In spite of the snow on the ground and temperatures hovering just above freezing, East Meadow High School students Caitlyn Herlihy and Megan Trivolis dumped eight bottles of water across Concord Avenue one Saturday in February.
Windy weather wreaked havoc on the teens’ faux flood, and the water soaked through the two pairs of gloves Herlihy was wearing. But the 16-year-old photography student lay down on the street in front of her home to shoot a series of pictures of Trivolis jumping into a puddle wearing bright yellow galoshes as if it were a rainy April afternoon.
Ryan Rochford, Herlihy’s photography teacher, said this dedication to her art paid off. “Báisteach” — one of the photos in the series, named for the Gaelic translation of rain — is now on display at the Architect of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., and Herlihy was named the overall winner of the 2016 Congressional Art Competition for the 4th District.
“Everything was perfect about it,” Rochford said of the piece. “It was technically correct, it was compositionally correct and it was interesting. That’s what you look for in a winning photo for anything — a home run piece, basically.”
Herlihy was honored at Adelphi University on June 3 and in Washington on June 23. Her piece will be on display in the most-traveled corridor between the Capitol and the Cannon House Office Building through next May. While the 16-year-old cannot believe that she received such an honor, in addition to other awards she won during her junior year at EMHS, her teachers say she is a talented artist who has a bright future in any field she chooses to pursue.
Inspired by relatives who were interested in the art of photography, Herlihy took her first class in it at a sleep-away camp several years ago. Enraptured by the dark room, she enrolled in Photography One at EMHS, which, Rochford explained, focuses on such traditional methods.
She has since taken Photography Two, in which students learn about digital photography and PhotoShop, according to Rochford. Noting that she feels like she’s always in the art wing at school, Herlihy said she may also take Advanced Placement photography in the fall, and that she has experimented in courses focused on theatrical design and crafting.
Heather Anastasio, the East Meadow School District Art Department chair, said that while students have several opportunities to showcase their work locally at school art shows and exhibitions, they’re also encouraged to participate in programs like the congressional art contest.
“When these things come from outside the district … they have some prestige to them,” Anastasio said. “They’re working toward something that’s happening outside East Meadow, and they’re being recognized in a more public way.”
The Congressional Institute sponsors a nationwide high school visual arts competition every spring to recognize and encourage artistic talent in every congressional district. Anastasio said she thinks it appealed to EMHS students and others in schools across U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice’s district because the theme — An Artistic Discovery — was open-ended.
Rochford encouraged Herlihy to enter the contest, because she has already accumulated a diverse portfolio of strong work. He never had to ask her to shoot photos for projects, he said, because she would come into class with dozens of pictures with a variety of subjects and compositions daily.
“She’s creative with it,” Rochford said. “She looks at those small things that you might pass by. She’s got portraits, landscapes, a bird taking pizza out of a guy’s hand … there’s just so much awesome.”