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American Photography Open 2021: Meet Judges Christina Animashaun and Frank Meo

By David Schonauer   Thursday July 29, 2021


Are you getting your AP Open  entries ready?

The deadline is August 31.

To inspire you we’ve been spotlighting the judges who’ll be picking the finalists of American Photography Open 2021.  We previously introduced Clarice Bajkowski and Sarah Jacobs (go here) as well as Sandra M. Stevenson and Jim Colton (go here).

Today we’re spotlighting Christina Animashaun who is a journalist, illustrator, and designer based in Washington, DC, currently producing and editing news graphics for Vox — an online news outlet that specializes in explanatory journalism. Frank Meo is the photographer rep and mentor behind the PhotoCloser and the ongoing “Projections” series you’ve seen spotlighted here at PPD. Both offer insights about the kind of images they will be looking for in the contest.

If you haven’t already submitted work to this year’s contest, now’s a good time to do so. There are new prizes and new ways to win. Go here for details.
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Christina Animashaun

A DMV (D.C., Maryland and Virginia) native from Prince George’s County, Maryland, Christina was a doodler growing up and went on to study Visual Arts - Photography and Media & Communication Studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. “After receiving a master’s degree in Journalism and Public Affairs at American University, I went on to work as a graphics reporter at Politico and a researcher at the Investigative Reporting Workshop,” Christina notes. Currently, Christina works producing and editing news graphics at Vox, an online news outlet that specializes in explanatory journalism.

“We’re founded on the philosophy that the stories of the day should be rich in contest and accessible to those who seek them,” says Christina. “We’re also driven by telling stories that directly impact how we live in the world with in-depth topics. Our coverage areas range from politics and foreign affairs to effective altruism and consumer culture. At Vox, I use color, shapes, numbers, and photography to create visual objects that range from photographs and images to illustration and design.”

“Photography is an incredibly experiential medium and my passion for it comes from all the ways we can access, interpret and transform images,” Christina notes. “To me, a  ‘compelling’ photograph is not just one that captures a beautiful composition, but one that can transcend the frame it’s captured in.”


Frank Meo

Frank started his career working at Ally & Gargano, which, he says, was at the time “the best (most creative) ad agency”  in New York City. “It was there I learned how an ad agency works, and that knowledge has proven to be priceless in my journey representing and mentoring photographers,” he says. “At Ally it was all about passion for the creative product; no detail was too small, and that stayed with me forever. There’s no better learning environment for a photographer than an ad agency! My theory is this: If you want to do work for an ad agency —every photographer does—learn how it operates!”

Twelve years ago Frank launched ThePhotoCloser, which, he notes, offers a variety of services to photographers who don’t have professional representation. “It really is an extension of my entire career of representing photographers,” he says. “One rather important offering is helping photographers through the estimating and negotiation process when dealing with clients. This space is a huge problem for photographers when dealing directly with and ad agency or with clients. There’s a particular language in this space that most photographers are not comfortable with. I am.”

More recently Frank also launched “Projections,” a monthly series in which noted photographers  show and talk about their work, as a way to garnish exposure for photographers and build community. With the pandemic, the series moved to Zoom. Since 2015, “Projections” has featured the work of more than 250 photographers, including Peter Turnley, Donna Ferrato, Linda Troeller, and Ben Lowy.

“As a judge, I look for something special — a wow moment, something I haven’t seen before,” Frank says. “I'll always try to visual how the photographer got a particular photo and push myself to realize the journey they took to satisfy their creative desires. All that too goes to my evaluation of an entry.”
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At top: an example of Christina Animashaun’s use of photography and graphics at Vox.

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