What’s Your Lens? A Summer Photo Challenge for Ages 14-24 

Can you show others the world as you see it? The What's Your Lens? photography challenge invites Chicagoans between the ages of 14-24 to submit original photography and an artist statement that capture the essence of your community for the chance to win prizes. Prizes may include a DSLR camera kit, networking session with a professional photographer, public exhibition at Chicago Public Library and gift cards. 

This challenge is inspired by the gloria cassens photograph collection held by Chicago Public Library Special Collections. gloria cassens is a photographer who has experienced both homelessness and mental health crises. Her vibrant street photography humanizes her subjects and calls to mind the work of Vivian Maier, another Chicago photographer who captured people living on the margins.   

Submission Guidelines 

Who: Chicago youth between the ages of 14 to 24 

What: Submit a portfolio of 1 to 3 original photographs and an artist statement. The artist statement should be around 250 words and address the following:  

  • The situational context behind the photo(s).  
  • How your photos relate to the theme of capturing the essence of your community.  
  • Your artistic experience/interests and goals for the future. 
  • Note: If you submit a photograph of another person, you must have their permission for it to be publicly displayed online and at a physical branch. If applicable, please indicate you have received permission in the artist statement.  

When/where: Submit your works between now and August 22, 2021 using the form below.   


Winning works that demonstrate talent, creativity and heart will be exhibited in-person at one or more Chicago Public Library branches as well as online. From these works, up to 15 exceptional pieces will receive one or more of the following prizes 

  • Grand prize: $75 gift card, a DSLR camera kit, and a networking session with a professional photographer 
  • First and second runners-up: $50 gift card and a networking session with a professional photographer 
  • Finalists (6): $50 gift card 
  • Honorable mentions (6): $25 gift card 

Submissions will be judged by a panel of Chicago Public Library staff as well as guest judges from Chicago’s professional photography community. Evaluation will be based on the clarity of the artist’s statement, the artistic merit of the piece(s) and their embodiment of the theme. Winners will be notified in the fall.

By submitting your portfolio, you authorize Chicago Public Library to post a copy of your work with first name, last initial attribution on www.chipublib.org, in Chicago Public Library’s building/collection and on the library’s social media channels.

Submission Form

Thank you for your interest in our What’s Your Lens? photography challenge. The submission deadline has now passed. Winners will be notified in the fall.