Image Maker: DCHS student's photography gains national recognition in competition

Kolyn Cruz, a senior at Daviess County High School, got into photography as an eighth grader after being intrigued by the look of cameras.

“I got into photography because I thought cameras looked cool,” Cruz said.

Saving up money from a construction job, Cruz bought a camera from a Goodwill store for $32.

One of the first photos Cruz took was in the Smokey Mountains. That photo along with one other, earned Cruz a “Gold Key” Award in this year’s Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards.

Cruz’s photos will be judged again in the National competition in June, with those selected going on to another round of judging at Carnegie Hall in New York City. The national photography winner chosen from that round will be displayed at the White House.

The Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards is “the nation’s longest-running, most prestigious recognition program from creative teens,” according to the competition’s website.

The contest regularly draws about 330,000 works of art from middle and high school students, a press release says.

Cruz hadn’t taken a photography class before he first picked up a camera, and started taking pictures, sometimes turning to YouTube videos for instructions.

“I just like learning about photography and different types of photography,” Cruz said.

When asked how he developed his photography style, Cruze said, “I just took pictures how I saw it. It just came natural to me.”

Cruz was a state-ranked wrestler and captain of the DCHS wrestling team, but stopped wrestling going into his senior year due to an injury. Cruz switched to the track team, where he throws discus, and balances his track duties with photography.

“They know my photography is important to me, so they don’t mind if I take a day off for photography stuff,” he said.

Cruz worked construction and at a restaurant to save up money for a recent photography trip to Europe.

Cruz said his art teacher at DCHS, Mary Joe Greathouse, encouraged him to take photos of people while in Europe. Greathouse also got Cruz working in studio photography, where he worked with school groups like the ROTC, and did a series of portraits with a ballet dancer.

“I hate taking pictures of people,” Cruz said, and said he prefers photos of animal and nature. But Cruz said he is becoming more comfortable documenting people.

“I used that trip (to Europe) to build up my portfolio,” he said. “Miss Greathouse wanted me to go to Paris and take pictures of the culture. I’m learning how to pose people and how to model people, which is completely different from everything else.”

Cruz has also built his own specialty camera lenses and worked to expand his style to include sports photography, action shots, landscapes and other styles of photography.

“I have been trying to take pictures in every single category of photo,” he said.

Cruz said he plans to pursue a career that requires frequent travel, so he can continue his craft in new places.

“For me, I don’t see (photography) as a job,” he said. “I see it as taking pictures of daily life. Taking pics is like an escape for me.”