Mercantil Commercebank, one of the largest banks headquartered in Florida, recently announced the 2015 launch of its Zoolens Photography Project.
Developed in partnership with Zoo Miami and the Zoological Society of Florida, the bank’s month-long contest encourages middle school students of both public and private schools in Miami-Dade County to visit Zoo Miami, creatively photograph their favorite animal and enter the photo for a chance to win great rewards, including a $2,000 grand prize.
Mercantil Commercebank’s Zoolens Photography Project was developed in 2010 to foster wildlife awareness among students while encouraging artistic expression and education through photography.
The 2015 project will run from Thursday, Oct. 1, through Saturday, Oct. 31, and students interested in participating must submit an original, artistic photograph of a Zoo Miami animal before 5 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 2. Submissions can be made through a student’s school or at any Mercantil Commercebank banking center, and further guidelines are available at Zoolens.com.
A panel of distinguished judges will then choose three grand prize winners and 10 honorable mentions, which will be announced at an awards ceremony in December. First place will receive a $2,000 savings account, second place will receive a $1,500 savings account, and third place earns a $1,000 savings account. The top three finishers also will receive a professional camera and student membership to the North American Nature Photography Association and their respective schools will receive a donation courtesy of Mercantil Commercebank. The 10 honorable mentions will receive a $100 Visa Gift Card.
“In our ongoing commitment to support local art and education initiatives, we are pleased to once again present the Zoolens Photography Project,” said Mercantil Commercebank vice chair and CEO Millar Wilson. “It is our pleasure to continue to inspire creative learning and celebrate the talent of Miami-Dade County’s middle school students through this innovative program.”
In celebration of the project, on Oct. 3, Mercantil Commercebank will host a special event for students at Zoo Miami. Starting at 10 a.m., students will join Ron Magill — Nikon Ambassador, Zoo Miami’s director of communications and noted wildlife photographer — for an exciting walking tour and exclusive animal experiences with wildlife photography tips.
Additionally, for the first time this year, the bank will present a “Zoolens Fans’ Choice” social media contest via the Zoolens Facebook page.
A Facebook photo album of the top 30 finalists’ submissions will be posted to the page in mid- November and open to all page followers for voting. The first-ever winner of the “Zoolens Fans’ Choice Award” will be announced during the December awards ceremony.
“I am delighted to be involved in Zoolens once again and to have the opportunity to play a role in broadening students’ appreciation of photography and wildlife,” said Magill, who serves as a contest judge. “With participation in the program continuing to grow, I look forward to this year’s creative captures.”
In 2014, Alexandra Geltner, a student from South Miami K-8 Center (Expressive Arts Magnet), earned first place for her captivating photo of a trio of Zoo Miami giraffes. Her submission, titled “Photobomb,” was among more than 300.
The panel of judges for the 2015 Zoolens Photography Project includes Mercantil Commercebank vice president and Marketing Services manager Grizzel Gonzalez; 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-Ch. 10 anchor and noted animal advocate Jacey Birch, and Magill.
To learn more about the 2015 Zoolens Photography Project, as well as the special Oct. 3 event, visit www.Zoolens.com. For more information on Mercantil Commercebank, visit <www.mercantilcb. com>, and follow the Bank on Twitter and Instagram at @MercantilCB. Zoo Miami is located at 12400 SW 152 St. General zoo eadmission is $17.95/adult and $13.95/child (3-12), plus tax. Also as of Oct. 1, 2015, admission prices will change to $19.95/adult and $15.95/child, plus tax. Children under age 2, zoo members and parking are free.
Zoo Miami’s hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on weekdays and 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. on weekends and holidays; ticket booths close at 4 p.m. For more information visit www.zoomiami.org.