11th Annual Readers’ Photo Contest: The PEOPLE of ARIZONA

Editorial StaffMay 3, 2021
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With the COVID-19 pandemic drawing down, we decided to focus our latest showcase of reader-provided photographic beauty on the thing people were most deprived of during the quarantine: people. In all their joy, sadness, motion and rest.

By Craig Outhier, Emily Schmidt & Zachary Spieckers

From more than 100 submissions, our editors picked the 12 entries that best evinced the “People of Arizona” theme. Those dozen photos were then posted on Facebook for a two-week public vote.


Andrei Stoica
“Modern Hefaistos”

Andrei Stoica isn’t a traditional photographer. He’s a software engineer for a large bank and lives in Chandler. Still, as this sulphurous image of a modern-day smith demonstrates, he has a knack for dynamic composition. Using his Canon EOS 6D Mark II, Stoica wanted to create a defining image for his friend, Devin Mace, who runs the blacksmith shop at Rawhide Western Town in Chandler. “Devin prides himself as a traditional blacksmith, one that uses old-fashioned equipment to create his art,” Stoica says. You can find more work from Stoica at arizonaphotoadventures.com.


Jeffrey Luth
“Gray Lady”

A semi-retired communications consultant, Jeffrey Luth captured this surreal grayscale image on his Canon 6D, shooting outside the Tucson Fourth Avenue Street Fair. Appearing almost statue-like in metallic skin paint, the woman caught Luth’s attention as “she epitomized the uninhibited atmosphere that characterizes [the] Tucson street festival,” he says. Luth made the drive from his old home in Scottsdale to Tucson for the sole purpose of capturing a unique street photo. Luth has since moved to Massachusetts. You can find more of his work at luthphoto.com.


Stephen Denton
“The People’s Open”

Growing up in Tempe, Stephen Denton cultivated two great passions: golf and photography. Both come to roost in this humorous snapshot of sun-drenched debauchery, shot at the 2018 Phoenix Open with a flash pack and high sync rate to achieve the kind of vivid, overlit effect one might find in a game-action photo. The photograph was taken at the Open’s infamous 16th hole, known for its boisterous, beer-sodden crowds. “As a golfer and long-time patron of the Phoenix Open… I have always been fascinated by the tournament,” Denton says. “I wanted to get in the middle of the madness and create images that go beyond what is broadcasted on television, and document the tournament as I’ve see it for so many years.” Find his work at stephendentonphotography.com


Angela Adams
“Floyd’s Shadow” 

A week after George Floyd’s death at the hands of police officers in Minnesota, photographer and exhibit manager Angela Adams marched with hundreds of protestors in Downtown Phoenix on June 2, 2020. She remembers the extreme heat and passing by exhausted people lying on the ground, who later rejoined the march. Her Canon 7D in hand, Adams saw the woman in the crowd and wanted to capture her alone because “her strength and stare stood out.” She says, “The frame is only to be shared with the shadow of a man in the background, signified as Floyd himself, there in spirit.” Find her work at zhibit.org/angelaadamsart.

Pavle Milic
“Pruning in AZ”

While pruning at Jenny’s Vineyard in Southern Arizona, Pavle Milic grabbed his iPhone 11 Pro and captured his friend and employee, Joel Machen Contreras, grinning widely. With ownership stakes in both Scottsdale restaurant FnB and Los Milics Vineyard in Sonoita, Milic says that grape-growing isn’t a “novelty” in Arizona anymore, with north of 120 vineyards and wineries in the state. The growth has been supported by Mexican farm laborers, particularly in Willcox, Elfrida and Sonoita. “They form part of the agricultural fabric of Arizona and have added a great deal of value to our state,” says Milic, PHOENIX’s wine columnist. “Joel is emblematic of the farming and immigrant spirit.” Find his work at pavlemilic.com and on Instagram @pavlemilic or @losmilicsvineyards.



