Jamie Russell, a 17-year-old from Cheektowaga N.Y., was the winner of Sigma’s first scholarship contest in 2010. Jamie, who has a passion for telling a story through her photos, submitted moving black-and-white images of her city and the poverty that exists within its walls. She won the hearts of the Sigma executives who chose her as the winner, as well as $6,000 in prizes.
Recently, we caught up with Jamie to see what she is doing with her prizes and her photography skills. Also for all high school seniors who are interested in entering this year’s scholarship contest, check out her responses for some advice from the winner!
Q: Where did you decide to go to college and how have the first few months been?
A: I currently attend Point Park University in Pittsburgh, PA. I chose Point Park for the combination of its Photography Program and unique urban campus. Because I live right downtown, I have unlimited photo opportunities the second I step foot outside, so I really enjoy it! I’ve also had the pleasure of being able to thoroughly explore a new city.
My first semester took some adjusting to, but I definitely enjoyed my experience and had the best time taking my first real photography class. Not only have I never taken a photography class before, but I have also never shot with film before. It took a while for me to adjust to the new shooting dynamic. But once I adjusted I enjoyed my first semester at Point Park, mainly because of the new dynamic. I can’t wait to go back and start my new classes!
Q: How did the Sigma Scholarship Contest help you?
A: I have yet to spend any of the money I received from the Sigma Scholarship, I decided to save the money so I can study abroad while I am in school or travel internationally once I finish my degree at Point Park. I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity! I wouldn’t be able to finance an extensive trip without it, and I absolutely cannot wait to travel outside of the United States with my camera!
Q: What kind of gear did you choose with your $1,000 prize?
A: Everyone at Sigma did their absolute best to ensure that I was choosing a prize that I would love. Without a doubt, the Sigma 28mm F1.8 EX DG ASP Macro Lens is my all time favorite. Not only is it lightweight, it is incredibly versatile, and I rarely take it off my camera. It has become the lens that I use on a daily basis and I would highly recommend it. Sigma also set me up with the 8-16mm F4.5-5.6 DC HSM Lens, which is a fun lens that has endless possibilities. Every time I use the wide angle lens I am amazed! I am more than happy with the lenses that the executives at Sigma helped me choose and they have definitely helped unleash my potential.
Q: What is your favorite Sigma product?
A: I rarely take the 28mm F1.8 EX DG ASP Macro Lens off of my camera. It’s simple, lightweight, and has never failed me!
Q: How is photography playing a role in your life now? What kind of photographs are you shooting?
A: While I was still at school I was shooting mainly what was given to me as an assignment, as I didn’t have much time to shoot anything else. Now that I’m home for winter break, I have been shooting to expand my personal portfolio and have a few photography jobs set up as well. I have continued to shoot urban landscapes and urban decay. Now that I am in college, I cannot wait to learn all I possibly can about the field, and cannot wait to start my career.
Q: What kind of advice would you have for the seniors who are now entering this contest?
A: My best advice would be to make sure that you really speak about what you want to do and why photography is so important to you, as you write your essay. Many of the photographers that enter the contest submit high quality photographs; however, it is up to you to set yourself apart. Be sure that you are photographing what you are passionate about, because it will show in your work. I believe that I won the contest because my collection included subject matter I was passionate about and that showed in both my writing and photographs. I believe that it’s as simple as that – you can show them the best photographs in the world, but you will really win them over with the personality and depth that you exude through your work.
There is still time for high school seniors to sign up for the scholarship contest! Click here for more information.