An Enid photographer earned high praise and an armful of awards Monday for her artistic flair displayed in a pair of portrait photos featuring local subjects.

At a professional photographer’s convention and gala in Atlanta, photographer Dawn Muncy was honored with a Gold Medallion Award by American Society of Professional Photographers for her photograph titled “From Dust We Came.”

“There’s no way I ever anticipated winning this award,” Muncy said, adding that the Gold Medallion is one the highest honors the society has.

About 11,000 photographers attend the three-day convention, called Imaging USA, from Jan. 20-22, Muncy said.

The event is hosted by Professional Photographers of America, which boasts more than 30,000 members worldwide.

“From Dust We Came,” features the face of Enid native Paige Dennett, Muncy said, and appears to materialize out of clay, or the dust.

To create the shot, Muncy covered her subject in clay, waited for it to dry and flake. Dust blowing from the left of the frame and toward the face adds to the illusion that the subject is taking form before the viewer, she said.

Dennett had come in for some standard portrait photos, but during the shoot, Muncy began thinking more artistically. Following the session she made an unusual request of her subject.

“I asked her, ‘Hey, do you want to come back another time, because I kind of want to cover you in clay?’”

The offer was accepted and award-winning art was made. That second part still is strange to Muncy.

“The America Society of Photographers is an elite group, even to be asked to be in that group is humbling,. so when they called in to say I had the best image of all of those members for the year, I couldn’t even speak,” she said.Another portrait, featuring ballerina and Wichita State University dance major Summer Brandley, shares a similar artistic theme as the other, as well as the use of clay.

With the portrait, titled “From the Ashes,” Muncy wanted to challenge the idea of what a ballerina is. They’re often seen as delicate, “girly,” she said, but it takes a good deal of mental and physical strength to perform ballet.

“Ballerinas are supposed to be soft, but they’re such athletes,” Muncy said. “We covered her in clay and tried some different poses that weren’t soft, that showed her strength.”

Picking the shot that most spoke to her, Muncy added wings in post-production, coming up out of the dancer’s back.

It represented a sort of “rebirth” for her and for the dancer, she said. The dancer is headed off to college, starting a new journey.

As for herself, Muncy has been rethinking and reexamining her boundaries as a photographer, she said.

“I want my work to mean something, and not just be another pretty picture,” she said.

She’s in the midst of a creative and professional journey of her own.

“It represented a rebirth of what I want to do in my work. I want to be more of a portrait artist and touch more on the artistic side of photography,” she said. “To be able to show another side of people, that’s where I want to go, something with real guts and emotion.”

“From the Ashes,” was honored as one of the top 10 high school portrait photos of the year, and earned Muncy a second place Lexjet Sunset Award, given to the best inkjet prints entered into the International Photographic Competition.

Muncy also received an Imaging Excellence Award, earned after the Professional Photographers of America has accepted 13 photos from an individual photographer into the PPA’s loan collection.

“The recognition by peers is huge, to think I’ve earned a place by them is kind of mind blowing, kind of hard to wrap my head around,” Muncy said. “I’m just a little girl from Kansas.”

Story provided by Enid News & Eagle

Written by Mitchell Willetts