How does the Bluff City look through the eyes of a seventh grader? That's what the Memphis Tourism Foundation aimed to find out when it armed middle-schoolers with cameras this past June.
Throughout the month, Memphis kids snapped photos of things they considered to be representations of the city as part of the "Memphis: Through the Lens of a New Generation" competition.
On July 19th, the first through fifth place winners were honored at an awards ceremony at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. All five contestants received certificates and an autographed image of the 1968 "I Am a Man" protest taken by civil rights photographer Richard Copley. The top three winners won digital cameras and $175, split among the contestants.
Geneva Paulk, a seventh grader at White Station Middle School, won first place for her portfolio that included pictures of the Pyramid and the Pink Palace Museum.
"I took one of the Pyramid, because I think it's just a big part of Memphis. It's been down there for a really long time, and I think that it's kind of cool," the 11-year-old Paulk said.
Paulk said the contest photos can help both locals and tourists gain a broader perspective on the city.
"I think [the pictures] will help people go around to places like the Pyramid, the river, downtown in general, and just have a good time," Paulk said.
The kids were provided a disposable camera with 27 color shots and given two weeks to photograph things that embodied Memphis history, culture, and local issues.
"The competition provided us with an opportunity to encourage those children to take a look at their city, where they live, where they play, where they go to school, and where they worship, and take pictures of things they thought were some of the best images representing Memphis," said Memphis Tourism Foundation's Deanie Parker, who helped coordinate the competition.
Prior to taking their own photos, the kids received mentoring and tips from experienced photographers on how to aim the camera, set up shots, and get close to their subjects.
"We talked about what Memphis meant to them," said Veronica Birmingham, a professional photographer for nearly three decades and one of the mentors. "It was important for them to put together their personal experiences with their interpretation of their environment and represent it on film."
Peyton Westbrook, 12, took second place in the competition with her photos of the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium and the Bellevue Baptist Church crosses.
"When you think of Memphis, you automatically think of the Mississippi River and the bridge, but there's so many more things that should be recognized," said Westbrook, a seventh grader at Dexter Middle School. "I picked things that were interesting and I thought would be different and not just like regular Memphis."
Other recipients included sixth graders Anfernee Little and Ashlee Edwards and seventh grader Nicholas Edwards. Some of the other photos included the Memphis & Arkansas Bridge, FedExForum, and the Memphis Queen.