By Megan Alley
A Milford High School 11th-grader was recently recognized by judges from the Sony World Photography Awards when one of her photographs was accepted into the competition.
Jenna Bellonby’s photograph, entitled “In and Out,” which she created last semester as part of the Photography II class she was enrolled in at the high school, was chosen as one of the top 50 out of 105,692 entries from 182 countries in the still life category, according to a news release from the high school. The contest, which is one of the world’s largest photograph competitions, was open to all ages, including professional photographers.
Contest organizers notified Bellonby about a month ago, via email, that her work had been selected.
“I literally had a little meltdown in graphic design,” Bellonby said. “It was crazy because it was so unexpected.”
She added, “That doesn’t happen, you know. It’s so rare, especially because I’m just a sophomore in high school. Not only was [the competition open to] professionals, but it was the best internationally, and it’s just amazing for me to be able to say I’m part of that. It’s crazy.”
Bellonby’s photograph will be exhibited digitally as part of the 2017 Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition, which will be held from April 21 to at May 7 Somerset House in London.
Bellonby described her inspiration and methodology for taking the award-winning photo.
“Originally we had an assignment for school; it was to create a still life,” she said. “I’m big on doing things that haven’t really been done before, and I feel like when people think of an object, they’re thinking of something 3D, something like a cube, vase, something like that, and I wanted to really take that into a different direction by using paper – something that’s thought more of as 2D, even though it technically is 3D.”
She added, “I literally went to the store, and I got a giant pack of card stock with similar colors that fit the color scheme I wanted it to go through. And I literally went into my basement over Thanksgiving break andI cut the pieces up, I taped them, I did all different sorts of arrangements, and I really tried to push the creative and the visual aspect of the piece. I just really tried to create a still life that wasn’t your ordinary still life, and I ended up getting a lot of good shots.”
When Bellonby heard that the Sony World Photography Awards competition had a still life category, she thought, “Heck, yeah, I’m entering that.” She submitted three still lifes, all from the same shoot.
While Bellonby, who shoots on a black Nikon D3200 digital single-lens reflex camera, has always liked photography, it’s only been since about 2015 that she really decided to “take it seriously.”
“I’m mostly self-taught, other than the super technical stuff,” she said. “I developed a lot of my style and the things that are pretty consistent with me by myself, by watching YouTube videos, by just seeing things I liked.”
She added, “When they had the photography class, I took that second semester along with graphic design, and that’s when I kind of took off for it to be more of a professional thing, and from then on, I’ve been nonstop.”
Bellonby has also earned seven awards in the 2017 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards Competition, including three Gold Keys. One of her photographs was also selected as a finalist in the Drexel University High School Photography Contest, according to a news release from the high school.
Looking ahead, Bellonby has “pretty high” aspirations for her art career.
“I’m very set on going somewhere in the art world. I’m pretty open to which different area, because I literally enjoy every aspect of it, but I have my eyes set on actually being a high-fashion photographer or like an art director for a fashion magazine that deals with mixing fine art with your typical fashion,” she said. “I like to incorporate really contemporary high fashion, but with a very avant-garde spin with more of my portraits, because I also do a lot of portraits, along with still lifes.”
Bellonby suggested that anyone interested in getting into photography should “just go for it.”
“So many people nowadays, I see them get really interested in photography, but they’re so scared to do something different,” she said. “So many kids are afraid to put their work out there, and even if they have amazing work, they’re just too scared to put it out there.”
She added, “I can’t stress it enough that if you want to go places, you have to put yourself out there.”
For more information about Bellonby’s work, visit her online portfolio at https://jennabellonby.myportfolio.com/.