Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

My winning Americana photo December 8, 2014

AS A PHOTOGRAPHER, you know when you’ve snapped a photo that tells a story, that freezes a moment, that captures an emotion. Light and composition and focus also factor into the equation of a memorable image.

The bingo callers. My first place winning photo.

The BINGO callers. My first place winning photo.

Such was my reaction to photographing John and Lavonne, BINGO callers at the 2013 July Fourth celebration in North Morristown. Many of my images from that day make me proud of my work as a photographer.

Through my photography, I strive to show the everyday and celebratory moments of life—the people, places and happenings that define my world in Southern Minnesota.

And North Morristown on the Fourth of July is about as rural and down-to-earth as you get in these parts. So when I saw this couple calling BINGO, I determined to photograph the scene. They appeared to not even notice me and my camera, so focused were they on their job.

That’s precisely how I like it, to go unnoticed, to click the shutter button and document.

Professional photographers John Hart and Amber Arnold from the Wisconsin State Journal saw, too, what I see in that “Fourth of July BINGO Callers” image. They selected it as the first place winner in the People category of the 2014 photo contest sponsored by National Mutual Benefit.

The judges commented:

This photo has a timeless quality and is a candid, natural moment. It’s a slice of Americana.

I couldn’t have said it better.

My trusty fifth eye, my Canon EOS 20D.

Me and my Canon EOS 20D. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

As a photographer, I am delighted to receive this professional validation of my work with a monetary prize and publication.

This is the second time I’ve won in the National Mutual Benefit Photo Contest. My last win came in 2003 when I photographed a butterfly on a daisy, garnering first place in the scenery division. That was back in the day when I was still shooting with film. I’ve only entered the competition a few times.

What do you think makes a winning or really good photo?

FYI: To view all of the winning photos and judges’ comments, click here. None of the contest images could be digitally altered.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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28 Responses to “My winning Americana photo”

  1. Dan Traun Says:

    I would have to concur with the judges 100%. Freezing these types of moments in time preserves not only the story, but also records history; a record of those lives that have come before many. 110% Americana. Congratulation on 1st place. Well deserved.

  2. Beth Ann Says:

    Congrats! It is a perfect snappie of Americana, that is very accurate. I have a few photos that I am pretty proud of myself and it seems that everyone is a photographer in some way these days with smart phone cameras. I guess I would say I am a photography enthusiast—definitely not a professional by any means like you are, but it is a fun thing to do and see what can be created through the lens. Congrats again.

  3. treadlemusic Says:

    Huge CONGRATS!!!!!! The capture is truly “timeless” (the descriptive attribute that makes a photo transcend time and place) and something that may be observed in so many gatherings (Bingo is probably THE most popular “event” at our local summer festivity-“Hoedown”- rarely is there a seat vacant for more than a moment!!!!!).

  4. Almost Iowa Says:

    I don’t know who these people are – but I know those people. Your photo so perfectly captures the essence of rural social life that it is instantly familiar to anyone who has spent time shuffling around church pancake breakfasts or VFW fundraisers.

  5. Erin Honken Says:

    HI Audrey, I just started following your blog a week or so ago. I just wanted to let you know I’m thoroughly enjoying your writing-style and your photography. Re: the BINGO photo – I love that the background is a pull shed too… 🙂 Keep up the good work! -Erin

    • Thanks, Erin. I noticed you’d subscribed and am delighted to have you among the Minnesota Prairie Roots readership. Welcome.

      I was waiting for someone to comment on the poleshed setting. That’s North Morristown, about as rural as it gets on the Fourth of July. Love that place, that event and the people I connect with there.

  6. Hi Audrey – Congratulations! I’m not surprised that you won; your eye is attuned to story and detail in a way that always makes your photos pull the viewer in. Good photos are a lot like good writing – they present a slice of story and the viewer can’t just walk away. They stay there, take it in, and feel something from the experience. That perfectly describes what your photos do for me!

  7. Miranda Says:

    Congrats, Mom! That’s exciting!

  8. Jackie Says:

    The judges knew a good photo when they saw one, I think this is a great portrait of “Americana”! I particularly like the womans face, she seems pleased and so content! Congratulations Audrey, what an honor 🙂

  9. Dee Bjork Says:

    Not surprised Audrey. Your work is delightful and we love it!

  10. I like capturing the naturalness of people, places and things 🙂 Beautiful Capture – thanks so much for sharing – love it – BINGO! Happy Week

  11. Sue Ready Says:

    Wow- your accolades just keep stacking up-congratulations!!
    You so deserve the recognition.

  12. ryanware Says:

    Well done, Audrey. That shot reminded me of a photo series I saw earlier on Slate http://www.slate.com/blogs/behold/2014/01/07/alison_turner_bingo_culture_looks_at_the_world_of_bingo_across_the_united.html or as they say in bingo parlance a series I saw B-4.


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