Melissa Ruse

A marketing director and professional photographer, Ahwatukee’s Melissa Ruse took this glowing sunrise shot of professional runner Allie Kieffer. Using her Sony a7 III, Ruse went with Kieffer on one of her morning trail runs in February. Kieffer, who lives in Flagstaff, regularly visits the Valley for treatment with Chandler chiropractor John Bell. “Every so often, Allie will hit the trails to find some peace and tranquility,” Ruse says. “She loves to run the trails of South Mountain, enjoying the movement of each step and taking in all of the beautiful views the desert has to offer.” Find her work at melissarusephotography.com and on Instagram @melissarusephoto.


Danny Upshaw
“Overhead Harmony”

Danny Upshaw, a Valley motion graphic and video editor, concocted this disarming novelty shot on his Canon SLR. The photo is part of a personal photo series under the same title in which Upshaw photographed his human subjects lying on the ground from on high, in a variety of perspective-tricking positions. He had noticed the redone bricks at the Arizona Center and thought they would be a unique background. “It was a fun exercise in finding unique textures and patterns on the ground,” he says. You can find more of his work at unheardharmony.com.

Alex Casares
“Traveling Companion”

“I want to show the love and connection between humans and dogs,” Alex Casares says, explaining the driving force behind his large cache of Tucson street photography. “No matter your race, gender or economic situation, dogs don’t care, all they want is your love.” Using a Fuji X-T3 on a f/8 and 1/400 second setting, Casares captured this haunting image – full of gentle paradoxes, as if it were shot in the era of Steinbeck – in downtown Tucson across the street from the historical Hotel Congress after the young woman in the photo approached him for spare change. “I gave her what I had and complimented [her] on her relationship with her traveling companion,” he says. “I shoot in the same areas often, and I haven’t seen her since.” Find his work at alexcasaresphotography.com.


Laura Templeton
“Social Distancing”

With her trusty iPhone 6, Scottsdale resident Laura Templeton captured her husband, John, deep in thought while walking across the white New Mexican sands. As the pandemic encroached on their daily routine in Washington, D.C., Templeton’s husband knew Arizona would be their new home in retirement. “We stood quietly and surely in the sugar-soft sands, looking west toward Arizona,” Templeton says. “From the noisy, raucous and, at times, threatening environs of the Washington, D.C., area to the open, welcoming west that is Arizona,” the photo captures a new Arizonan in transformation.

Matt Tanner
“Catching Snowflakes”

Matt Tanner grabbed this joyous photo a couple of years ago during a massive snowstorm. The subject, his brother Camden Tanner, was taking uncomplicated pleasure in the brisk air and wet snowflakes as the family traveled home to home to Parks, Arizona. In one of those clever, on-the-go perspective shots that we’ve all attempted from time to time, Tanner took the picture on a Google Pixel 3 cell phone. “The snowstorm wound up dumping 40 inches at our home,” he says. Nevertheless, it ended up a blessing for Tanner as this picture subsequently became one of his favorites.


Jenelle Bonifield
“Vin de Filles: Girl Wine Project”

Author and designer of the book AZ Uncorked: The Arizona Wine Guide, Jenelle Bonifield took this striking early-morning shot of vineyard harvesters at work on her Canon 5D Mark III at the House Mountain Vineyard in August of last year. The industrious grape-pickers are members of Vin De Filles, a nonprofit women’s wine project. “This photo shows the ladies before sunrise picking the rewards of their hard work and the anticipated transition from grape to wine,” Bonifield says. You can find more of her work at arizonawineguide.com or foodandlifestyles.com.


Chanelle Sinclair
“The Best Wedding No One Was Invited To”

Chanelle Sinclair, a professional food and portrait photographer and creative director, had the honor of documenting her longtime friends’ “quarantine bubble” wedding in April 2020. With her Canon 5D Mark IV, Sinclair captured Kirti Dwivedi and Bobby Borszich waving hello to their virtual wedding guests after a four-and-a-half-hour traditional Indian wedding ceremony. “It was incredible to be so up close and personal to their deeply symbolic and intricate ceremonies, their conversations, loving glances and complete joy,” Sinclair says. “I still get choked up when I recall various moments of that day, and absolutely smiled my way through every photo edit after.” Find her work at iamchanelle.com and thefatesco.com.


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