Mercantil Commercebank, one of the largest banks headquartered in Florida, announced the winners of its 2016 Zoolens Photography Project during a recent awards ceremony at the Bank’s Coral Gables Headquarters. The Dec. 15 event was emceed by Ron Magill, Zoo Miami’s director of communications and Nikon Ambassador.
Developed in partnership with Zoo Miami and the Zoo Miami Foundation, 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 2016 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 provided access to loaner digital Nikon photography equipment. Additionally, Pitman Photo Supply gifted memory cards to participants, as well as certificates for free photo printing.
“We are thrilled to be celebrating our seventh annual Zoolens Photography Contest as this project is a great opportunity to inspire our community’s students in a meaningful way,” said Al Peraza, Mercantil Commercebank president and COO. “Part of Mercantil Commercebank’s corporate culture is aimed at giving back to the communities we serve and supporting the arts. Over the years, it’s been an honor to see this project positively influence students through art education, while building wildlife awareness.”
At the culmination of the contest, more than 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, WPLG-Local 10 anchor and award-winning reporter Eric Yutzy, and Grizzel Gonzalez of Mercantil Commercebank.
During the ceremony, the 30 finalists’ photographs were displayed and Magill announced the talented winners.
First place went to Angelyn Castillo from Doral Academy for her photo titled “Nature at its Finest.” Castillo 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 Alex Nelson from Southwood Middle School with her entry titled “Evolution.” Nelson received a $1,500 savings account, a professional camera and a student membership to the North American Nature Photography Association.
And third place went to Juliana Lopez from Lawton Chiles Middle School for her photo titled “I’m on the Prrr-Owl.” Lopez received a $1,000 savings account, a professional camera and a student membership to the North American Nature Photography Association. Lopez also received the Zoolens Fans’ Choice Award, which was determined through votes on the Zoolens Facebook page. Lopez received 891 “likes” on her photo and was presented a $100 Visa Gift Card.
The grand prize winners’ schools also will receive a donation from Mercantil Commercebank.
Additionally during the ceremony, 11 honorable mention winners were revealed and awarded a $100 Visa Gift Card. Remaining finalists were awarded iTunes gift cards, courtesy of Mercantil Commercebank, in appreciation of their participation.
The 2016 Zoolens Photography Project Awards Ceremony was attended by more than 150 individuals, including students and their families and teachers, as well as several contest judges.