Fine Art Nature Photography

Area Residents Dominate PhotoSpiva Competition

Area residents dominate PhotoSpiva competition

Five local photographers — three from Joplin — took many of the top honors in the 41st annual PhotoSpiva competition and exhibition now on display at Spiva Center for the Arts in downtown Joplin.

“For a national competition like this, that is unbelievable,” Josie Mai, Spiva’s executive director, said of the success of the local artists. “It’s unprecedented.

“This tells me that (photography) is one of our niches in the arts here.” 


To put the feat in perspective, only five area photographers placed among the 82 winners from 2009 to 2016 in PhotoSpiva, which is the longest running national photography competition of its kind in the United States.

Chauncey Rion Huffman, a Weir, Kansas, resident who teaches at Pittsburg (Kansas) State University, received the competition’s top award with his photo titled “Patriarch.”

“Not trying to be cliché, but it was euphoric,” Huffman said of his win. It was the first time he’d entered the competition, he said.

“I was maybe hoping for an honorable mention … but when they announced the honorable mention and merit (winners), I thought for sure that my name wouldn’t be called.”

When it was called, he couldn’t really believe it, he admitted.

“Luckily, my wife made it there just in time from work to see me get the award,” Huffman said. “As she greeted me with a hug, I got emotional. It just didn’t seem like it was real.”

Like so many of the framed images on display at Spiva, Huffman said the image of the man in his winning photo is “exceptionally personal” to him. It’s his grandfather.

“My grandfather has basically been my father my entire life, and he has set an amazing example for all of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” said Huffman. “His work ethic, character and values have served as a model for the man I am today.”

Realizing his grandfather’s mortality following the latter’s sudden heart attack, Huffman said he was motivated to capture the best possible portrait of his family’s “patriarch.”

“When I took the image, I felt like it was the most important portrait that I had ever taken,” he said. “In the winning image, he is not smiling, but his face is at rest. This was the image in my head — not because he is not a happy man but because it showed all of the details of his face and, to me, all of his character.”

This year, Joplin husband-wife duo Ron Erwin and Thao Nguyen won third- and second-place awards respectively, Mai said, while Joplin’s Linda Ralston garnered an honorable mention. An honorable mention also went to Carthage photographer Koral Baker Martin.

Martin is another professional photographer emotionally attached to her image, “Trails End.” The picture is a side profile of her father, and it was snapped during a hike several years ago inside Cumberland Falls State Resort Park in Kentucky. Following a strenuous hike through the pouring rain, they stopped to rest before driving home.

“As my dad hates to have his picture taken, I snuck a shot of him bending over, resting, with water running in rivulets down his hair,” said Martin, who owns Koka Art Gallery in Carthage. Later, when her father was rifling through his daughter’s photos, he came across the portrait.

“Shock of all shocks, he loved it,” she said. “Wow. He said it was his all-time favorite photo taken of him.” .

“My dad passed away this past year, and he is greatly missed,” she added. “He is the one that I loved sharing my photos with the most, and he was my greatest critic and encourager, and I so miss that. He would have been so very pleased.”

Orjan Henriksson selected the nine winners and 62 images currently on display from a pool of at least 200 entrants. Henriksson, who lives in Mullsjo, Sweden, was PhotoSpiva’s first-ever international juror. His latest exhibition, “Auschwitz KZ 1-11,” is currently exhibiting in Spiva Art Gallery at Missouri Southern State University.

“It’s just fascinating to look at other photographers’ pictures, to physically see what they saw and, if it is a good photograph, feel what the photographer felt in the moment he or she chose to capture,” he said in a statement. “That is for me fascinating.

“Since I am the only juror for this competition, the choices became very personal, and I like that idea since I believe there is no universal ‘good picture.’ It is all about personal choice. For me, the ‘perfect’ picture tends to become boring. A perfect surface gets interesting when the first crack appears.”

The local flavor wasn’t restricted to top award-winners; nearly a dozen entrants whose work was selected by Henriksson for public display live in Jasper County.


Danny Wilson, a professional photographer from Carterville, entered the competition for the first time this year and said it “was a good day” when he learned that his image, “In Living Color,” had been accepted.

“Just go and look around at all the great work that’s on display there, and I get to be a part of that,” Wilson said. “For me, having a piece of my work hanging on those walls is a great honor.”

The 62 selected PhotoSpiva 2017 photographs are on display to the public until April 30 inside Spiva’s main gallery at 222 W. Third St. The exhibit is free.

First place: Chauncey Rion Huffman, Weir, Kansas

Second place: Thao Nguyen, Joplin

Third place: Ron Erwin, Joplin

Fourth place: Sandra Chen Weinstein, Lake Forest, California

Merit award: Emily Evans Sloan, Kansas City

Merit award: Elizabeth Panzer, Accord, New York

Honorable mention: Linda Ralston, Joplin

Honorable mention: Koral Martin, Carthage

Honorable mention: Geoffrey T. Parker, St. Charles

 ind up in a hospital, where they’re needed most.
Koral Martin Fine Art Photography
4 months ago
Photos from Koral Martin Fine Art Photography's post

I love capturing the Bald Eagles Eagles when they come through this area! Even better when I can capture three of them at once. I don't know if a family unit but sure looks like it. Prints are ... See more

4 months ago
Photos from Koral Martin Fine Art Photography's post

I can't let a year go by without getting out to see the Bald Eagles and try to get some nice shots. Some years I have better luck than others. Last year I found a spot with lots of them, they just ... See more

5 months ago
Timeline Photos

Every trip to Colorado I have to hike along Boulder Creek. It is always beautiful and every time I go it looks different. We just had
received 4 or 5 inches of snow the day before and it was clinging ... See more

5 months ago

I love bridges - especially the old swinging bridges. This one was near the Lake of the Ozarks State park. We drove along a road called Swinging Bridges Road in hopes that here actually was atleast ... See more

6 months ago
Timeline Photos

South rim of the Grand Canyon with a great view of the Colorado River at Lipan Point. There was a fire near by so smoke was in the area which gave all a differnet look.

#arizona #travel ... See more

7 months ago

I am working on images that would be nice as murals on a wall and I thought of this one I took this past summer near Kebler Pass in Colorado. It is a favorite spot of mine with the aspen, the fern ... See more

7 months ago
Timeline Photos

Fog below... We had a great time hiking and camping at Lake Catherine near Hot Springs Arkansas. One of the gems I enjoyed every morning was the Fall Creek Falls that was not far from the campground. ... See more

8 months ago
Timeline Photos

"Marvelous Mill" The hike up to Mill Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park is long but it is absolutely worth it. Just shy of the lake was a view that was absolutely breathtaking and I loved the ... See more

9 months ago
Photos from Koral Martin Fine Art Photography's post

There are so many spots on this cutie (ok so maybe not a cutie but he does have character :), that I could have sectioned off for "Guess What This Is" but some of you would have thought I was doing ... See more

« 1 of 7 »