Photo contest winners will no longer have photos framed and displayed in the halls due to upcoming move to new high school building.

by Maya Mattan, ‘20

Photography teacher Scott
Wittenburg smiles while working on a project in the photography room. Wittenburg created the photo contest to showcase student talent. Photo by Grace Call

For over two decades, photos from winners of the annual photo contest have lined the halls of UAHS. Photos are judged by a jury of art teachers, and winners of this contest receive the opportunity to get their photo enlarged, framed and displayed throughout the school.

Photography teacher Scott Wittenburg started the tradition in 2000 after recognizing that students had talent to express and display.

“There is a lot of talent in this school,” Wittenburg said. “I wanted to showcase students’ talents with the rest of the school in the form of their photos.”

Currently almost 300 of these photos line the halls of the school. Senior Susan Kim said looking at the past pictures supports her creativity and passion.

“[The pictures have] motivated me to work toward a goal and to be more creative—to branch out,” Kim said.

Senior Brooke Fidler said the photo contest was how she got interested in photography; she is now looking into pursuing the discipline in college.

“It has really pushed me to start going into photography more. It just became something that I really, really loved,” Fidler said.

Although past pictures have inspired students today, winning images from the photo contest will no longer be showcased in the new building.

“This is a dilemma that needs to be worked out,” Wittenburg said. “[The new school is] pretty much rebranding, and they don’t want the clutter.”

Because the photos don’t fit the clean, modern aesthetic of the new school, Wittenburg doesn’t know what to do with these framed pieces.

“The question now is what do we do with them? We have kids who would probably like to have them. Some of them are former students back to 20 years. Do we auction off some of them?” Wittenburg said. “We haven’t come to any conclusions yet.”

Some students are upset about the future absence of these photos in the halls and believe it is removing a part of the school’s history.

“It’s a part of our high school and has always been a part of our high school.”

 

“It’s a part of our high school and has always been a part of our high school. I think it’s important because it’s part of our interior design,” Kim said. “Even, people who aren’t photographers think it’s really cool. It’s a place for young artists to show their work.”

Fidler has used these photos as navigation tools since freshman year.

“Whenever I would get lost in the school, I would always look at the photos in the hallway and I would know where I am,” Fidler said. “I would memorize the hallways by the photos. I just feel like it’s taking away the hallway vibe.”

Wittenburg, who spends a portion of his winter break framing each year’s winning photos and mounting them in the halls, said the photo contest won’t have the same meaning when the winners’ photos are not displayed.

“I’ve had several parents, teachers and kids tell me that when people go through here and see these, they say, ‘Wow, these are wonderful,’” Wittenburg said.

More than just the attraction, Wittenburg said they have become a part of the school.

He has brought up the issue of the phased out photos in the staff’s Idea Hunt. He believes the works should be displayed in some way in the new building.

“One of the things we’re looking at is to put [up] a huge screen and make a multimedia presentation of the winners—past and present—so it’s more digital instead of a hard copy,” Wittenburg said.

Solutions are still being debated, but when students begin the 2021-22 school year in the brand new building, the framed photos lining the hallways will be no more.

“[People] are very attracted to seeing all these great pieces of art,” Wittenburg said. “They give the high school an identity.”