VITAL’S 2007 Photo Contest Winners

By - Jun 1st, 2007 02:52 pm
Get a daily rundown of the top stories on Urban Milwaukee

I think photography as the America of “Art.”

It is not a perfect analogy; photography doesn’t arrest undocumented artworks and detain them indefinitely, nor is it engaged in an endless quest to start wars against developing art forms whilst alienating and disenfranchising photographs at home. Photographs are sometimes bought and sold to the highest bidder, but that’s not what I mean, either.

Photography is a highly democratic art form. Not everyone is born with the fine motor skills to learn how to draw or the craftsmanship necessary to sculpt or carve wood. But most people can figure out how to press a button on a camera. With a light meter and a little practice, even a manual camera is intuitive enough to understand. The ever-expanding accessibility of digital equipment has even made it possible to eliminate the complicated and costly process of developing your own prints. Now all you need is a printer, or someone whose printer you can use and – voilà – a masterpiece. The ease of photography invites experimentation and ingenuity. Like America, nothing is guaranteed – not everyone can afford those fancy macro lenses, and not everyone has an eye for composition – but photography strives for equality of opportunity. And frankly, that makes the old institutions a little bit nervous. If you were an oil painting, you’d be nervous, too. Look at what happened to Great Britain.

And in the grand scheme of things, photography is a pretty young way to make art, and even though a photograph is one of the world’s most powerful tools for telling a story or conveying an image, photography is still fighting for its credibility in the art world. Not everyone trusts photography. It’s too instant. It’s too mechanical. The artist is too far removed from the art. Or so it is still sometimes said.

This year, in the spirit of opportunity, we awarded two different awards for each category – Best Professional and Best Amateur. The judges – Cori Coffman, Executive Director of the Eisner Musuem of Art and Design; Deone Jahnke, a local professional photographer who works all over the country and Sonja Thomsen, adjunct professor at MIAD and head of Milwaukee’s Coalition of Photographic Arts – swore to be fair and impartial administrators of their duties. They rated each photograph blind before the law (well, they could see, but it was anonymous) and on video camera themselves, for all to witness at our second Random Exposure opening on June 14 at the Eisner, which will include over 60 of our favorite entries, democratically displayed for your viewing enjoyment. There will also be music, food and more. Look for details on page 18.

In your winners, you will see testament to the radical and boundless fruits of this art for the people: color, shadows, truth, comedy, tragedy, apathy and beauty.


Best Professional
Jessica Kaminski
“Girl in Doorway”

MASTER Vital 6-07.indd

Jessica Kaminski received her BFA in Fine Art Photography from MIAD in 2001. Since then, she has been freelancing full-time. Last November, Kaminski successfully executed a one-weekend show where over 100 people attended. Kaminski’s work has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Wisconsin Bride Magazine and Milwaukee Magazine, among others. When she’s not photographing, Kaminski loves traveling, discovering new music and learning new things.

Honorable Mention
Hannah Scott

Best Amateur
Nikki McGuinnis
“This About Sums It Up”

Nikki McGuinnis’ art reveals life’s representations… from love and laughter to rotting and suffering. She enjoys manipulating images to magnify the poetry of the photograph itself. She’s always been expressive, morphing between mediums until finding her niche in photography. She is self-taught, doesn’t read the manual and does most things backwards. She enjoys finding the surreal in the mundane and the magical in the ugly.

Honorable Mention
Kevin C. Groen

Honorable Mention
Diana Kraus


Best Professional
Laura Gorzek
Train Table

After six years of art school, Laura Gorzek can officially call herself a graduate. She has been working extensively with experimental narratives utilizing street photography in sequences while also doing odd jobs such as head shots, documentation and portfolios. Check out her photo-blog at

Honorable Mention
Eddee Daniel

Best Amateur
Kevin C. Groen
“Look At All Of These Athletes”

Kevin Groen holds a Bachelors in Journalism from UW-Milwaukee, and is now pursuing an Associate degree in Photography at MATC. He first fell in love with photography when he worked for the school paper and had access to a dark room and a bulk loader of black and white film. He enjoys shooting landscape, still-life and portrait photography. You can view more of Kevin’s photos at

Honorable Mention
Nathaniel Davauer
“De Pollo”


Best Professional
Hannah Scott

Nineteen-year-old Hannah Scott is an art major at UW-Milwaukee. She has enjoyed taking pictures ever since she first laid her hands on a camera. She’ll shoot anything that captures her eye, even if it means running home to get her camera. Hannah often goes out at night to shoot, but not alone, because that’s not safe. New places and new opportunities are also a very important part of this photographer’s life.

Honorable Mention
Julia L. Elsner

Best Amateur
Christopher Zaborsky
“Anti-War Protest, 2007”

Christopher was introduced to photography by his father, but was turned off by the costs and restrictions of film. Once digital reached a level of quality, Christopher picked up his first camera in over a decade and soon found himself casually experimenting. The instant feedback and lack of a cost-per-photo penalty was liberating. Now that he has had a chance to refine his skills, he finds himself looking back toward film for its artistic possibilities.


Best Professional
Julia L. Elsner

Julia L. Elsner, now 22 years old, has been creating art since a very young age but has only been showing her work publicly since March 2006. By day, Julia works a lowly “desk” job but by night she moonlights as a photographer, capturing everything from standard portraits to abstracts ranging from water, paper clips, mirrors and food coloring to CDs, flowers, fishing line, dish soap and even cooking oil. More of Julia’s work can be found at

Honorable Mention
Kate Funk
“Ferris Wheel”

Best Amateur
Kristin Freiberg
“Lopez Island, Washington State”

A lifelong lover of art, Kristin Freiberg has been taking photos since high school. While her heart will always belong to her 35mm SLR camera, she has recently branched into digital photography. When not taking pictures, she enjoys knitting, reading, spending time with her family and friends and napping. She lives in Waukesha with her husband, Luke, and their dog, Gomez. The editors would like to note that this photo was taken with a disposable camera. Amazing.

Honorable Mention
Jackie McGraw

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us