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Suncoast Arts Fest introduces phone photography contest

Published:   |   Updated: January 31, 2014 at 02:59 PM

WESLEY CHAPEL — In a world in which most people have a camera in their pockets in the form of a smartphone, expensive photography equipment has become a thing of the past, for better or for worse.

In recognition of this, the 2014 Suncoast Arts Fest, held last month at the Shops at Wiregrass, launched a new contest this year — the “Phoneography Contest.”

It’s exactly what it sounds like. Participants were only allowed to shoot photos on a cell phone, who then had to be emailed in to volunteers on the Saturday of the show.

Phoneographers, using just their phone, meandered around the arts festival producing photos of craftsmen, artists, food vendors and various activities

“We are trying to expand the creative arts aspect of our fest,” said Pam Marron, Suncoast Arts Fest co-director. “Graphic arts and photography seem to be the next step. We always have photographers who take photos at the event and then give us the photos but this had a creative slant to it.”

Several photos placed in the winners and honorable mention categories, but it was the first place winner, Tony Masella, who won an iPad mini for his efforts. Three judges from Rasmussen College’s Land O’Lakes branch made the selections.

Prior to the shoot, each registrant was given a short primer about how to take better smartphone photos. The college was the sponsor of this contest and staffed the registration tent, collected the emailed photos and sent them to a Dropbox for sharing. There were a total of 21 entries and only one photo per person could be entered.

Organizers plan to use these photos to promote next year’s show.

“I was on my way to the kiddy art section when I saw this lady and there was a crowd around her,” Masella said. “She was so creatively and determinedly drawing. It was amazing.

Masella’s photo of Tampa’s Sara May, a “mouth artist” with multiple sclerosis, was taken with a Samsung Galaxy Note II and showed May painting from her wheelchair with a paintbrush in her mouth.

Masella, the founder and owner of the community website, won an Apple iPad Mini.

With a background in shooting video, Masella started taking photos in the late 90s when websites weren’t as capable of handling video. He normally shoots with a Canon EOS 7D and attributes his phonegraphy skills to his experience shooting with DSLR cameras. The principles of composition are the same.

“I consider myself a photojournalist,” Masella said. “I’ve been doing this for a while. When you’re walking around, sometimes you see things other people don’t see. You want to find something that represents what’s going on, something eye-catching and that you’d want to share with other people.”

Despite winning the contest, Masella is not a fan of phone photography. It’s hard to steady the shot with one hand whether you’re shooting photos or video. The upside is that you can shoot candids more easily because a phone is less conspicuous and you always have it with you.

The contest strips photography of elaborate, expensive equipment. With just a phone and an eye for detail, “you get a wider group of people who can participate, Masella said. “It’s a great equalizer.”

The two-day festival benefits “Arts for Kids” in Pasco County. Next year, Marron said, the festival will further expand its creative contests, possibly allowing video entries into contests.

For more information aboutSuncoast Arts Fest, visit

You can follow Daylina Miller on Twitter @DaylinaMiller.


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