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Student and Alum Lauded as Emerging Pros by Digital Photo Pro

Out of more than 8,000 entries, two Academy of Art University photographers were chosen as Emerging Pros in Digital Photo Pro magazine’s annual contest. Student Cera Hensley won the Grand Prize in the competition, and MFA Photography graduate André Hermann was awarded an honorable mention.

Winning Photo by Cera HensleyWinning Photo by Cera Hensley

The Grand Prize for the contest includes a $10,000 cash prize. Cera’s winning image is part of a series of work that explores personal psychology and, in particular, the human search for purpose.

To create the images in this body of work, she first built miniature landscapes. Separately, she photographed people in situations and poses that evoked the mood she wished to create. Then she combined the images into a single work that feels at once both identifiable to the viewer and slightly unfamiliar.

As the idea for this method of creation emerged in Cera’s mind, she showed preliminary images to Academy of Art University Photography instructor Michael Hirst. She used his feedback in her experimentation with the method.

Spring Show Photo by Cera Hensley
Spring Show Photo by Cera Hensley

“I thought of his statement for weeks of trial-and-error until it finally happened. I created an image that was about the feeling and emotion, keeping the technique a secondary, almost quiet part of the image,” she said. “His feedback opened my eyes to a new way of seeing for which I will always be grateful.”

It is Cera’s goal to start working commercially, using her unique personal style to give life to advertising campaigns and editorial shoots. “Will Mosgrove, Director of Photography, has been instrumental in business practices, understanding the photography market and steps required to be an independent photographer,” she said.

André’s winning piece, a black and white image of his daughter Wren shortly after her birth, draws on his strength as a documentary photographer. With a goal to document the experience while still being an active participant in Wren’s birth, he brought his camera with him into the delivery room.

Immediately after she was delivered, Wren was taken to a heating station an placed in a bag to help retain her moisture and body heat. Nurses worked to aid his daughter in taking her first breaths. “As I saw the hands converge on my daughter’s face, seeing only a portion of her small body in a bag, I released the shutter, capturing the drama of the moment, the architecture of the struggle happening right in front of me,” André said, describing the experience.

Winning Photo by André Hermann
Winning Photo by André Hermann

During his time at Academy of Art University, André honed his skills in documentary photography. His portfolio now includes images of a tent city that developed in Sacramento in the wake of the economic crisis, photos exploring the lives of children with Epidermolysis Bullosa and their families and much more.

“Ironically, I was practicing this type of photography long before I even knew what documentary photography was, or that I could pursue a career in it,” he said.

André’s work has been influenced by Academy of Art University Photography instructor, who was one of his directed study advisors. Kashi met with André each week online to discuss his work, even as Kashi was traveling around the world on projects for National Geographic. “That meant a lot to me,” said André. “He helped me further develop not only as a photographer but as person as well.”

With such impressive portfolios, there is no doubt that these two photographers are truly emerging as top professionals in their field. Academy of Art University congratulates Cera and André on their awards and looks forward to their future careers.


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