Photographers Win Scholastic Art Awards

Congratulations to Lena Shamos ’25 and Maggie Cochran ’26, who won awards in the 2023 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for their photography.

“Night Sky”
Lena Shamos

Lena Shamos, who won Honorable Mention, took the star-filled photo “Night Sky” in her backyard in Nantucket, MA on a September evening. “I hope that the viewer can appreciate the environment we are surrounded by,” Shamos said. “In New York City, light pollution stops us from seeing very many—if any—stars in the night sky. However, in Nantucket, the Nantucket Lights movement, started by concerned citizens and frequent visitors, aims to educate the public and advocate for the prevention of bright lights that pollute the night sky. I hope that this photo is just one way that the Poly community and outside can reflect on the impact of human actions on the environment, and value the beauty in nature and the world around us.”

Night Sky by Lena Shamos

Shamos used a Canon EOS Rebel SL3 digital camera for her award-winning shot. “Taking a photo that clearly depicts hundreds of stars in the sky is very difficult,” Shamos explained. “A lot of light needs to be let into the camera in order to discern the individual stars. To do this, I decided to make the shutter speed of my camera very long, meaning that the camera is open and exposed to light for a longer period of time before capturing the shot. This proved to be a challenge because I had to figure out a mechanism for setting up the camera to not move, as any slight movement would blur the focus of the image.” With a shutter speed of 30 seconds, any small movement could effect the result. “Luckily I was able to capture a few shots that were extremely successful.” 

“Winning the Scholastic Art Award was an amazing feeling,” Shamos added, “as it really felt like all of my hard work in capturing and editing the image had paid off.”

“Shadowed Self-Portrait”
Maggie Cochran

Maggie Cochran ’26 took her Gold Key award-winning photograph, “Shadowed Self-Portrait,” on a long weekend at Disney World. “At the resort, the sun was setting and the curtains had a square shadow on the wall of my hotel room,” she recalled. Cochran took the photo with a Canon camera that was provided by Poly in Digital Photography, which this year was open to all Upper School students. 

This was part of a class assignment in Adina Scherer’s photography class. “We were to take a shadowed image because we were learning about shapes and how they affect the shadows on camera,” Cochran said.  “I just saw the image and thought it would be a cool image.”

Shadow self-portrait Maggie Cochran

“I would like the viewer to interpret the image however they want,” she said, “but, overall, I hope the image is seen as a reflection of one’s self.” 

Cochran originally ignored the congratulatory email from Scholastic thinking it was an advertisement. When Scherer contacted her, Cochran realized she had won. “I was so thrilled. I actually found it funny because I originally wasn’t going to submit anything, but Ms. Scherer told me that I really should and she was right!”

Exhibition at the Met

Gold Key winners are invited to be recognized in person at the 2023 NYC Regional Awards Ceremony March 3-4. Silver Key and Honorable Mention winners will be invited to participate in the virtual livestream. 

There will also be a New York City Scholastic Awards Regional Gold Key Exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art with an Opening Reception on Friday, March 24, 2023, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM. The exhibit will be on view until May 21.