Mercantil Commercebank, one of the largest banks headquartered in Florida, announced the winners of its 2014 Zoolens Photography Project during a recent awards ceremony at the Bank’s Coral Gables headquarters. The Dec. 11 event was emceed by Ron Magill, Zoo Miami’s director of communications and Nikon Ambassador.
Developed in partnership with Zoo Miami and the Zoological Society of Florida, Mercantil Commercebank’s Zoolens Photography Project was designed to foster awareness of wildlife among Miami-Dade County middle school students. The contest encourages them to creatively photograph their favorite Zoo Miami animal and submit their best photo for a chance to win prizes.
The 2014 project ran throughout October and included an exclusive event at Zoo Miami for participating students to enjoy a private tour, up-close animal interactions and wildlife photography tips from Ron Magill. Nikon representatives provided students digital Nikon photography equipment to borrow during their visit and memory cards to keep, and Pitman Photo Supply offered gift certificates for free photo printing.
At the culmination of the contest, nearly 300 received entries were reviewed — in the areas of composition, artistic merit, technical ability, and title — by a panel of judges. The distinguished group included Ron Magill, Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Patrick Farrell, internationally acclaimed photo artist María Martínez- Cañas, New World School of the Arts visual arts professor and curator Rosario Martínez-Cañas, and Zoological Society of Florida board member Grizzel Gonzalez.
During the ceremony, the 30 finalists’ photographs were displayed and Magill announced the talented winners.
First place went to Alexandra Geltner from South Miami K-8 Center for her photo titled Photobomb. Alexandra received a $2,000 Mercantil Commercebank savings account, a professional camera and a student membership to the North American Nature Photography Association.
Second place went to Rafaella Cevallos from Doral Academy with her entry titled Don’t Ruffle My Feathers. Rafaella received a $1,500 savings account, a professional camera and a student membership to the North American Nature Photography Association.
Third place went to Sofia Arias from Somerset Academy Dade for her photo titled Sweet Dreams. Sofia received a $1,000 savings account, a professional camera and a student membership to the North American Nature Photography Association.
The grand prize winners’ schools also will receive a donation from Mercantil Commercebank.
Additionally, during the ceremony 10 honorable mention winners were revealed and awarded a $100 Visa Gift Card. The top 13 students also received honorary medals from the Miami-Dade County School Board. Remaining finalists were awarded iTunes gift cards, courtesy of Mercantil Commercebank, in appreciation of their participation.
“This is now our fifth year holding the Zoolens photography contest and we couldn’t be prouder to offer this creative and educational outlet that engages local students and builds awareness of wildlife throughout our community,” said Al Peraza, Mercantil Commercebank president and COO. “We are thoroughly impressed by the improving quality and creativeness of the photographs, and we are honored to recognize the talent of these students through Zoolens.”
The 2014 Zoolens Photography Project Awards Ceremony was attended by more than 150 individuals, including students and their families and teachers. Also in attendance were several contest judges and Zoo Miami Director Eric Stephens.
Zoo Miami is located at 12400 SW 152 St. General zoo admission is $15.95 per adult and $11.95 per child (3-12), plus tax. Children under 2, zoo members and parking are free. Zoo Miami’s hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; ticket booths close at 4 p.m. For more information visit www.zoomiami.org.