Three PaliHi Teens’ Photos Selected as Tops by the Getty

This photo was taken by Flynn Messick a Palisades High School senior.

Teens in California were encouraged to submit photos for The Getty’s third annual “Open Call, Unshuttered” photo contest.

Out of 2,800 submissions from 134 cities in the state, only 25 photos were selected.  Three of the winners were seniors from Rick Steil’s Palisades High School’s photography class: Emmitt Whitacker, Flynn Messic and Ashley Pomeroy.

Steil knows how good his students’ work is, but still he said “was quite surprised to have three of the 25 selected out of nearly 3,000.

“The images these students submitted deserved to be acknowledged. I’m proud of the photo program at Pali,” Steil said, and added, “I have great kids.”

Through the end of May, more of his students’ work is on display in the library community room, 861 Alma Real.

The theme “A Spectrum of. . .” asked photographers to consider the different spectrums they might inhabit or experience daily and their subjects.

This year’s panel of judges for The Getty included artists Jamaal Hasef Tolbert, Aydinaneth Ortiz and Sloane Sinclaire, who were also part of the 2022 “Unshuttered Open Call” winning cohort; Arpad Kovacs, associate curator of photographs; Carolyn Peter, assistant curator of photographs; Keishia Gu, head of education; Elizabeth Escamilla, assistant director for education and public programs; Richard Rand, associate director for collections; and Tuyet Bach, interpretive content specialist at the J. Paul Getty Museum.

“We are so grateful and inspired by the photographs and level of engagement we had from young photographers. It is an honor to see their work, and to read their artist statements. Their photos offer great insight to the experiences, interests and priorities of the young people who will shape our state in the future,” said Brittany Prieto, senior education specialist for youth programs at the Getty Museum. “Our hope is that the ‘Unshuttered Open Call’ is a catalyst for creativity that then continues and expands for young photographers. We look forward to sharing and celebrating the 25 outstanding photographs in the months ahead.”

Senior Emmitt Whitacker captured this underwater photo.

The judges said that the students had “captured emotions, interests and individuals that are meaningful and engaging. The photos are in vibrant color and black and white, have strong compositions and are technically ambitious, they show the deeply personal and the universal.”

To participate, students had to be between the ages of 13-19 and reside or attend school in California. The photographs could not depict nudity or violence.

Photos were judged on interpretation and clarity of the theme, creativity and originality. Students were asked before submitting, “Will the judges understand the connection with the theme without reading my artist statement? Does the photograph either directly capture or evoke a representation of the theme?”

Students’ work was also examined for technical quality of artistic composition and for conceptual merits, such as if it symbolized certain feelings or emotions.


Ashley Pomeroy, a senior at PaliHi, captured this striking black and white photo.

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One Response to Three PaliHi Teens’ Photos Selected as Tops by the Getty

  1. Cindy Wilkinson Kirven says:

    Wow! It is certainly a confirmation that the Pali High photo program is first class. Congratulations to Rick Steil and his three very talented students. Very impressive.

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