Cape Elizabeth student's photo to hang in U.S. Capitol

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CAPE ELIZABETH — Meeting an old farmer in a small coastal town may seem like an insignificant occurrence.

For JoJo Zeitlin, though, it set her on a path to having her artwork on display in the nation’s capital.

Zeitlin, a Cape Elizabeth High School junior, won the Maine Arts Commission‘s Congressional Art Competition for a photo she took of a farmer she met in Friendship last summer.

The full name of the farmer is unknown and Zeitlin only spent a short time at his farm. She was participating in a summer photography workshop when her small group decided to stop at the farm.

The photo, titled “Brian,” is the District 1 winner and will hang in the U.S. Capitol with winners from other congressional districts around the country. Zeitlin found out she won when U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree called her.

“It was super, super cool,” Zeitlin said. “I almost didn’t believe it.”

Zeitlin was surprised because she hadn’t submitted the photo in the contest. The Maine Arts Commission saw the photo after Zeitlin won the Scholastic Art and Writing award, and “Brian” was hanging at the Maine College of Art.

“I was really confused at first because I didn’t submit it and didn’t know how (the arts commission) found it,” she said. “I was so excited though.”

Zeitlin, who hopes to become a neuroscientist, said photography will always be something she does. 

“I like the reward it gives you,” she said. “It’s so simple to click a button and take a picture, but to compose it and get all the aspects right, it takes a lot of practice.”

Portraits are Zeitlin’s favorite type of photography, she said, because they reveal many things about the subject.

“I really like that you can capture a person,” she said. “I don’t really know (Brian), but this captured his emotion.”

In a press release, Pingree said she likes Zeitlin’s photograph because it represents life in Maine.

“JoJo’s photograph shows great composition and technique,” Pingree said. “As an islander, I love that the image is so distinctly rural, coastal ‘Maine.’ I think it will really stand out and I’m proud that it will represent Maine’s First District when it is hung at the Capitol this June.”

The photo will hang until June 2017 and Zeitlin said she hopes she can go see it.

“I don’t have any plans at the moment, but hopefully when I’m doing college tours I’ll find my way down there,” she said.

Twelve students were recognized by the competition. The District 2 winner was Michaela Shorey of Rangeley Lakes Regional School. There were five runners-up in each district; in District 1 the first runner-up was Anna Callahan of Brunswick, the second runner-up was Abigail Stevens-Roberts of Saco, and honorable mentions were Katie Sprague of Manchester, Gabriel Rosen of Portland, and Caitlyn Duffy of Gorham.

“We are very lucky to have this kind of talent in our student population here in Maine,” Julie Richard, the executive director of the Maine Arts Commission, said. “It reinforces the strength and quality of our art education programs across the state.”

While people from across the country will zee Zeitlin’s photo, she doesn’t know if Brian will ever see it.

“I wonder this everyday,” she said. “I don’t know how to contact him. I don’t know if he’s seen it, or what he’d think if he did.”

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

Cape Elizabeth student JoJo Zeitlin’s photo “Brian,” which won the Congressional Art Competition for Maine’s District 1, will hang in the U.S. Capitol for a year starting in June.

Cape Elizabeth High School junior JoJo Zeitlin is the District 1 winner in Maine’s Congressional Art Competition.

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I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.