Perfect Portraits

Students can easily spot a photographer. They group around, pose for the camera, maybe even throw up some gang signs, and click. That picture is now a memory in time.  

The Arkansas Scholastic Press Association (ASPA) is a convention held every year for all high school student publications in the state. There, students compete in different contests and can win individual awards. In 2021, the convention was held in Jonesboro, Arkansas, where the school’s very own senior Phillip Zawislak won four photography awards. 

Zawislak became a photographer for the school at the end of his sophomore year. “She [journalism teacher Mrs. Gretchen Gowen] was obtaining a camera and asked if anyone wanted to be a photographer,” he said. “In the past, I’ve always liked taking pictures on my phone of neat angles.

“My older brother was also one of the photographers for yearbook when he was a senior here,” said Zawislak. “So when Mrs. Gowen asked, I just volunteered. I didn’t really know what the job entailed, but I knew that I would be taking pictures for the Rocket Times. I never would have imagined that my photos would end up in the yearbook.”

Zawislak had to teach himself how to take photos. “I had to take the photography book Mrs. Gowen gave me, go through it, and learn everything by myself,” he said. “I learned many different techniques and all of the photography terms.”

Despite having only one year of experience, Zawislak managed to win four different awards at ASPA. “I did not expect to win that many awards,” he said. “I thought maybe one or two photography awards, but I never would have imagined four. Being able to win against  people who had been doing photography for almost three or four years was incredible.”

Editor in chief of the Rocket Times, senior Nicholas Tarini, was also surprised by how many awards Zawislak won. “I knew that Zawislak was a great photographer, but he was going up against the best high school photographers in the state,” said Tarini. “And with last year being his first year ever being a photographer, I wasn’t sure how well he would do at ASPA. I was excited when he won so many awards. He won four superior awards, and that’s a big deal for anyone, let alone a first-year photographer.”

Zawislak felt proud whenever he took photos for the school. “The Rocket Times used most of the photos that I took,” he said. “Being able to have recognition for being a photographer makes more people want to get their photo taken.”

Zawislak said, “I encourage people to take on photography because it’s a lot of fun and definitely worth it.”

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