Morris Arboretum Barn, was taken during a record snowfall in Philadelphia earlier this year. “I was out before the plows and before anyone else,” he said. “The red barn is such a simple structure, but it is an important part of our history and heritage. How could I capture it with a snow-covered roof, clouds in the sky and snow falling? I backed up to get under a tree to add a little framing. The ramp leading up to it was also covered with snow, so you don’t see anything but the shape. I like the simplification of things like that.”
Bob, who lives in Flourtown, has worked at the arboretum since 1979 and is currently the Director of Public Programs. “People don’t think of winter as ‘garden time,’ but it’s incredibly beautiful here every day,” he said, referring to the many opportunities to photograph plants, the landscape and creatures, all in different seasons.
Bob has been taking pictures since the 1960s when he was first inspired by the photos he saw in magazines and newspapers. “They provided a window on the rest of the world and a way to learn,” he said. “In a photograph, you are trying to capture and share what you think is important — information, emotions, feelings or an aesthetic.”
Paul Meyer, 62, executive director of Morris Arboretum, won third prize for his photo, “Pump House.” He has been associated with the arboretum for 38 years, having been director for 23 years. Paul, who lives on the grounds of the arboretum, usually travels with his camera. “Often I will see that the light is particularly good or something nice is happening. If I’m in my car, I’ll hop out and take some pictures.
“The pump house is one of my favorite arboretum features. It was in total disrepair and was restored in 1988. I photograph it often. I look at it during different seasons and at different times of the day, trying to get the light just right.”
Celeste Hardester, community manager of CHCA, encourages all photographers to start shooting photos now. “It’s a great way to see and learn the community. It takes a lot of initiative to go out on a cold day and take photographs,” she said. Look for an announcement soon about the deadline for the 2016 calendar, which will be published before the Fall for the Arts Festival.
The contest was judged by Wendy Concannon, a professional and fine art photographer; Alice Farley, a landscape architect and approved photography and horticulture judge for the Garden Club of America and the immediate past chairman of the 1000 Garden Club of America Judges; Leslie Purple, an official Garden Club of America photography judge; Jane Toczek, who has worked at The Philadelphia Print Shop for many years and has directed many of the plays performed at The Stagecrafters; and Mike Zaikowski, a photographer and owner of Profiles, a printmaking studio.
The calendar is available for sale at the CHCA office at 8434 Germantown Ave. and at Kilian Hardware, Weavers Way and other shops in Chestnut Hill. The cost is $15 for CHCA members and $20 for non-members.
Carole Verona is a freelance writer who lives in Lafayette Hill. “Scarecrow,” a photo she took at the Morris Arboretum Community Garden, was one of the 13 photographs chosen for the calendar.