WCC Photo Student Takes Top Honor In International Competition
WCC photography student Toko Shiiki has won first place in the 2011 International Photography Awards. Shiiki won in the People: Other Portrait—Non-Pro category.
The annual IPA competition, in cooperation with the Lucie Foundation, is for professional, non-professional, and student photographers from around the world. The 2011 competition featured more than 8,000 submissions from photographers in 90 countries.
“I built this work during the Portfolio Project class with Lisa Steichmann in 2010,” wrote Shiiki in an email to her instructors. “My words are not enough to express my appreciation. Lisa encouraged me and shared wonderful insights and huge support with me to produce this. Once again, thank you very much, Lisa.”
Shiiki’s winning submission is a series of images that tell the story of a man who has lost his identity somewhere between birth and death. Shot in stark black and white with a slight sepia tone, the photographs visualize a man with an obstructed face in various indoor and outdoor venues.
“I wondered about where and when he started thinking he had chosen the wrong path and lost the idea of who he is,” said Shiiki in her artist’s statement. “I imagined that he would find his face and somehow begin to move forward again.”
The inspiration for her photographs came from dreams and life experiences, according to Shiiki. She was born in Japan and lived in the frenetically paced environment of Tokyo most of her life before moving to Michigan in 2005. It was while she was in Tokyo that she first learned of WCC’s photography program.
“It was truly by chance for me to hear in Tokyo that the ‘WCC photo program is really amazing,’” said Shiiki. “I really hope that people from other countries will always be allowed to come to WCC to learn and earn any degree offered here, especially this photo program because it has been so great and important for me.”
Shiiki’s work on what she calls her "inner-life documentary" project is an attempt to visualize what she’s experienced at this time of her life. “I find photography to be a most effective way to express my view of the world, inside and outside,” said Shiiki. “No matter what my subject is, I want to create images that tell a story. It is my hope that every time people see my photographs, they will feel encouraged to interpret the images in their own way. Art is my life power, and I am still finding ways to let it speak through me.”