March 08, 2012
by Anne Horrell '12
Knox College senior Nina Litoff has an eye and a passion for art. In February, Photographer's Forum magazine noticed the studio art major's talent, and she was selected as a finalist in the magazine's 32nd Annual College & High School Photography Contest.
The contest received more than 17,700 photography submissions from students in the United States, Canada, and around the world. Of those, Litoff's photo, Mannequin Head, Florence, was one of 1,000 chosen as finalists. All of the 2012 winners and contest finalists, including Litoff, will have their photos published in the hardcover book Best of Photography 2012. (At right: Nina Litoff on the Knox College campus. Below left, Mannequin Head, Florence.)
In mid-February, the winners and artists receiving Honorable Mention were announced. The first- through fourth-place winners of the contest will be inducted into the Nikon's Emerging Photographer's Hall of Fame and will receive more than $8,000 in cash grants plus equipment.
Litoff, who has studied photography at Knox with art instructor Michael Godsil, began shooting photos of a series of mannequins in shop windows while studying abroad in Austria during spring 2011. Mannequin Head, Florence is a black-and-white photograph from this series. While studying abroad, the Chicago, Illinois, native had the opportunity to travel around Europe. During her trip to Florence, Italy, she shot the high-fashion mannequin head that was featured in her finalist photography submission.
Litoff explained that her interest in mannequins comes from her thought that mannequins represent the "sexuality we're supposed to aspire to be," but instead she believes the high-fashion mannequins look pained or in despair. Even though Litoff prefers to work in color, she altered Mannequin Head, Florence to be black and white. She thought the "contrast of the expression (was) a little more (pronounced) in the black and white."
Litoff said that Photographer's Forum magazine has a certain aesthetic it likes to display, preferring photography with very striking images and high-contrast photos either in black and white or color. She explained the photos tend to be highly produced and have almost a "high-fashion" feel.
"I don't necessarily shoot that way," Litoff said, but she wanted to submit a photograph that represented her style yet still made her "a good contender with the other images."
As a studio art major with a concentration in photography, and a double minor in art history and psychology, Litoff has an enthusiasm for art. This interest began when she was 13 years old and saw photographer Elliot Erwitt's work in a magazine promoting a photography contest for funny dog photos.
She became intrigued and had her father teach her how to use a camera so she could enter the contest. She never entered the contest, but became fascinated with learning more about film and digital photography.
In high school, Litoff started working with film photography, which she says was important because film teaches you "how to make a photograph." In film, the photographer learns "about what actually happens (when you take a picture). Digital (photography) is learning how to work the camera, and use Photoshop, and you have unlimited photos. In film you don't have the second chance, so you take more time to check lighting."
Now, she prefers to work in digital because she enjoys working with color, but she credits her knowledge of photography to her experience with film.
Although Litoff does not want to be a career photographer, she does want to pursue a profession in art, such as teaching or working in a museum. She said, "I love photography and I love art and I'd be sad to not be a part of it."