Ouellette makes her mark on photography world with photo of Bancroft’s Castle


Elitsa Koleva

Senior Mairead Ouellette smiles with her camera after being selected for the Drexel Photography Exhibition.

Elitsa Koleva, News Editor

With a Fujifilm camera in hand, senior Mairead Ouellette casually explores her surroundings for a subject to snag her interest. As the trail winds down into a flat clearing, an old castle comes into view and Ouellette is awed by the mystery of it. As she lays down on the grass looking up at the towering Bancroft’s Castle in Groton, Ouellette unknowingly snaps her winning photograph for the Drexel Photography Exhibition in Pennsylvania.

The black and white photograph, titled “Bancroft’s Castle”, will be displayed from Feb. 5 to March 5 this year at the Drexel University campus. With its unique perspective, clear quality and great composition, the photo was one of the few selected out of thousands of submissions from high school students throughout the country. It was taken in the days leading up to the deadline during one of Ouellette’s nature walks, and was part of a series of photos that reflected her mood.

“At the time I was kind of going through a rough patch so I went the moody route and made all my photos from that day black and white,” Ouellette said. “I really liked how the tower looked but the issue with it was that it’s really tall, so in order to get the photo I had to lay in the dirt. I really liked the windows and the rocks, and I liked how it was in nature and dilapidated, almost, like it was still together but falling apart.” 

According to Ouellette, the timing of the photo was pure coincidence, as she was unaware of the competition until her Digital Photography teacher, Lisa Bolette, posted the information on Google Classroom. Although she typically keeps the photographs she takes between herself, close friends and family, she took this opportunity as a chance to see how she ranks amongst other great high-school photographers across the country.

“I have been keeping my work to myself for a while and I’ve never really had another group of photographers look at it other than my photography teacher, so it’s definitely a confidence booster in that I am capable of taking photos,” Ouellette said. “A big part of me not submitting before was that I didn’t really know if I was good enough.”

To get where she is today, Ouellette has seen significant growth throughout the years since middle school, when she first tried out her dad’s old camera and relied on set-ups to photograph. Eventually, taking photos became more natural to her, and her editing also became more subtle.

“She’s been doing photography for many years now so I’m very proud of her that she was able to get herself into this opportunity,” senior Anamika Pusalkar said. “I’ve seen her progress from an amateur photographer into editing her photos and doing all these crazy things to seeing her competition photo which was so developed and very professional.”

According to Ouellette, a big turning point for her was when she took Film Photography freshman and sophomore year of high school, where she learned how to use chemicals to process the physical role of film in film cameras. It was while she took Film Photography that her interest in the science of cameras sparked for her.

“I think it’s cool how everything works, especially film cameras versus digital cameras,” Ouellette said. “The science behind how you let light through a little pinhole and there’s an image that shows up [is really interesting]. I just think it is really fascinating how that works and how you can play with it to make it work for you.”

According to Ouellette, photography has always been an outlet through which she can release her emotions and express her creativity. Whenever she is traveling, she always takes her camera with her to places like Canada, and is planning on bringing it with her to Italy during her Latin School Trip. Most of the time, however, she keeps it local with nature walks around Nabnasset to calm her mind.

“Photography is definitely just a good break from everything because there’s not really any expectations or rules that you have to follow. And when you’re taking photos while you’re walking outside, you’re not really thinking about your test or school or your SAT score or anything like that,” Ouellette said. “It’s very much in the moment and you’re looking at things and clicking a button at whatever you think is interesting.”

Usually, her main area of focus are still objects like flowers or buildings, as opposed to posing people, since that has has always felt unnatural to her. Still objects also provide her with the opportunity to capture different perspectives of everyday objects that other people may not see otherwise.

“Mairead has very good compositional skills. I think that she approaches her subjects with the intent of how can I best capture this subject in a unique way, not just the run-of-the-mill first idea, but exploring different angles,” Bolotte said. “[When it comes to her competition photo,] the texture, the shadows and seeing through the little windows; I think all of it is very engaging.”

Although Ouellette’s passion for photography is ever strong, she does not plan on following photography as a career path. Still, she looks forward to visiting Drexel University with her family to see her photo on display, and is certain that she will submit more photos to competitions in the future.

”We [her friends] won’t be able to come to Pennsylvania but we’re really excited for her and hoping for lots of pictures,” Pusalkar said. “I think it’s an amazing thing for her to be able to go to all these places and think about the way she wants to portray [her subjects]. She’s really talented and I think it’s something she deserves to show off a little bit more to the world. “