What’s Your Lens? Photo Competition Results

How do you convey your community in a photograph? That was our challenge to Chicago teens ages 14 to 24 this summer, in our "What's Your Lens?" photo competition.

Check out works from each of the teens' portfolio submissions in the slideshow below. We were impressed and moved by the photographs submitted to this competition, and we anticipate that you will be too!

The "What’s Your Lens?" photo challenge was inspired by gloria cassens, a Chicago photographer and writer who began taking photographs around 2010 while walking in Chicago. Her work covers several genres, including architectural photographs and shots of nature, although her main focus depicts the individuals she encounters on her daily wanderings. An archive of cassens’ photographs is housed by the Special Collections department of the Chicago Public Library.

Grand Prize Winner:

  • Jordan V.

Runner Ups:

  • Curtis/Lily G.
  • Holly S.


  • Catheryn M. 
  • Gabriela A.
  • Jaden M. 
  • Shirly R. 
  • Shravan R. 
  • Stevia N. 

Honorable Mentions:

  • Alkebuluan M. 
  • Rika N. 
  • Sahana S.
  • Samara V.
  • Siena M. 
  • Tatiana S. 

We'd also like to thank our judges: Chris Martin (library associate at Legler Regional Branch), Michelle McCoy (senior archival specialist at Special Collections) and special guest judge/photographer Jeff Phillips. Learn more about them below: 

Chris Saint Martin is an interdisciplinary artist and educator working in film, music and mixed-media on Chicago’s South and West Sides. His work has been exhibited at The International Human Rights Film Festival in Vienna, Austria and The Video Art Festival in Turku, Finland. He has performed with members of Art of Culture as part of the Chicago Blues Festival. Chris is the recipient of a 2020 Individual Artist Grant from the City of Chicago/DCASE for Protest Suite, a multimedia installation consisting of self produced films, music and photographs. When he is not working with youth in YOUmedia, Chris is an Artist in Residence with the Chicago Park District.

Michelle McCoy became an archivist and rare book librarian fifteen years ago after a career as an advertising art director and art teacher in the Chicago Public School system. An active printmaker, she is a member of the Chicago Printmakers’ Collaborative and the Chicago Printers’ Guild. In her full-time staff role as archivist and librarian for Chicago Public Library, she manages archival collections, participates in exhibit curation and leads customized instruction sessions with student groups. She holds a Master’s Degree in Library Science from Dominican University, a Master’s Degree in History from Roosevelt University and studied illustrated book history at the Rare Book School in Charlottesville, Virginia. She also holds fine art degrees in drawing and photography from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Ohio State University.

Jeff Phillips is a photographic artist living and working in Chicago, Illinois. He is a frequent lecturer and workshop presenter at Columbia College Chicago, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Los Angeles Center of Photography, New Orleans Photo Alliance, Filter Photo, and other arts organizations. Jeff serves on the boards of directors for PhotoNOLA and Filter Photo, and since 2009 has helped produce the week-long Filter Photo Festival. He is interested in non-traditional ways of presenting photography, including self-publishing, digital projection, and experimental online interfaces. His work has been featured in more than 50 gallery exhibitions and has been widely published in print and online. He holds an M.A. in Photography and a B.A. in Technology from DePaul University in Chicago.