Aspiring photographer shows ‘originality’

By Pooja Magavi

The James Tedrow Gauntt scholarship was created in honor of a 2002 Torrey Pines High School graduate who passed away last August. The scholarship recognizes “youth who are pursuing a career in literature or any kind of art in college,” said the first recipient of the award, Michael Chen.

Michael will use the award to further develop his passion for photography at New York’s Rochester Institute of Technology. And, according to Michael’s teacher and advisor Mia Smith, he is a worthy candidate of the honor.

“He has the originality of an artist in his vision of the world and his place in it,” Smith said.
“He takes seriously his responsibility as an artist to offer a real and moving view of life.”
Michael has been involved with the Torrey Pines newspaper, the Falconer, and “Freeflight,” the school’s yearbook, since his junior year.

“I joined because it was a great way to develop my photography skills and improve my leadership and team working skills,” he said. Michael served as a photographer for the Falconer and was a section editor on the yearbook staff.

Smith has known Michael for three years, but as she puts it, “that is a little misleading.” Smith teaches the newspaper and yearbook publications classes and said “the relationships my students and I forge with each other invariably become much closer than the relationships I have with students in other classes.”

She said her students’ commitment goes beyond what is expected in other classes in the hours they spend in and out of school.

“He is mature beyond his years,” Smith said. “But of course he deals with the same insecurities of any teenager. His focus in the face of difficulties that most of us will never face is really remarkable.”

Michael said he takes pride in his contributions to the school’s publications because “the work has created a long lasting record of the school.”

“Michael voluntarily undertakes a tremendous amount of responsibility, but bears it in a quiet, humble way,” Smith said. “He has a dry sense of humor that both entertains and diffuses tension in stressful situations. He expects a lot of others because he is willing to give it himself.”

Michael plans to study advertising photography at Rochester. “I will become a professional photographer specializing in advertising and fashion,” he said.

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