Capturing Life's Vibrancy: Pia Ostrognai's Journey through Street Photography and Photojournalism | Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Success

Mountain Connection, February 6, 2024

Student Spotlight: Pia Ostrognai ’25

This year, Pia Ostrognai, a junior at SMS, received recognition at Colorado’s Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for her outstanding work in numerous photographs. This prestigious program, catering to students in grades 7-12, stands as the nation’s longest-running platform for teens in the arts. Beyond exhibitions and recognition, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards also grant numerous scholarships at both state and national levels.

In January, Pia won three Gold awards, which have now been submitted for national consideration, along with an additional Silver award. Additionally, she earned four honorable mentions. The Gold and Silver award-winning photographs are currently on display at the 40 West Gallery in Denver. We had the opportunity to connect with Pia about her creative process and the significance of photography in her life.

SMS: How would you describe the photographs you take, what style or genre?

P: I really enjoy street photography and photojournalism, meaning I take a lot of candid photographs of people in daily life.

SMS: What are your motivations or intentions as a photographer? 

P: For me, photos are another form of telling an entire story in just one shot, and I find that candidly-posing people can tell vibrant stories. 

SMS: How do you select your subjects for your photos? 

P: I find that photographing people is what I do the most because anyone you choose to focus on and take a photo of has something interesting about them. I usually try to search for a subject who is particularly unique and has the potential for a strong composition. This includes bright colors, a good angle, and a well-placed subject in the location I’m shooting at. The other thing important to note is that my photos which have a person as the subject are taken in public spaces. This is important as photographs taken in public areas don’t require the consent of the subject for the photo. However, as a part of respect for taking the photo, whenever I’m in a city especially, I ask for the written consent of my subject if the photo is more personal and might not want to be shared. 

SMS: What do you most enjoy about photography as a medium? 

P: I really appreciate that photography is an extremely versatile medium. You can take a photo of anything and it still has some artistic quality, whether it be in a studio in nature or in the city. This means that every photo has some form of a story behind it and I think that that’s a really beautiful thing, to just have a singular photo that has so many elements. Photography showcases the world vibrantly and visually, so that opposed to any other medium, a glance is enough to already have some meaning behind it, and a full look provides a detail-heavy and complex shot. 

SMS: What has photography taught you? 

P: It teaches me as the photographer and everyone else as the viewers to appreciate the moment and to keep note of the smaller things in life. 

Thanks Pia!

Pia Ostrognai '25

GOLD: Abstraction

An experimental photograph of a musician in one of New York City's metro stations illustrating how art is vivid, messy, and open to interpretation for the viewer. It tells of the intersection between art forms, which, in this case, is music with photography and visual arts.

GOLD: Quiet Bravado

A person walks down Broadway in New York City during the annual Pride Parade donning the pride flag.

SILVER: Peking Duck Chef

A professional traditional Chinese butcher in Flushing, New York City busies himself with preparing the meats such as those hanging from the window as one would find in the restaurants of China.

GOLD: Street Vendor

A person sits at their trolley selling pre-prepared fruits with seasonings in Times Square in New York City at dusk.

Pit Crew

Pit crew for the Las Vegas Formula 1 Grand Prix take a break during the race.

HONORABLE MENTION: Enclosed in a Moment

A person stands with his bike as the New York City metro stops at a station. On his phone, he minds his own business about what is going on outside of his enclosed area in the train.

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