Hu’s photography to be on display at Smithsonian
Andrea Hefferan | Online Editor
Inside the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History one can find the Hope Diamond, dinosaur fossils, ancient mummies–and Junior Stephanie Hu’s photograph.
Every year, photographers enter their best photos into the Nature’s Best Photography competition, hoping to earn a Windland Rice Smith Award and be a part of an exhibit in the Smithsonian. Following a trip to Kenya, Hu chose to submit one of the photos she took there into the competition. Besides receiving ‘Highly Honored’ in the youth category, Hu’s photograph was also one of the few chosen to be displayed in the Smithsonian.
“I didn’t realize this, but there were six Highly Honored and one winner in the youth category, but only four of the Highly Honored photos got displayed,” Hu said. “Two of them were Highly Honored, but they’re not in the Smithsonian. So not only did my photo become one of the 66 to be exhibited, but there were other really good photos that were honored that didn’t get to be exhibited. I thought that was really cool. ”
Upon discovering the exhibit of the 2017 winners while in DC, Hu decided to take her chances and enter her photo for this year’s contest. When she got the email that she had been chosen out of 26,000 contestants, Hu said she was not expecting it at all.
“It didn’t feel real,” Hu said. “It still doesn’t feel real. So I’ve kind of just been in a state of shock for the past two months. I don’t really know how I’m supposed to feel other than excited and happy, but also it’s just so shocking, I feel happy to the point where I don’t know how to express it.”
Hu captured the moment while on a safari at the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya with her dad. Hu said the trip was one of the best experiences of her life and the photos she took were a way for her to preserve those memories.
“What happened was that that night we were lucky enough that when the sun was setting we came across this giant herd of giraffes,” Hu said. “And so what we did was we drove around watching them. And just as the sun was setting, the giraffes started crossing against the sun. The color of a giraffe is actually very light, but in the sunset, it causes the actual animal to show up as very dark with a ring of light around it, and I just thought that was really pretty, so I was like ‘I have to get this on camera so that I could document my stories.’”
Hu’s journey into wildlife photography started a few months before her trip to Kenya. She found many photos online that showed her the diversity that could be found there. Hu said she realized that through her photography, she would be adding her own unique perspective and style to the pool of photos already out there.
“In the months leading up to the trip, I got into this idea that I could take pictures of the coolest parts,” Hu said. “As I searched up photos of where we were going, I realized there’s a lot of different animals we don’t usually get to see, even at the zoo. I also have strict aesthetics that I like to follow when I’m taking photos and a lot of them weren’t in the photos I was seeing online. So a lot of it was me trying to find what I wanted to see by myself.”
Not only is photography a fun hobby for Hu, she also said it is a way for her to express herself in a way words cannot.
“Photography for me is an art form, but it’s not just an art form,” Hu said. “I find that the best way to tell a story is to have some kind of visual with you. You don’t have to show it to other people, but you need to internalize it. And for me, photography is a way to internalize that visual.”
Despite her success, Hu said she never imagined her one of her photos would be displayed alongside those of professional photographers.
“I didn’t think any of my photos were ever going to be that good,” Hu said. “Less than a year later, my photo is being exhibited in the same place I never thought it would reach.”
Photos contributed by Nature’s Best Photography and Stephanie Hu.