A mysterious, hooded figure appears alone in a vast field of salt flats in the Death Valley. A pastel blue-green silhouette of the mountains colors the space behind her, and a subtle tinge of orange outlining the silhouette indicates a setting sun in the distance. Where is the figure trudging off? Is there a destination in mind? What is she thinking?
“Perhaps it’s a memory or a dream or a walkabout,” said Claire Oring, a 23-year-old Manhattan Beach native and the mastermind behind the poignant photograph, titled “Salt.”
Perhaps—but it won’t be up to her to decide.
As one of the 91 selected photographs in “Project Imaginat10n,” a joint initiative between Canon U.S.A and Academy Award-winning filmmaker Ron Howard, it will have the chance to inspire at least one of 10 short films, five of which will be directed by actress Eva Longoria, actor Jamie Foxx, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, fashion designer Georgina Chapman and LCD Soundsystem front man James Murphy.
This is their second initiative as part of Canon’s Long Live Imagination campaign, following the success of last year’s “Project Imagin8ion.” The campaign was originally conceived to showcase the various uses of Canon’s digital imaging technology by photographers of all levels, said Amy Tunick, president of Grey Alliance, the activation & public relations division of Canon’s agency partner Grey Advertising, which developed the idea for Canon’s contest.
The idea was to create the first user-generated photo contest in history to inspire a Hollywood short film under the mentorship of Howard, whose directorial resume includes classics such as Apollo 13, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and A Beautiful Mind.
“As we selected the photographs, I was blown away by the beauty, perspective and intrigue that they conveyed and was thrilled that so many people wanted to once again take part in this exciting artistic experiment,” Howard said in a statement.
The contest received thousands of photo submissions across 10 storytelling themes throughout August and September. After a judging panel selected the finalists, a public vote—with input from Howard—determined the 91 winning photographs, which will frame the concepts of the celebrity directors’ films. Currently in pre-production, they will be showcased at Canon’s Project Imaginat10n Film Festival in 2013.
Oring, who earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles and studied at the University of Westminster in London, said she found out about the competition after the submissions for last year’s contest had closed.
“I wanted to try the second time around so I set reminders on the calendar in my phone to check for this year’s submission period,” she said.
Her photograph, which is one of the 10 chosen submissions under the “Unknown” theme, was actually taken last winter as part of her series called “Death Valley Girls,” Oring said.
“Much of my work revolves around powerful young heroines,” she explained.
Though the winning photos vary in style and theme, they are all extremely imaginative and showcase the photographer’s creativity, Tunick said.
“[Oring’s photograph] was visually stunning, remarkably original and it certainly piqued the judges’ imaginations,” she said.
As a freelancing illustrator and photographer, Oring has worked with some enviably big names in the apparel industry, including Modcloth, Jeffrey Cambell, Billabong, Vans Shoes and Urban Outfitters. Regardless, she said she is excited about this opportunity.
“I cannot wait to see how the directors are inspired by everyone’s beautiful photographs,” Oring said. “I’m so proud to be a small part of such a big idea.”