Picture Perfect

Published 4:17 am Monday, February 21, 2005

By By Lee Weyhrich
Local pastor and amateur photographer, Wesley Channel, can paint some of the most vivid pictures of small-town life.
Whether it is the ever proverbial train tracks leading off into the sunset or some of the smaller beauties in life such as a wildflower pushing its way through a crack in the sidewalk, Channel can make images seem to jump off the page.
To do so, he doesn't carry a paint brush and an easel by his side, but can be seen hard at work amid the train whistles and the hustle and bustle of everyday life with a camera pressed to his face capturing the images of Atmore snap after snap.
All of Channel's hard work paid off last week, when he was named the first-place winner in Gunterville's Mountain Valley Arts Association's (MVAA) photography division for his photo titled "Red Chair and Things," which was taken in Seaside, Fla.
"I sent three in," Channel explained. "They took two; one they used one on the invitation the other one won," Channel said.
Three more of his photographs won honorable mentions in the Association's Winterfest 2005.
According to Channel this was a multi-art festival that included canvas art, works on paper, mixed media, photography and computer graphics and sculpture.
"There were maybe 50 or so finalists," Channel said.
Few of the contestants are from as far away as Atmore although people have entered from other countries.
"We've had people from totally different states," Jalaine Shouse, assistant to the director of the MVAA, said. "We've had people from as far away as Canada."
The photography division was judged based on creativity, originality, composition and technique, Shouse said.
"We have a two-person judging panel made up of Randy Shoults is a professional photographer and Helen Vaughn is a well-known pastel artist," Shouse said.
Shouse believes that Channels photos were all very good.
"All three of his pieces were really neat," she said. "There were a whole bunch of ordinary things that he put together in a composition that was really delightful."
According to Shouse it was quite an honor for Channel's other photographs to be finalists as well.
"It says something that he got in to begin with and then that he got first place," she said.
Randy Shoults, the photography expert for the organization, said that with technology that allows virtually anyone to be a good photographer winning a competition like this one is even harder than it was in years past.
"We judge a lot of photographs, with technology it's hard to take a bad photo," Shoults said. "His was very painterly, it was beautifully composed and it was a technically beautiful and artistic photograph."
Shoults said that after all the photographs were judged Channel's was easily the winner.
"He should continue with his work, obviously he has an eye for it," Shoults said. "He has a very good eye for subject matter and making sure everything is in the right place."
According to Channel, who has only been involved with photography for two years, the key to good art is trial and error.
"I sort of had the artistic vision, I could see and I was able to get a digital camera so I could put these visions on paper," Channel said. "If you don't shoot a lot of bad pictures you'll never shoot a good one."
Channel, an art lover, decided to pursue photography after deciding it was time to take up a hobby.
"I love art.," he said. "I've always loved art. I remember when I was 20 I used to have a camera I took around and took pictures and I thought it would be fun to try."
Channel has entered his work in other art contests, but this is his first winning entry.
"I entered this same picture in the Camera South Invitational contest in Mobile and won the Director's Award," Channel said.
Channel is planning a trip to Europe soon and hopes to take some award-caliber photographs there as well. Until then he is very happy with his win.
Channels photographs will be on display now through March 8 at the Daughters of the American Revolution School campus in the Michigan Reception Center in Grant Alabama from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.
Channel will receive a ribbon and $200 at the end of the exhibition.

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