After 200 entries were officially submitted to judges, the 2020 FOCUS Photography Competition and Exhibition announced its winners. Put on by Manchester Arts, FOCUS is an annual open-theme competition and exhibition that allows residents from across the St. Louis area to display personal works of photography.
In addition to 27 winning entries, a People’s Choice award and multiple honorable mentions in each age category, the Best In Show award is also bestowed upon one photographer each year. For 2020, the honor went to Wildwood resident and Jefferson County Photography Club President Julie Brown Patton for her work titled “Fight Like a Girl.”
“Winning Best In Show was both exhilarating and humbling in the same breath,” Patton told West Newsmagazine in an email interview. “It definitely was a marvelous surprise, given that this exhibit attracts truly skilled photographers each year.”
Patton said she’s been shooting photography since she was a young girl with a Kodak Instamatic camera that used film.
“I’ve had Nikon equipment since college,” Patton said.
According to Patton, “Fight Like a Girl” was the product of one spontaneous opportunity she happened across near the Mel Carnahan Courthouse located in downtown St. Louis off Market Street.
“It was on a day right after a march for women had concluded and I was returning to my vehicle,” Patton said. “The peppy, pink parts of a young girl’s outfit caught my eye. Then I saw her homemade sign as she sat at the bottom of some building steps, doodling with her toes on the sidewalk. I have two daughters, so I immediately related to the strength and meaning of her empowerment message on her poster to ‘fight like a girl.’”
The girl’s sign wasn’t the only part of the scene that caught Patton’s photographic eye.
“In close proximity was this looming, rock-solid statute with the Constitution represented in its lap,” Patton said. “The juxtaposition of their two sizes reminded me how important it was to ensure that young girls could be active, equal parts of society in the future.”
Patton then asked the girl and her nearby mother if she could photograph the scene. Both agreed.
“… I witnessed the young girl straighten up really tall by the statute – she seemed to get the seriousness of the moment, too,” Patton said.
For 2020, Scott Angus of Maryville University served as a guest judge for the juried competition. He is a tenured associate professor and director in photography and video programs. He has led photography trips and lectured at multiple institutions across the world. In addition to serving as a humanitarian photographer for organizations like Doctors Without Borders, he also spent time as a fine art photographer and has been shown in galleries in Sydney, New York, Chicago, and St. Louis.
Patton said that Angus “got the story” she was trying to share in her image.
“He relayed the image stayed in his memory days after he judged all the work,” Patton said. “He said while it was ‘shot well, as in it was in focus, nice exposure and designed nicely in the picture plan, it did what no other images did in this show and that was to pierce into his emotions in that he ‘could believe in the power of this young girl.’”
Angus said judging the wide array of artwork was a difficult process, but that Patton’s photo stayed in his memory after he’d looked over all the entries.
“It’s a moment anyone who is local could have caught,” Angus said. “There’s a connection to the energy of where we live.”
Patton said that Angus’ feedback meant a lot to her.
“For his words, I will be eternally grateful,” Patton said. “…Photographers crave to find ways to share with others what we see behind the lens. This acknowledgment definitely was a snap-happy moment for me, and I might as well have won a million dollars, given the joy and adrenaline prompted by being selected for this honor.”