Alum Novalí Centellas Spotlighted in 2023 International Photography Competition
Novalí Centellas may have just graduated from Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University with a BFA in Photography this past spring, but she’s already in the company of some of the most talented photographers on the planet.
Centellas was one of a select number of entrants to this year’s International Photography Competition—a prestigious annual juried competition organized by The Photo Review and now in its 38th year—to be featured in a web gallery specially curated by the publication’s editorial staff.
Having her photo “Pathway” selected still evokes a surreal reaction from the emerging artist.
“I remember opening the email from The Photo Review with so much nervous energy, and then reading the word ‘congrats’ at the top. My mind went blank for a moment, and then I just thought ’no way—there’s no way. This is a joke, right?’” Centellas recalls. “I still can’t even really believe that a photo of mine is on their website—I’m beyond grateful.”
"Pathway" by Novalí Centellas (image courtesy of the artist)
Looking at “Pathway” itself, however, you’d be forgiven for assuming it’s the work of a seasoned professional. The photo is decidedly mature in every aspect—from its striking composition to its ethereal aesthetic to its organic and open-ended sense of narrative—and that reflects the maturity of Centellas’ creative process.
“In my work I usually focus more on composition and let the pieces fit themselves together rather than force an idea on my images, and I think this is a prime example of it,” she says. “I had no specific narrative in mind, just the abstract concept of narrative.”
To that end, Centellas gave her model a good deal of independence, and in turn let that outside influence inform the final photograph. The model had the freedom to choose their own outfit, the shoot location, and their positioning, all to help give the resulting image a life of its own.
“I like to center my ideas around the nature of the models chosen or find models that embody the nature of the photos I want to take. In this case I had chosen my models first and the photos came naturally after that,” Centellas says. “We headed to this garden where I was surprised to see pretty much all the plant life was dead, but thought it ended up being more fitting that way. We wandered around for a few minutes while I thought about oddity, whimsy, and disconcert.”
There’s also the matter of medium. While so much of contemporary photography is digital, Centellas elected to use analog slide film for this piece, giving the image a grainy texture that contributes to its liminal sense of time and space.
“I was also working with 4x5 slide film for the first time with this project, and I think the film made a huge impact on the final product,” she says.
(above): "Laxey" by Novalí Centellas, featured in the exhibition Framed: Trees and Water at Black Box Gallery in Portland, Ore;
(below): "Field" by Novalí Centellas, featured in Docu Magazine’s online publication Docu Books (images courtesy of the artist)
Centellas’ early-career success has been snowballing, too. Just before her feature in the 2023 International Photography Competition, she earned a finalist nod in another international juried art exhibition, Black and White X (10), organized by Camelback Gallery in Scottsdale, Ariz. Currently, her photography is featured in the exhibition Framed: Trees and Water at Black Box Gallery in Portland, Ore. and in Docu Magazine’s online publication Docu Books, with a feature in the print publication coming out soon. She’ll also be featured in Woman Made Gallery’s Small Works Members Show in Chicago this December.
"My Whole Life, I Just Didn’t Know It Yet" by Novalí Centellas, featured in the forthcoming exhibition Small Works Members Show at Woman Made Gallery in Chicago (image courtesy of the artist)
Centellas has even begun translating her practice into entrepreneurship with Primavera Press, which she hopes to develop into a multifaceted platform for showcasing the work of other creatives alongside her own.
“I want to continue to work as a fine artist, entering more gallery shows to get my
work out there,” she says. “I have also started a small business that I want to grow
outside of the Midwest into a shop that sells work by local artists and myself, along
with a small gallery.”