A Deeper Look at Junior Helen V.’s Gold Medal Winning Photograph

Making a cup of coffee is a simple part of a morning routine, not typically something that would inspire an award-winning photograph steeped in culture and heritage. Yet for junior Helen V., this came to be with her captivating piece, “Καφές/Coffee” or “Kafes” — a National Gold Medal winning photograph in the 2022 Scholastic Art & Writing Award Contest.
Helen describes the process of making Greek coffee in a traditional briki — blue flames flickering under the black pot with a gold rim while the red and brown hues of the coffee swirl as it begins to simmer. Because Greek coffee has to be watched to prevent it from overflowing, Helen has had the advantage of observing this process many times from various perspectives. She had the idea to capture this from a bird's eye view, standing on a kitchen step stool with camera in hand. Fascinated by its symmetry, abstract vantage point, and varying textures, Helen discovered an interesting approach that would lead to a technique used on all of her photos, unexpectedly deciding to showcase them all in black and white. 

“Kafes” (Greek for coffee) inspired Helen to create an overall image series dedicated to her Greek heritage, drawing inspiration from artists like Berenice Abbott and Greek photographer Voula Papaïoannou. Other pieces in the series include photographs of a Greek Orthodox incense holder and a kombolói, also referred to as worry beads. “Being Greek is a part of me,” explains Helen. “It would be really meaningful to share that part of me throughout my work.” Helen has plans to expand her series by featuring more of her Greek American traditions.

With an interest in biology and engineering and as Club Head of Robotics and Cyberpatriots at Foxcroft, Helen plans to study STEM in college. Photography, however, remains an outlet for her creative side — it has become one of her passions. “After taking multiple photography classes at Foxcroft, I learned that I love using my camera as a tool for expression.” A well-rounded student with extensive creativity and interests, Helen’s gold medal is just one achievement of many to come — we are excited to see what she does next.
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An all-girls boarding and day school in Northern Virginia, Foxcroft prepares young women in grades 9-12 for success in college and in life. Our outstanding academic program offers challenging courses, including Advanced Placement classes and an innovative STEM program. Our premiere equestrian program is nationally recognized, and our athletic teams have won conference and state championships. Experience the best in girls' boarding schools: visit Foxcroft.