“Photography helps people see.” — Berenice Abbott
By Heidi Sutton
Last Thursday evening, Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Commack held a reception honoring the award recipients of its annual Photo Contest complete with a traditional slide show.
This year’s competition, which has grown exponentially from humble beginnings 24 years ago, drew over 700 entries from amateur photographers across the country. In all, 45 photos were selected to be enlarged and framed for permanent display for the enjoyment of those who live and work in the 460-bed nursing and rehabilitation center. According to Dennine Cook, director of public relations for Gurwin, the yearly event began as a way to decorate the walls of the newly opened facility.
“That first year, we had 100 entries and chose 10 winners, mounted them on foam board and hung them in the main hall,” she said. When some of the photos, especially those depicting babies and pets, started to wear out from being kissed so much, the staff started to frame the winners and “we decided that they should remain in our collection for many years.”
A contest with a purpose
Today, the photographs are moved from the Helen and Nat Tiffen Gallery, located in the main corridor at Gurwin, to the resident units as each year’s new group of winners is announced. “Each of the winning photos for the past 20 plus years is hanging on the wall somewhere in the facility, bringing joy to someone each and every day,” said Cook.
Addressing the winners, the public relations director said, “Although competitive and a great achievement for you as a photographer, [the contest] is really about the people who get to see your work once it is chosen,” adding that for the nursing home residents, the beautiful photographs bring back fond memories and “stir up a whole host” of emotions. “And it’s at times like that when we remember why we hold this contest,” she added.
This year’s judges, Michael Cassera of The Tiffen Company (which has sponsored the event for the last 11 years), Alex Horvath of Newsday and Tony Lopez (Tony Lopez Photography) had the arduous task of choosing grand prize winners along with honorable mentions for 12 categories including Nature, Pets, Children, Action/Sports, and Long Island/New York as well as Best in Show and Best in Show Runner-Up. In addition, a panel of resident judges also chose six of their favorites.
What happens to the remaining 650 plus entries? According to Dawn Lettau, director of therapeutic recreation for Gurwin, nothing goes to waste. “We can’t wait for the [remaining] entries to be turned over to us each year. We use them as inspiration for original paintings, collages and other projects all year long, so even photos that aren’t selected as winners are winners to us,” she said.
“While you certainly will bring home a memento of your award tonight, I hope you will leave with the knowledge that the true ‘prize’ is that your photo will bring a smile to someone’s face and a lift to someone’s spirits,” said Cook. “All of the selections, will be judged, discussed and enjoyed by so many appreciative eyes for years to come and to me that is the real honor.”
Entries for the 2018 Gurwin Photo Contest will be accepted beginning in mid-February 2018. Past participants will receive an entry form in the mail. Entry forms will also be available online at https://www.gurwin.org/about/photo-contest/.
2017 WINNING SELECTIONS
Best in Show “Corinth Sheep” by James Napoli
Best in Show Runner-Up “Riding with Dad” by Jo-Anne Bodkin
Grand Prize “Long Island Surfer” by Donna Crinnian
Honorable Mention “Bull Dogger” by Frank DiBenedetto
Honorable Mention “Rappelling in the Negev” by Dan Greenburg
Grand Prize “Guggenheim Museum Ceiling” by Joe Constantino
Honorable Mention “Near You” by Susan Kozodoy-Silkowitz
Honorable Mention “Existential Escalator” by Robert Oliva
Grand Prize “Sun Kissed” by Joseph Peragallo
Honorable Mention “African School Children” by Carol Goldstein
Honorable Mention “Big Eyes” by Janet Pieper
Grand Prize “Mystical Canyon” by Andrew Ehrlich
Honorable Mention “Autumn Sun” by Michael Danielson
Honorable Mention “Portland Head Lighthouse” by Ellen Dunn
Long Island/ New York Category
Grand Prize “Morning Ride” by Karen Celella
Honorable Mention “Ball of Fire” by Joseph Deo
Honorable Mention “Tribute of Light” by Marzena Grabczynska
Grand Prize “A Hobbit’s View” by Alan Sloyer
Honorable Mention “Colors of Nature” by Mike DiRenzo
Honorable Mention “Northern Lights” by Lorraine Piskin
Grand Prize “Cuban Farmer” by Kathleen Hinkaty
Honorable Mention “Indian Man” by Jan Golden
Honorable Mention “Beyond Borders” by Belle Lin
Grand Prize “One Good Lick” by Barbara McCahill
Honorable Mention “Hi There!” by Jane Maresco
Honorable Mention “Oliver” by Mario Santiago
Still Life Category
Grand Prize “Fort Royal” by Robert Oliva
Honorable Mention “The Bouquet” by Winifred Boyd
Honorable Mention “Elgin No. 1” by Stan Mehlman
Grand Prize “Nuns in the Rain, Myanmar” by Richard Witkover
Honorable Mention “Field of Light” by Karen Celella
Honorable Mention “Bay of Fundy” by Carol Goldstein
Grand Prize “Watching the Sunset” by Donna Crinnian
Honorable Mention “Breeding Plumage” by Donna Crinnian
Honorable Mention “Roxie’s Kits” by Jay Gammill
Grand Prize “Flying Free’ by Susan Krage
Honorable Mention “Sophia” by Eliana Davidoff
Honorable Mention “African Sunset” by Teddy Koutsoftas