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Hastings Student Photo Exhibited Nationally

photo Hastings High School senior Josie Simon is used to being behind the lens, but she was the one in focus this month after being selected for a national exhibition.

One of Simon’s photographs was chosen as part of Drexel University’s 2020 High School Photography Contest, a competition that saw 771 students from around the nation submit their best shots. With over 2100 photographs submitted, Simon was among 267 students selected to be included in the exhibition. 

The photograph chosen by Drexel was an assignment for Corey Merchant’s advanced placement photography class. Featuring a friend as a model, Simon borrowed a backdrop from her father and had her subject pose in front of her medium-format Rolleiflex film camera. 

I had this cheap pink wig from Amazon,” she said. “I set up the backdrop in this random field one day and my friend tried the wig on.”

Though this is the first time her work was included in a national competition, it wasn’t Simon’s first shoot. With a father and grandfather who are both photography enthusiasts, Simon has been experimenting with photography since eighth grade. She began taking photography classes under Merchant in freshman year and is currently the president of the Hastings High School Photography Club, which is advised by Merchant, 

Josie has taken every photography class we offer here,” he said. “I love it when I get to see a student grow, not only in their mastery of technique but also in their creative vision and personal voice.”

Speaking about her selected photograph, Simon said “I just really liked the placement of her hands and the way the wig is cut,” adding that she appreciated its simplicity and how clean cut it is.

Simon said she wasn’t prepared for her selection. In fact, she said, she had forgotten about the competition entirely. Mr. Merchant was notified by Drexel and gave Simon the good news. 

With senior year and stress, it had completely slipped my mind so I was very excited,” she said. 

In addition to her accomplishment, Simon is currently having her work displayed in a professional gallery. The 510 Warren Street Gallery in Hudson, NY has a wall filled with Simon’s prints showing until December 27th. She said that having two achievements in one month caught her off guard, especially being able to display her work for the first time. 

It’s kind of surreal,” she said. “I saw the gallery and said ‘Those are my photos on the wall and people are going to be looking at them!’.” 

Apart from taking photography in school, Simon strengthens her skills by attending classes at the International Center of Photography and the Fashion Institute of Technology. Looking to the future, Simon is already making plans to continue her photography in college.

I love it too much to stop,” she said, adding that she hopes to take photography classes alongside her main interest in business next year.

Merchant said that her ongoing devotion to the darkroom is no surprise after seeing her attend his class for four years, but he is also looking forward to seeing what else she can capture with a camera. 

I am, of course, proud of Josie and all that she's achieved,” he said. “But what I'm really excited about is getting to see what she accomplishes in the future.”

You can see Simon’s entry and the rest of the selected works here