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Dennine Cook

‘A good photograph is one that communicates a fact, touches the heart, leaves the viewer a changed person for having seen it.’ – Irving Penn

By Heidi Sutton

Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Commack revealed the winners of its 29th annual Photo Contest at an award ceremony and reception at the recently opened Fountaingate Garden’s Life Plan Community’s Clubhouse on Sept. 20. The highlight of the evening was a traditional slide show of the winning selections from this and previous years. Winners were also given the option of sending in a video describing their photo and process.

Sponsored by the Tiffen Company, this year’s competition drew over 700 entries from amateur photographers across the country. Of those submissions, 32 photos were chosen to be enlarged, framed and hung on permanent display in the nursing home. The beautiful images will be on exhibit in the Helen and Nat Tiffen Gallery for a year and will then move up to the resident units.

The event is the brainchild of Dennine Cook, Chief Corporate Communications Officer oat Gurwin who started the contest in 1993 as a way of “making [Gurwin’s] blank walls more homelike.” 

“That first year we had 60 entries in color and black and white. All the enlargements were made from negatives and slides and mounted on foamboard so we’ve really come a long way,” said Cook. “Now our contest reguarly receives more than 700 entries.”

Cook spoke of how the pandemic has taken an emotional toll on the residents at Gurwin. “For a long time they could not have visitors and often the only bright spot was seeing that familar photos outside their doorway … Your photos added some light and were appreciated more than you know.”

“This contest, although competitive and a great achievement for you as a photographer, is really about the people who get to see your work,” said Cook. 

“These are challenging times for all of us … and your photos help to beautify all of our facilites,” added Stuart B. Almer, President and CEO of the Gurwin Healthcare System, before the winners were announced

This year’s judges, Christopher Appoldt (Christopher Appoldt Photography), Brandon Klein of The Tiffen Company and Tony Lopez (Tony Lopez Photography), were given the difficult task of choosing a grand prize winner along with honorable mentions for 12 categories as well as Best in Show, which this year was awarded to Deidre Elzer-Lento of Northport for “Rainbow Over LIPA Stacks,” and Best In Show Runner-Up.  

Elzer-Lento spoke about the day she took the photo. “A storm was blowing through and I watched at my window until sure enough, a full double rainbow appeared.” She raced out to her backyard and took the picture over and over until she got that perfect shot. 

This year’s Best In Show Runner-Up was awarded to Aaron Needle of Merrick for his sports photo titled “Safe!” Needle spoke of how he took the action photo during one of his son’s baseball game. 

“All the selections, whether they be Honorable Mentions, Grand Prizes or Resident/Staff selections will be judged, discussed and enjoyed by so many appreciative eyes for years to come and to me that’s the real honor — that your photos will hang for decades here in our resident’s home,” said Cook.

The annual contest does not accept digital entries, only 8 × 10 prints, which are not returned. However, Cook was quick to assure the audience that all of the submissions will be put to good use. “[The residents] use them in art therapy as painting and drawing inspiration and in crafting classes. It’s become a great resource here at Gurwin and everyone is very grateful.”

Best in Show

‘Rainbow Over LIPA Stacks’ by Deidre Elzer-Lento

Best in Show Runner-Up

‘Safe!’ by Aaron Needle

Action/Sports Category

Grand Prize

‘Fly with Me’by Michelle Nickerson

Honorable Mention 

‘Mirror Image’ by Frank DiBenedetto

Altered/Enhanced Category

Grand Prize 

‘Northport Dock’ by Ellen Gallagher

Honorable Mention 

‘Mythical Forest’ by Ellen Gallagher

Children’s Category

Grand Prize 

‘Watermelon Joy’ by Avihai Vaday

Honorable Mention 

‘Julia’ by Mike DiRenzo

Landscapes Category

Grand Prize

‘Among the Aspen’ by Meryl Lorenzo

Honorable Mention 

‘Mabry Mill’ by Carol Goldstein

Long Island/ New York Category

Grand Prize 

‘After the Storm’ by Debbie Monastero

Honorable Mention 

‘Gamecock Cottage’ by Robert Oliva

Nature Category

Grand Prize 

‘Mother Nature’ by Alan Sloyer

Honorable Mention 

‘Autumn’s Litter’ by Tom Caruso

People Category

Grand Prize 

‘Road Work’ by Vic Carlin

Honorable Mention 

‘Moroccan Merchant’ by Herb Knopp

Pets Category

Grand Prize 

‘Snow Day’ by Katie Scherer

Honorable Mention  

‘Baxter Wants a Treat’ 

by Dianne Boothe

Still Life Category

Grand Prize 

‘Farrier’s Tools of the Trade’ by Dianne Boothe

Honorable Mention 

‘Wine & Cheese’ by Bobbie Turner

Travel Category

Grand Prize 

‘Grazing on the Meadow’ by Carol Milazzo DiRenzo

Honorable Mention 

‘Sunset Surf’ by Erin Bonitz

Wildlife Category

Grand Prize 

‘Eastern Phoebe’ by Frank Silverman

Honorable Mention 

‘American Beauty’ by Debbie Monastero

Student Category

Grand Prize 

‘The Vessel’ by Emma Azevedo

Honorable Mention 

‘A Walk in the Park’ by Noah Gorlewski

Resident/Staff Selections

‘Blue Eyes’ by Lora Ann Batorsky

‘Summer Wave’ by Michael Danielson

‘Baby Isla’ by Nicole Eberle

‘Who’s There?’ by Fred Fenster

‘Port Jeff Ferry’ by Les Goldschmidt

‘Just Chillin’ by Alan Sloyer

Entries for next year’s photo contest will be accepted between Feb. 15 and April 15, 2023. For more information, visit www.gurwin.org/about/photo-contest/.


‘Ballerina on Malecon, Cuba’ by Roni Chastain received an Honorable Mention (People Category) in last year’s contest.

Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Commack has announced it is extending the deadline for submissions to its 27th annual photo contest to July 1 in light of the stay-at-home order that has been in place during the COVID-19 crisis. 

Garnering submissions from across the globe, the unique contest offers amateur photographers and students an opportunity to be recognized for their work, as well as the chance to make an impact on the lives of those who live at the 460-bed nursing and rehabilitation center. 

Winning photos are placed on permanent display in the Center’s Tiffen Photo Gallery for the enjoyment of residents and visitors alike. 

“We understand that the many social distancing orders in place for the sake of safety may make it difficult for some contestants to capture the ideal shots they would like to submit. We are hoping to accommodate our many talented photographers by extending the submission deadline until June 15th,” said Dennine Cook, Chief Public Relations Officer at Gurwin, and creator of the renowned photo contest.

“We encourage all those participating to proceed with caution and take advantage of the warm weather!” added Cook.

Traditionally, a reception has been held at the Gurwin Center where winning photographers are presented with their cash prizes, award certificates and/or trophies. An award ceremony is anticipated to be held in the fall, with event details available at a later date.   

Applications are available at www.gurwin.org/about/photo-contest/ or by calling 631-715-2575.

This article was updated on June 12 to reflect a change in the deadline date.