Two students from The Frederick Gunn School have been selected to participate in ASAP!’s 12th annual Celebration of Young Photographers. Daniel Conlan ’26 and YoYo Zhang ’24 will have their original photographs featured in a juried exhibition on Sunday, November 13, from 2-4 p.m. at Bryan Memorial Town Hall in Washington Depot. If you would like to attend the exhibit, registration is required. Click here to register online.
Students in grades 6-12 were invited to submit original photographs based on this year’s theme: adventure. Photos could be taken with any type of camera, including smartphones, DSLRs, and traditional film cameras, and photo editing was allowed. A panel of professional photographers selected the top 60 photographs for the exhibition and will recognize the top four student-artists for their outstanding and thoughtful work.
Conlan’s photograph, titled “Steep Rock Tunnel,” was taken while he was on a hike at Steep Rock Preserve this fall with Outdoor Leadership. It features the silhouettes of three figures framed by the arched opening of the train tunnel, which Gunn students pass through on the annual School Walk. In fact, Conlan was helping to mark the course for this year’s School Walk in October, when he took the photo. He decided to submit it to the Celebration of Young Photographers because he thought it suited this year's theme. “I really thought this one felt adventurous,” Conlan said. “I really like how you can see the silhouettes of some people and there’s this bright light from outside the tunnel. I like taking pictures that look nice with the sun.”
Zhang’s photograph, “Flying Back in Time,” is a composition of different, contrasting images, which is an aesthetic that has been consistent in the art she has been making in Digital Photography, taught by Lincoln Turner of the Visual Arts faculty, and AP Studio Art, with Visual Arts Chair Andrew Richards P'20 '23. The AP course emphasizes art making as an ongoing, creative process, which includes the development of the student as an independent thinker, a goal-setter, and problem-solver, who reflects critically on their own work as well as the work of their peers and other artists to inform their creative process. The course also intends to help students on the journey to find their own artistic voice through thoughtful consideration of their aesthetic preferences and mastery of technical skills.
Asked about the process involved in creating the photograph, "Flying Back in Time," Zhang said: “I took the photo when I was in my hometown in China. It was a sky photo. I cut it to make half of it black and white, and looked for some relics and airplane photos online. I made this photoshopped work to contrast the current and the past.”
Zhang is producing an entire portfolio of work in AP Studio Art with an environmental theme. In one abstract compilation, two contrasting images seem to mirror one another. In the daylight version, which Zhang called “the ideal world,” there are plants and trees, but the image is broken into small pieces. In the nighttime image, which she called “the drastic one,” the landscape appears windswept, stark, and without plants. “It’s not an ideal situation,” she said, “and this one is cracking because it’s not what the real world is. It’s a broken dream.”
Zhang employs this split-screen approach in other work, including a city landscape at night, with contrasting images of fire and water. She created another work, “Lonely Woman at Home,” to call attention to people who live alone. “If you do not keep in touch with them, you don't know what will happen to them. The outside world runs normally, but then, people who are alone, nobody knows what they are experiencing.”
As a freshman, Zhang submitted her photographs to the Connecticut Scholastic Art Awards, the largest juried student art exhibition in the state. Two were accepted into the juried exhibition at the University of Hartford’s Silpe Gallery in early 2021: “After Party” and “Soul of Fire,” a close-up, black-and-white image of curling flames that won her a prestigious Silver Key Award.
“I’ve been taking pictures my whole life. When I got my first phone in second grade, I started to take photos. My mom used to say she could not control my use of the phone because I'd spend 10 hours every day just using the camera. When I went to middle school, my aunt bought me a camera," said Zhang, who currently uses both a Canon DSLR and iPhone to make photographs.
If you can’t make it to this year’s ASAP! Celebration of Young Photographers Exhibit, you can view the images on Instagram.