It's not unusual for creative students at the Carver Center for Arts and Technology in Towson to be honored for their work on both local and national stages.
But the easy, collaborative effort that helped senior Emily Dahuron, 18, of Towson, be named a finalist in National Geographic's U.S. Student Photography Contest earlier this month illustrates just how advanced the students' work can be.
"I think it's amazing on two levels," Principal Karen Steele said. "One, that a Carver Center student wanted to reach out for a project so global in nature about community and interconnectedness, and then to have National Geographic validate the work of not only Emily, but that entire department and all that they strive to do."
Dahuron's photograph, which was taken during her junior year as part of an assignment in which she transformed her best friend, 17-year-old Ciera Delice, of Pikesville, into a member of the Karo tribe in Ethiopia. The picture, entitled "Karo Tribe Revisited," was selected as one of 24 finalists in the nationwide contest.
The photo contest strove to collect entries that showed a sense of adventure and exploration, and according to the contest website, more than 2,500 pictures were submitted for consideration.
"The Karo tribe in Ethiopia frequently paints themselves to resemble a Guinea fowl," Dahuron wrote in the caption. "I wish I could go to Ethiopia but for now, my best friend will have to do."
The two said they'd been friends since before their freshman year at Carver, when the two hit it off during volleyball practice.
Dahuron said it took about half an hour to paint Delice's face at her Rodgers Forge home, and the pair laughed as they recalled the day of the photo shoot.
Delice got quizzical looks from Dahuron's grandfather, who was visiting from France and didn't speak English and thus couldn't get an explanation as to why the face of the cheery girl was covered in glimmering greens and yellows.
On the walk from Dahuron's house in Rodgers Forge to Dumbarton Middle School, where the hour-long photo shoot occurred, Delice said she wore a blanket over her head — partially because it was part of the outfit, partially to shield herself from curious passers-by.
"The most embarrassing moment of my life," Delice said. "I got a couple of stares."
The National Geographic contest was still months away, but when the photographs from her shoot were being produced, teacher Carroll Cook pegged the pictures' fate immediately.
"The first thing my photo teacher said when it came out of the printer was, 'Oh, this is so National Geographic,' " Dahuron recalled.
This past December, just a day before the deadline for submissions, a teacher told Dahuron of the National Geographic contest. Dahuron scrambled to gather her five entries, and was pleased to hear that she'd been selected as a finalist.
"I was surprised," she said. "I didn't go out and shoot specifically for that contest … so I was surprised I got it. But I was really proud of that photo."
Dahuron said it was her best result in a contest yet.
Delice, an acting prime, and Dahuron, who focuses on visual arts at Carver, said the cross-prime collaboration was typical at the school, especially with the visual arts students.
Steele, however, said award was a shining moment for not just the school, but the visual arts department.
"Emily is just the capstone of how it becomes manifested and it makes them feel worthy as individuals, as a program, and as an artist, and there's nothing more powerful as an artist than the recognition that what they do has meant something to someone else," she said.