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Local camera buffs judge youth contest

Judge Joe Kubala, left, inspects some of the prints in the photojournalism category of the Photographic Society of America’s Youth Showcase at the Superior Public Library on Wednesday morning as PSA representative, Gerry Emmerich, right, straightens the photographs and fellow judge, Bob Lahti, back, looks over other prints. This year the Duluth Superior Camera Club was selected to judge the international competition. (Jed Carlson/

Members of the Duluth-Superior Camera Club spent Wednesday poring over colorful prints and pixels as judges for the Photographic Society of America’s annual Youth Showcase.

“We do a lot of judging,” said Joe Kubala, co-president of the club. “We have three this month, not including this.” But Wednesday’s, he said, is the most significant to date for the club.

The contest featured 744 photographs from young artists age 13-18 across the nation and students in Egypt. Club members were excited to be tapped to do the judging.

“It’s a great honor,” said Scott Thomson of Superior.

“I’ve really been looking forward to it,” Kubala said. “The quality is way beyond what we expected.”

The judges selected winners in five different categories — architecture, ’scapes, people or animals, photojournalism and photographer’s choice. The photojournalism category included a stark black and white building shot, a colorful crowd of children spraying a fire hose and a man hanging from a bridge spraying paint. The judges — Kubala, Thomson and co-president Bob Lahti — walked through, choosing to keep a photo “in” or “out.” What sets a winning picture apart?

“You’re looking for composition,” Lahti said. “You’re looking for some technical prowess.”

And impact.

“In a photo contest, impact … color impact, the drama, catches the judge’s eye,” Thomson said.

So do unique scenes, Kubala said. The contest offered plenty of those.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for the young people and to show their view of the world through photography, perspective,” said Signe Emmerich, who traveled from West Troy, Wis. with her husband Gerry to facilitate the contest.

For PSA member Kathy Braun of Grafton, Wis., Wednesday was the culmination of a yearly joy.

“The contest closes on April 30, and so the month of April is like Christmas for me,” said Braun, who taught in the Milwaukee school district for 35 years. Contest prints are mailed to her. “I get those packages in the mail; it’s so exciting to open them up and see the work the students are doing.”

The society launched the contest in 1998 to get youth involved in photography.

“And to give them recognition for trying to excel in the field,” Braun said. “Hopefully they’ll continue with photography throughout their lives. Many of them say they will, especially the winners.”

In 2012, digital prints were first accepted and the contest was opened to the world. Students from Egypt, Albania and Iran chose to send pictures that first year.

The number of digital submissions has grown, but print entries have decreased. That saddens Braun.

“I think that it’s important for the students to see their work with others, not just thrown up on a screen or inside of a camera or in a computer,” Braun said. “To have your prints hanging on a wall, there’s a sense of accomplishment there that you don’t get if you don’t print.”

Although no local students participated in this year’s event, all three Duluth-Superior Camera Club members plan to encourage high school students in Superior and Duluth to submit entries for the 2015 contest.

The PSA places emphasis on learning, sharing and having fun with photography. That’s also the aim of the local camera club, which encompasses the Twin Ports region. The group holds monthly meetings from September through June, complete with themed competitions, and participates in 19 North Central Camera Club Council contests each year.

For information, look up the Duluth-Superior Camera Club on Facebook or check out