The first ever NAU Exposed photo exhibition was held March 1 at Freeman Law Office during First Friday. The contest featured the work of 15 NAU photography students with the chance to win cash prizes. A student must be a photography major or minor to enter the contest, but there were no requirements for what type of photos a student could submit.

First place, second place and third place winners all received $100, $50 and $25 cash prizes, respectively, and all 15 students who were chosen for the gallery received a $10 gift card to Dutch Bros Coffee, Jimmy Johns or Chick-fil-A.

First place winner Taylor Shaffer, second place winner Peter Forster and third place winner Claire Sipos share what photography means to them and the inspiration behind their winning photographs.

“For a large part of my life, I photographed the backpacking trips my dad and I would go on. Photography quickly became a medium for me to express myself and granted me an opportunity to spend more time outside. Photography has now turned into a huge passion and has given me a greater purpose and depth. Over the past few years, I have also developed a love for rock climbing. Naturally, as a photographer I want to photograph the things close to my heart, so the inspiration for this photo came easily to me. Before I took this photo, I had a strong vision of what I wanted to capture. I wanted to create a perspective and depth which forced my audience to stop and ask ‘how did he take that photo?’ In order to capture Reese Lieberman climbing this route, I rappelled down into the canyon directly over the route. As Reese climbed up, I spread my legs opposing themselves on each wall which allowed Reese to climb between my legs and for me to shoot photos down on him. Climbing photography is so much fun and it will always be the roots of my creative visions.”

- Taylor Shaffer

“The inspiration behind this photograph is really the idea of what happens when nature begins to reclaim what humans have left behind over the years. All over the world, there are abandoned structures and slowly but surely they begin to become reclaimed. With this particular image, I wanted to show a powerful example of a building which was once made with amazing human artistry and was then left to rot away to time. A chrysalis is a shell that a caterpillar is encased into before emerging as a butterfly and in that sense this building was left behind as an empty husk, no longer serving any purpose. Originally, I am from New Hampshire and I really like photography because it is a type of art that I can be confident in. I have always been bad at drawing and have very unsteady hands, but with photography, I can create striking images that won’t get ruined due to my poor skills with a brush or a pen. For me, it is the one creative outlet that I have complete control in and it allows me to share my adventures with other people in a really amazing way.”

- Peter Forster

“I am a photography and graphic design student in my fourth year here at NAU. I am deeply connected to the outdoors and it is my greatest inspiration as an artist. I love looking at the world through a magnifying glass. In a way, it is a form of respect and admiration to take the time to enlarge the smallest aspects of our world. Letting quiet details take up more space allows for a new kind of appreciation of the depth of the world around us. When I got my hands on a macro lens, a whole new world opened up to me and I was immediately inspired by the images I could make with it. The NAU Insect Biodiversity Lab was kind enough to allow me to photograph some of the incredible insects in their archive. Due to their generosity, I was able to spend multiple hours photographing some of the incredible species they study. This photograph is one of my favorites from that day. The delicate structure of the wings is breathtaking to me and reminds me that the most striking art can be found in nature. My favorite thing about photography is how I can share my view of the world with those around me. Photography gives me a voice and for that, I am deeply grateful. I hope this image inspires curiosity and the desire to look closer at the rich world around us.”

- Claire Sipos