PEQUOT LAKES, Minn. - Pequot Lakes High School junior Sydney Ellison's passion for photography recently paid dividends, as she has been accepted to attend a summer art program at Pratt Institute in New York City, one of the most renowned art schools in the nation.
She is one of just 15 photography students throughout the world selected for the program.
"For me, it is confirmation that I am good at what I do and I am not wasting my time on it ..." Ellison said. "To have a top university for design and art say, 'We want you' out of a few people, it just reinforced that I can do this."
Ellison has had an interest in photography for much of her life, enjoying portrait photography and landscapes. She saved up for her own personal camera as a freshman, and said it has had plenty of use.
"I just like to tell stories via photos," Ellison said. "I have a lot of varying interests, but I feel like I have found a way to use them all in photography, whether it be social justice stuff or fashion ... all of it can be a part of photography if you want it to be."
Though she considers herself proud of several of her portraits, she does not necessarily consider any photo of hers a favorite.
"Everyone that looks at my pictures finds something different that they like, so I feel like they are all kind of OK," she said.
In July, Ellison will spend four weeks at Pratt Institute - one of the nation's top-ranked schools for art and design. While there, she will take four classes, two of which are for college credit, to sharpen her artistic skills.
"I am a little intimidated," Ellison said. "I feel like there are going to be people who are better than me, but I don't really know, honestly. There are other majors there and one of the courses that everyone has to take has all of the majors combined. I have to take a Foundations of Art class where I will have to paint next to one of the 15 students there for painting. I am pretty intimidated by that but I think the fact I was able to get in proves I deserve to be there, and now I am just going to work to prove it."
After graduating, Ellison hopes to attend the University of Wisconsin in Madison and pursue a degree in communications, saying photojournalism is her goal but she also likes to use her time on portrait and wedding photography.
Until then, she hopes to continue improving her photography, both in her own time and over the summer in Brooklyn.
"I obviously hope to be better in my photography, but I also want to do this because it proves I can have an art-focused career," she said. "In school and in life, if you want to be writer, that is a little more academic and maybe you can teach with that, but with other creative careers it is always someone saying, 'Maybe you shouldn't do that' or 'That isn't going to work out and you aren't going to make any money,' but if I can succeed in a program like this, it proves to me that I could theoretically do that."