Young Northsider wins international photography competition


Ben Page, 18, will travel to France in November for the 14th annual International Heritage Photographic Experience Competition. His photo was one of two chosen from the United States. (Photo/Kelly Thomas)

The photo shows St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church set against a backdrop of Pittsburgh skyscrapers. All are cast in the golden glow of a beautiful sunset.

That photo, taken by Central Northside youth Ben Page, is one of two winners from the United States in the 14th International Heritage Photographic Experience photography competition. Ben, along with fellow winner Nicole DeSantis, will represent his city and country at the awards ceremony in Strasbourg, France, in November.

This is the first time a United States city has participated in the international photography competition, according to sponsoring organization the Children’s Museum.

Ben, a former Creative and Performing Arts High School student, said entering the competition was easy.

 “It was literally take a photo of Pittsburgh and put it on Facebook.”

Sixty Pittsburgh youth, from ages 3 to 20, entered photos. The most popular subjects were the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning, the Phipps Conservatory in Oakland, Downtown and the smokestacks at the Waterfront in Homestead.

Ben thought about taking a photo of St. Nicolas Church on Rt. 28, which has many of the same architectural features as St. John. He said the lack of scenic background around St. Nicolas led him to use a photo he took of St. John in 2009 for a CAPA gallery showing for the G-20 Summit.

His photo was given an honorable mention in that show, so he decided to stick with it. “It was a pretty good photo, so I wasn’t going to complain,” he said.

Ben cites the many opportunities he’s had to study photography for his success in the IHPE contest. His father is a freelance photographer, and his mother is an artist.

“Art’s always been in my life, but photography was easier for me to pick up,” he said.

In addition to studying visual arts at CAPA, he attended photography workshops at the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild and the Governor’s School for the Arts, a state funded program.

The Children’s Museum, with funding from the Grable Foundation, is paying for Ben and Nicole’s plane tickets to France, as well as their expenses during the awards ceremony.

Ben plans to travel with a friend and stay in Paris for about a month after the ceremony. “I’m going in the winter so I won’t see most of the stuff tourists see,” he said, adding that he hopes to experience — and capture on film — the city’s atmosphere.

This is his first overseas trip, and he’s excited. He plans to keep a daily photo blog.

“Which knowing us, will be updated at two in the morning our time,” he said with a laugh.

In the future, Ben hopes to go to art school, but isn’t sure where. If he can’t get a job as a photographer for a magazine, newspaper or other media company, he hopes to get a job in design, but doesn’t expect to because of the current economic situation.

He isn’t ready to consider commercial photography like weddings or portraits. “You kind of feel like you’re selling yourself out in a way,” he said.

To see Ben’s and Nicole’s photos, along with the rest of the Pittsburgh entries, visit the Children’s Museum’s free and open to the public IHPE display until Oct. 23, or view the entries online at

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