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Kristen Wesson's winning entry captured climate change march in downtown Portland

PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Kristen Wesson takes her camera to special events at Milwaukie High School, so she can capture the high school experience for the yearbook. Kristen Wesson, a senior at Milwaukie High School, was surprised when she was told that her photograph had won an award in the Willamette Week photo contest.

Then she found out she was the only student winner, her photo would be published in the Dec. 31 issue of the paper, and her prize was a free class at Portland Northwest College of Art.

PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Kristen Wesson and her friend Cassidy Galyon check out a display of photos in the arts building at Milwaukie High School.  "That will open my eyes to more art classes. I'm glad I have that opportunity," she said.

And all of this for a photo that Wesson said she didn't even like that much.

Wesson was initially unsure about entering the competition, but Michael Fell, her Yearbook and Social Media teacher, sent her the link for the contest and encouraged her to send in a photo.

"This is a huge achievement, as she initially lacked confidence in entering the competition, and then she won," Fell said.

The contest asked readers to enter their own private takes on Portland, centering around the parts of the city that rarely make the cover of a newspaper.

Wesson then looked through her photos and focused in on pictures she took at the climate change march at the end of September.

The photo she chose depicts a sign on a bicycle proclaiming "Loving the Earth is Loving your Neighbor."

"I like how it represented what the competition was about; it represents Portland. There is a bike and people on the Hawthorne Bridge," Wesson said. The words on the sign help people realize that the event in the photo was the climate change march, she added.

KRISTEN WESSON - Kristen Wesson's winning photograph was featured in Willamette Week's Dec. 31 issue. Wesson said what she liked best about the rally was "everyone being there for the same reason."

It was also "a good photo op that pushed my limits and inspired me to take photos of things I wouldn't normally do."

Yearbook class

Being a photographer for the yearbook class is a big responsibility, and Wesson said her goal is to take photographs that convey the high school experience.

She recently attended the winter formal and took photos of attendees dancing.

The lighting was a challenge and she had to approach people and ask to take their picture, but she wanted photos that people will "look at and remember those times."

As the yearbook photographer, Wesson said she has learned to meet deadlines and get comfortable talking to people. She also realized that part of getting good photographs is making her subjects feel comfortable and listening to them.

When she goes to big events, Wesson tries to take photos of everything around her, even though there is a lot going on.

"When I see something I like, I capture that moment and make art out of it," she said.

One of the things Wesson likes most about photography is that "there are many ways to interpret a photo," and the photographer can't always tell how a viewer is going to respond to a picture.

Future plans

Wesson said she took an art class her freshman year, but regrets not having the opportunity to take more. However, she has discovered a love of photography and said the class motivates her to take photos.

In the future, she would like to pursue a career in photography, but also is interested in psychology, law and working with children.

Her plans include attending community college for her first two years and then deciding where to transfer.

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