Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a joyous time to remember those who have passed away. In Mexico, ancient Aztec traditions were combined with Christianity during the Spanish conquest. As a result, each year families construct colorful altars or ofrendas in their homes that essentially welcome the spirit of their loved ones on November 1st and 2nd.
Junior’s Photograph Wins First Place in Carnegie Library Labsy Teen Media Competition
Over the summer, junior Erin Mahoney submitted a scenic photo she captured in Everglades National Park to the Carnegie Library’s annual Labsy Awards teen media contest and won first place, along with a $250 prize, in one of seven categories.
You could say Erin inherited a passion for photography that was passed on from her dad, who is obsessed with it. “My parents bought me a digital camera for my 10th birthday, which was the true beginning of my love for taking pictures. Neither my dad nor I have ever taken a photography class; I’m pretty much self-taught, and my skills improve as I take more and more pictures,” she explained.
Erin, who described her photography style as abstract, decided to enter the competition after learning about it during the Sewickley Public Library’s summer reading program. “One of their [the library’s] “challenges” was to submit something to the Labsy Awards, and [last summer] I submitted two photographs, neither of which placed,” she said. “I decided to try again this year, but based on last year, I didn’t expect to win.” To her surprise, she won first place in the photography category this year for “Open Lands” which was taken on an iPhone SE camera.
The contest is for teens in Grade 6 – 12 who live in Allegheny County. According to the contest website, students were invited to enter up to two original creations, inventions, and works of art and to attend the Teen Media Awards, a special event celebrating the creative work of local teens, in the Carnegie Library Lecture Hall in Oakland on August 11. Erin’s piece stood out from approximately 300 photography submissions.
“Photography was the first category to be awarded, so my heart stopped for a few seconds when the evening’s host announced that winners could stop at the podium and say a few words,” Erin recalled. “I hadn’t prepared any words! I threw together some sentences in my head and walked down to get the award. I talked for a moment about how my dad inspired my interest in photography. I thanked my parents for supporting me, and then walked back to my seat, where my parents were grinning and my dad was holding back tears. He always cries when he’s proud of something I did, and I think he was touched by my speech, too.”
In the main branch of the Carnegie Library system, there is a small gallery where the winning creations in each category in the Labsy Awards are displayed, but Erin’s photograph was sent to the Sewickley Library.
Erin was honored to receive this award and plans to continue entering photography contests. “I’ve taken a lot of great pictures in my life so far, and my family has always loved them and encouraged me to submit to contests. After all, if I like taking cool pictures, I may as well submit them to contests. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy winning at something they love to do?”