17th Annual Palo Alto Weekly Photo Contest
First Place, Peninsula People
By Jack Simon
About Jack Simon
Click on photo for larger image.
Jack Simon didn't expect to take first place in two categories in this year's contest. In fact, he didn't expect to win at all.
"I called the Weekly because I thought the contest was over, and I assumed I hadn't won," said Simon. "So I called to see if I could pick up the pictures."
That's when Simon, who had submitted three photographs, found out that he could only pick up one of his photos because the other two were winners. The surprise was, understandably, quite a thrill.
"I was very surprised, obviously, and extremely excited," Simon said. "It's fun to see that what I'm enjoying, other people might enjoy and appreciate, too. That's rewarding."
Simon, who is a Palo Alto psychiatrist, has always loved the visual arts, which contrast well with his more verbal profession.
"I've always been interested in visual media. I always liked looking at photographs," Simon said. "But I wasn't really interested in taking pictures until five years ago, and since then I've been very passionate."
In that time, Simon has explored a broad range of photographic subjects.
"When I first started with the camera, I suppose I enjoyed taking pictures of almost anything. Then it moved to liking to find more exotic scenes. What really challenges me and interests me most is trying to find a meaningful or interesting image even in ordinary circumstances."
Through time, Simon learned that his favorite place to photograph the exotic in the ordinary is a simple one: out on the streets where people live and work every day. This method is called "street photography," and it has helped Simon produce photographs that are interesting, surprising and memorable.
"Sometimes the story behind a photograph isn't what you were expecting," said Simon. "Occasionally a photo looks more mysterious than it really is, and that's because of what you've captured in it."
Simon was initially drawn to the scene in "Morning Light," which captures two people getting ready for a yoga workshop, because of the exotic feel it gave an ordinary situation. It is the soft light, however, that makes the photo extraordinary.
"I was struck with just how beautiful the light looked," Simon said. "I might be drawn into a scene because something catches my eye, but then what I decide to photograph might be very different. So it varies."
But in a field like street photography, where the artist only has a moment to capture an image, Simon says luck plays a major role.
"One is the luck of finding an interesting circumstance, and the other is that sometimes things just come together," Simon said. "For example, in 'Morning Light,' I don't like to use flash, and it was a dark scene. So I had to have the lens very open, which makes the background blurry."
"Sometimes it's serendipity, I guess," Simon said.