On a whim, Dylan Singleton entered the Project Imaginat10n photography contest this fall. He found out earlier this month that one of his favorite musicians had selected his photo as a winner, but the 2009 graduate of Wilde Lake High School could only afford to be excited for a brief moment. Singleton was writing a 12-page final paper for a class at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he's a senior.
Now, the reality has begun to settle in: a photograph he took was selected by James Murphy, frontman of the band LCD Soundsystem, as inspiration for a film.
Project Imaginat10n is a project from Canon U.S.A. and acclaimed producer and director Ron Howard. Howard will lead five different celebrity filmmakers as they create their short films based on the winning photos they chose. Each of the judges — actors Jamie Foxx and Eva Longoria, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, designer Georgina Chapman and Murphy — picked 10 photos as inspiration from a field of 300 finalists and about 10,000 entries.
And Singleton's photo of an empty Hobbit's Glen community swimming pool was among the winners.
Singleton, 21, became interested in photography during a Gifted and Talented summer program after his freshman year in high school. It was a two-week introduction to learn how to use a dark room. He started "taking photos of everything."
Photography, Singleton said, is a form of self-expression, and a medium in which he found he had talent. It also became therapeutic, as he would take his camera for long walks around his neighborhood at night.
"It helps me relax, and I can just be myself, do whatever I feel like, when I have my camera with me," he said.
That was how his winning photo, "Heart," came to be: one night a couple of years ago, Singleton was walking around his Hobbit's Glen neighborhood when he took a photo of the empty Hobbit's Glen swimming pool. Behind a single light are trees whose branches form the rough outline of a heart, all of which is reflected in the water.
"Heart" was submitted in the contest's "Unknown" category.
"There's a lot that isn't really apparent in the photo; it's a bit ambiguous," Singleton said. "A lot of the captivation is intrigue — you don't know 100 percent what's going on."
The heart, for example, isn't immediately obvious to a lot of people, Singleton said — apparently not even Murphy.
"I didn't even see the heart, but there it is, in the greenery," Murphy said in a video on Project Imaginat10n's website. "(The theme of) 'unknown' is a tough one. How do you use the unknown? I'm just winging it, picking a picture I like."
Murphy picking Singleton's photo simply because he liked it "feels awesome," Singleton said.
"I'm so excited; he chose my photo just because he liked my photo, and that's great," he said.
Production on the Project Imaginat10n films will begin next year. The films will debut at the 2013 Canon Project Imaginat10n Film Festival, and Singleton is invited to the premiere.
Singleton is set to graduate college in the spring, and is thinking about applying to graduate schools, and maybe eventually becoming a professor. A sociology major, Singleton said his field of study might be a good explanation of why he likes photography — the two are "fairly closely connected in understanding the world around us."
In his photography, Singleton said he likes to show people different sides to things they may see every day.
"Hundreds of people, thousands of people go to that pool, but I don't think anyone else would have seen the same sight I did," he said. "You don't think of a community pool as the most aesthetically pleasing thing to look at."
Singleton said the majority of his work is just looking at the things around him, and shooting them "the way I see them," typically paying attention to different angles or details not instantly noticeable.
"This is the world as I see it, and I want to show people there's not just one specific way to look at something," he said. "You can literally look at something from a different perspective, and see something different from what you expected."