March 8, 2006 - Taylor Zumbusch has a talent for seeing ordinary things in an extraordinary light, and she is starting to get recognition for it.
The Catalina Foothills High School senior was selected by the Photo Imaging Education Association for a single image black and white photo.
With more than 6,000 entries, Zumbusch's piece made the cut. It will now travel nationally and internationally in an exhibition of other students' work also selected by PIEA.
Photography became a passion for the 18-year-old after she picked up her first single-lens reflex camera her sophomore year in the school's beginning photography class.
"I was really into athletics," she said. "But I have had a few surgeries so I had to turn to other outlets. I've always been interested in the arts, but I'm not necessarily good in the hands on arts."
She laughingly comments that she suffers from an unsteady hand and a little bit of impatience for painting or sculpting. But with photography, it all just seemed to click, she said.
"I think everyone's born with a different perspective and it's a matter as to where they want to focus that perspective," she said. "It's a way of capturing what the eye can't necessarily see fast enough."
Zumbusch's winning entry in the competition stemmed from a class project that required students to find two objects that were different but looked similar.
After an hour in the produce section of her local grocery store, Zumbusch purchased a red bell pepper that, oddly enough, looked like the back of a well-chiseled male, she said.
She then turned to her friends on the football team and asked one of them to pose for the photo.
The finished product is a piece of art showing two objects the average eye may never see as similar.
She is humble when speaking of the selection by PIEA, which will reward her with photography equipment and supplies.
"It's a big, big contest," she said. "I was thrilled. I was really ecstatic."
But she isn't letting it all go to her head. She is still pointing and shooting her camera and admitting that not every picture snapped can be a winner.
"Photography is really (subjective), someone will always see something different in it," she said. "I like photography that people can look at and see what they want to see."
This is not the first time a student from Catalina Foothills High School placed in the PIEA competition. Over the past five years, at least one student has placed annually in the competition.
The high school offers a stellar photography program and employs a photography teacher whose passion and intelligence forces the students to strive for excellence, Zumbusch said.
"(Jay) Barwell is an amazing motivator and teacher," she said. "But, more than anything, he's always willing to be a friend."
Jay Barwell has taught for almost 30 years. He started his career teaching English literature, but after 20 years behind a desk teaching about books and famous authors, he wanted a new challenge and took on the job of teaching photography, something he also was educated in.
"(Photography) is very accessible to everybody," Barwell said. "It's incredible to watch kids learn."
Out of Barwell's five photography classes and 130 students, Zumbusch was the only student this year selected by the PIEA.
"It's so hard to get any recognition in that," he said. "Things really have to stick out in the (judges') minds."
Last year, then senior Krysta Jabczenski's portfolio placed second in the competition.
She is now studying photography at the prestigious Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara and is doing amazingly well, Barwell said.
He sees many similarities between Zumbusch and Jabczenski. They are both extremely talented students with a great eye and real talent, he said.
"She (Zumbusch) is a special student, very self critical," Barwell said. "She's always searching for something new."
For now, Zumbusch wants to follow her own education path and is opting to keep photography as a hobby and not make it into a career, she said.
She never wants the fun to be taken out of capturing a special image from behind the lens, she said, because when a great picture is taken, special things can happen.
"It makes the world more interesting," she said.