At 14, Tiffany L. Bailey already has learned that a picture not only can speak but also can win.
Tiffany, an amateur photographer who just finished eighth grade at Cockeysville Middle School, finished first in the 1993-1994 National PTA Reflections cultural arts program for one of her pictures.
She was selected from among 245 competitors in the photography category for "outstanding interpretation" of this year's theme "If I Could Give The World A Gift."
Her winning photograph, entitled "Passing Peace From Generation to Generation," shows two hands -- a veteran's and a child's -- clasped before a section of names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington.
A panel of four Chicago professional photographers who judged the competition called the photograph "compositionally excellent. The viewer's eyes move over the extended hands and then come to rest on the dark black shape of the wall. The image communicates a meaningful symbol in a visual language that is clear to many viewers.
"Technically this is a professional photograph."
Five other Maryland students won distinctions in other categories, including Perry Hall Middle School's Jessica Strott, who was awarded first place in literature.
But Tiffany, of Baldwin in northeastern Baltimore County, is the first Marylander to win the national "outstanding" recognition in the 25 years of the contest. The surprise still lingers on the glowing face of Tiffany, who will be a freshman at Loch Raven High School this September.
"I was real shocked," she said. "Winning in the nationals was beyond my expectations. . . . I never thought it'd go that far."
This was the first time she had competed in the contest. She said she chose "The Wall" as her backdrop on an impulse.
"I thought the best gift would be peace. To me, The Wall meant war and the killing of people. . . . The Wall is also the best form of peace, because they [the veterans who died] fought for peace. So I put the veteran's hand with the child's hand to symbolize peace going from the veteran to child."
Tiffany's interest in photography originated with her father and her aunt, both avid amateur photographers, Tiffany said. Jack Bailey, a commercial insurance collector with National Credit Management Corp. in Cockeysville, bought his daughter an Canon Elan 35mm camera for Christmas three years ago, and Tiffany has used the camera to capture numerous awards at the Baltimore County 4-H Fair for the past two years.
After her PTA entry won the school competition in January, Tiffany advanced through the county level in March and the state level a month later with first-place honors before entering the nationals. The National PTA in Chicago notified Tiffany's parents in May that their daughter had won the national award and would be recognized at the organization's 98th national convention in Las Vegas. She and her parents traveled there in June.
Ruth Bailey, a secretary at John Deere Industrial Equipment Co. in Hunt Valley, said her daughter's achievement is a thrill for her as well.
"I get goose bumps just thinking about it," Mrs. Bailey said. "And the funny thing is, it's all in the eye of the beholder. Another judge might've thought of it in a different way."
Despite the swirl of the past few months, Tiffany still finds time to swim at a local club and to volunteer as a candy-striper at Good Samaritan Hospital in Baltimore.
But photography is her first passion.
"I like it," Tiffany said. "It's fun. I'm going to keep going with it. . . . and I'm going to try to do it again."
She said she can't wait to compete in the 1995 PTA competition, which will have a theme of "Dare to Discover."