NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—The New Brunswick Free Public Library (NBFPL) is preparing to celebrate some local photographic visionaries.

Friday, June 9 at 6:30pm, the library will open its doors and welcome visitors to the Carl T. Valenti Community Room where the winners of the 10th Annual Photography Contest will be announced.

Afterwards, a viewing of the winning photographs with a reception will commence at the Alfa Art Gallery.

The contest and exhibition started as a pilot program at the library in 2008.

Library staff believed that hosting a program such as this would make it accessible for anyone interested in expressing themselves through photography to display their work, explained NBFPL librarian Kavita Pandey.

“Our Poetry Anthology had been very successful in encouraging people to expand their writing horizons so a photography event made sense as a way to allow other people to express their creative impulses,” said Pandey.

”Most importantly we believe that since New Brunswick is a multi-cultural city with people from different backgrounds, the art exhibit would artistically showcase the diversity of our community.”

The contest theme this year was “My Inspiration: Capture Photos That Inspire You.”

Photos were submitted in early May and a selection of professional photographers and library staff judged the submissions on originality, technical excellence, composition, overall impact and artistic merit.

Winning entries will also be displayed in an exhibition at the library as well as part of a group exhibition at the Alfa Art Gallery.

According to Pandey, the library receives on average of 100 photos submitted for the contest with more submissions from amateurs than professionals.

In fact, lately there are more photos taken by smartphones that become entries, according to Pandey.

With the contest being open for all ages, several kids have entered with pictures from their cell phones.

Pandey sees this as an opportunity for resident to showcase their skills to the world, and says that the number of entries has been steadily growing over the years.

Also offered during the lead-up to the contest results were a series of workshops held at the library.

From instruction in landscape photography by Joel Simpson, a photographer and speaker to an instructional session on how to edit digital photos with professional photographer and speaker Bill Blanchard.

Even those interested in the artistic side, likewise had an opportunity to sit in on a session with photographer and speaker Danielle Austen, as she described the intricacies of black & white photography.

It was noted that many children and teens attend the photo workshops.

“Through the workshops we are also able to provide free art education which many school and other educational institutions are not capable of doing,” explained Pandey.

And, though the contest is still growing to its ultimate capacity, it is nonetheless a milestone moment with this year being the 10th annual marking of the proceeding, leading staff to reflect on the evolution of the contest as it moves into its second decade of existence.

“What has remained the same is the enthusiasm of the participants to show their creative abilities,” Pandey said.

“What has changed is that more and more people attend the programs where they are able to get guidance from professional photographers. Every year we have been offering photography workshops, where our attendees learn from professionals how to take better photos.”

The program remains an overwhelming success with the community according to library staff, and the entrants to the contest range in backgrounds and ages.

Last year alone, about a quarter of the photos submitted came from from local high school and community college students.

To accommodate the demand, the staff expanded the program to even include other school systems that have not had a chance to participate before.

As a result, the New Brunswick Adult High School was able to participate for the first time.

“I think the most important aspect of the process is that people get to express themselves in this medium,” said Pandey.