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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

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Student's self-portrait on sexual assault wins second place in international photography contest

<p>University of&nbsp;Richmond junior&nbsp;Cristina Peters' photo project, titled "small spaces," tries to tell the story of sexual assault. Photo courtesy<strong>&nbsp;</strong>of Cristina Peters.</p>

University of Richmond junior Cristina Peters' photo project, titled "small spaces," tries to tell the story of sexual assault. Photo courtesy of Cristina Peters.

Cristina Peters, WC '18, won second place in an international photography contest for one of her photos that was part of a larger exhibit titled "Small Spaces." 

The exhibit portrayed her views on sexual assault and the recent conversations and events surrounding it, Peters said.

The contest is hosted annually by Photographer's FORUM Magazine, a quarterly publication devoted to the art of photography.  

"Dry-Rot", the piece that won second place, centers on Peters. She is curled up naked in a bucket in her mother’s backyard with nothing more than a garden hose and leaves to fill up the rest of the space.

The self-portrait was the last of five pictures she submitted for the contest.

Peters, along with several of her fellow dancers from the University of Richmond's University Dancers, served as models for her open-ended final course project in her Photography Media Studio class last semester.

The result was "Small Spaces," which Peters submitted as her final project for the class. 

Emily Limoncelli, WC ’19, was one of Peters' models. She commended Peters on her achievement and shared her thoughts on the winning piece.

“The photo itself is beautiful and almost haunting. I see vulnerability, innocence, peace and constraint all wrapped-up in one image. The fact that her self-portrait was the one selected to win makes it more meaningful,” Limoncelli said in an email.

Each of Peters' pictures held a name corresponding with their location.

“It’s meant to make somebody think about how long that body has been enclosed in that bucket," Peters said about "Dry-Rot."

Her mother’s backyard was not the location she originally set out to shoot in — the revelation came to her in the moment.

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“I went to my mom’s house just to get the bucket,” Peters said with a laugh. “I was looking at the yard and I was like, 'You know what? This feels right.' The photo is close to home in my heart, and so it just felt right to be there to take it.”

Peters admitted she felt hesitant about entering and submitting her photos back in January.

“It’s really intimidating to look at previous winners of the contest or just see how many people I’d be competing against,” Peters said. “There are hundreds of honorable mentions alone, and fourth place is awarded to four to eight different people.”

Thomas Condon, visiting lecturer of art, said "Dry-Rot" won second place out of 13,000 other photographs submitted. Condon was one of Peters' most influential mentors throughout this project and in her photography pursuits since her freshman year.

“More than anything, it’s a great boost to her own confidence,” Condon said, describing the significance of his student’s win. “She’s a very, very talented artist, but having somebody from the outside world, a panel of people, review your work and also agree that it's of the caliber that it is — that is something that drives you forward.”

Aside from the contest, Peters wanted her collection to spark conversation about sexual assault issues within UR and beyond. Peters said she chose to name the collection "Small Spaces" because it was about the stigmas and labels that compartmentalized victims and forced them into "small spaces."

“I think the work is important for this university,” Condon said. “What we moved through as a culture last fall is what her entire project’s thoughts and actions were responding to. The end result was a very beautiful and deeply moving collection of images that really tapped into the psychological and physical pressures of sexual assault.”

Peters will receive $1,500 as a cash prize as well as a SIGMA 24mm 1.4 DG HSM Art camera lens for her achievement.

Her winning piece will also be published in the limited edition hardcover book "Best of College & High School Photography 2017" with the other winners, finalists and honorable mentions of the 37th annual iteration of the contest.

All of Peters' work, including "Small Spaces" is currently available on her own website.

Contact reporter Arrman Kyaw at arrman.kyaw@richmond.edu. Follow Arrman on Twitter at @ArrmanKyaw.

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