MSHS Yearbook Editor-in-Chief Wins National Photography Contest

Aliah Char, Copy & Photography Editor

For Sophia McKeown (10), having an award-winning photograph represented much more than just an accomplishment. “This experience validated me. It moved me from being someone who does photography to be able to call myself a photographer,” she said. No longer were her photos only for herself, they meant something to others as well. Winning this contest was proof enough of that impact.

Her mother, a photographer herself, has been consistently instrumental in McKeown’s appreciation for anything artistic. “She was always dragging me to some art exhibit,” she said. McKeown finds inspiration in anything from social media to books and magazines— preferably fashion or beauty ones— and the real world she appreciates every day. “I see art everywhere, and I really admire it,” she said. Instagram, in particular, has proven a good resource for her, though she admits to struggling with constant comparison to other photographers on the platform. In the end, though, there were so many, “really cool photos [on Instagram] that it pushed me to take similar ones. Not the kind of similar where I try to recreate the photo, but similar in the sense that they had the same kinds of meaning,” she said.

The award-winning photo (featured above) was taken in the early fall of 2018, during the Manitou Springs High School Homecoming Bonfire. “I wouldn’t say there was actually any purposeful inspiration behind the photo,” she said. “I knew I wanted to take pictures of my friends throwing their bras in the fire because I wanted that memory for myself. After I took the photo, I ended up really liking it,” McKeown said. “When I got the email about the contest, I decided to submit the photos because they were some of my favorite pictures from high school so far, which is what the competition was about.”

Ava Spangler (12) was thankful to be able to be a part of the entire process. Friends for a while, Spangler not only was lucky enough to be in the photograph but also to accompany McKeown to the ceremony after the photograph won the award. The ceremony was a significant moment of recognition for McKeown, and Spangler was excited to be able to be a part of it and live through the valuable experience with her friend. Spangler recalls the photo being taken clearly. “I remember wanting to run fast enough not to get scorched. I also brought an old bra to throw in the fire, one that I don’t wear anymore. Those things are expensive, and I definitely didn’t want to take the one I had on, off.”

The photo contest was hosted by Popup XQ Magazine. Annually, the business takes a tour called “Superschool” around the United States, featuring some of the best art that tells stories about modern high school life. The contest– XQ Super School Live– has been labeled as a “new, one-of-a-kind, immersive storytelling tour” that aims to inspire people to reimagine high schools in their own community. As an up and coming innovative experience, McKeown’s art was displayed and appreciated as a part of an event that brought Pop-Up Magazine Production’s signature storytelling to life and helped to shape the way people everywhere across the United States think about the modern high school life. By providing insight through her photography, McKeown was shaping perspectives. The photography competition is was divided into three sections: “The Community”, “High School Heroes” and “Unique Traditions”. McKeown’s winning photo was entered into the “Unique Traditions” category. In addition, she submitted another photo to the “High School Heroes” section, which showcased sibling love within Manitou Springs.

As MSHS’s Warhorse Editor-in-Chief, McKeown’s creativity is utilized in many ways. “I focus less on getting a ‘good’ picture, that everyone else will like, and more on taking pictures for myself,” she said. “It’s never been about fitting photos into categories for a yearbook or for a contest. It’s about taking a photo of my friends, a picture of people being happy. I want to keep doing a good job for myself or my friends, nothing else,” she said. Though McKeown is doubtful of her future in regards to becoming a photographer, she has no qualms about expressing her interest in anything else, “creative or artistic” related. “I really want to be an art director,” she said. “I want to deal with art in all forms, and photography is just one piece you need.” An art director would need proficiency in many forms to be successful, so for now, McKeown is focusing on “nailing down the photography piece right now,” to help her in the future.