Our Youth in Focus series is a collaborative effort, providing the unique opportunity for a young artist to be personally involved in producing their own solo exhibition. It encourages young artists to envision and thoughtfully plan and produce a complete body of work to be shown in a professional setting. It is designed to further both the artist's and the public's understanding and appreciation of the visual arts.

Artist Summer Pesiri standing in front of her solo exhibition.

Artist Summer Pesiri standing in front of her solo exhibition.


january 20 TO july 18, 2017

The fifth installment of our Youth in Focus series features the work of Summer Pesiri, a 16 year-old student who attends Mainland High School. She came to the museum’s attention through her continued involvement with our educational programs over the past three years and has quickly established herself as a nature photographer with a bright future. Her accomplishments are impressive and it’s no wonder why—she possesses a rare combination of patience and understanding (necessary for her craft) and doesn’t shy away from immersing herself in her surroundings or subject matter.

A strategic balance of color, contrasting tones and strong compositions are a hallmark of Summer’s style, and her genuine love for her subject matter shines through. There is nothing contrived or forced here. Much like her talent, it’s completely natural.

Self portrait of Summer Pesiri. Half of her face is in the frame. A bush with purple flowers is in the background.

artist statement

Image of a purple flower lying face down on a metal object. Water droplets are on the petals.

At a young age I fell in love with photography through exploring the imagery found in National Geographic magazines. When I turned seven I got my very first camera, and by my eighth birthday, I knew that I wanted to be a wildlife photographer. As a gift, my mom and dad had saved all year just to take me to Disney's Animal Kingdom lodge. We stayed for two whole nights. Right outside on our balcony, which overlooked the Safari, they had dozens of different animals. I don't think I have ever filled a memory card so fast. The moment we got back home, I started taking trips to the beach in order to capture sea birds, small animals and the local landscape. In 2014, I saved up and bought my first semi-professional DSLR. That is when I began to learn how to manually control my camera. The freedom in taking total creative control made me love photography even more. I rarely put my camera down, and began to research opportunities and new outlets through which I could learn and share my passion with others.

The Digital Photo Academy, taught each summer through the Southeast Museum of Photography here at Daytona State College, has had a major impact on my photography. It has allowed me to shoot a wide variety of subject matter, and provided lots of opportunities to receive positive feedback and advice. Through the museum, I have met many kind and talented people who have helped me along my path to become a better photographer. Although I do on occasion photograph people, and have covered engagements and weddings, animals and nature will always have a special place in my heart and remain my favorite subjects. I am looking forward to attending Daytona State College to receive my photography degree, and one day I hope to be included as one of the photographers of National Geographic. I sincerely hope you enjoy my images on display in the gallery.


thoughts from the curator

Mrs. Pesiri’s exhibition offers us an enticing glimpse of the natural world through the forms of various plants and animals, plus the unique habitats—forest, field, sea and sky—in which they live and interact. As she selectively hones in on certain shapes and details, she takes us on a shared journey through her favorite moments in nature.

She uses a narrow depth of field to her advantage, drawing our eyes to the balancing act of a dragonfly in repose, to water droplets—like tiny beads of glass—offering us magnified views, to the textured head of a nail, driven forcefully into a plank of wood and a solitary leaf encased in ice. It’s the little details that capture her attention, invitingcloser inspection as she isolates them for her viewer.

Her expert use of color is evinced in the regal pose of a woodpecker, its crimson tuft highlighting its body against a soft backdrop of green. Her penchant for timing is showcased by a mullet in mid-flight, its body mirrored in the surface of the water and the golden hues of the sun as it dips behind the horizon.

Whether by capturing striking contrasts of bone fragments and debris half buried in soil, or singling out delicate branches after a recent dusting of snow (and its subsequent thaw) she coveys to her audience a sense of heightened awareness, one that provokes a vivid, sensory response.

One can almost imagine the cleansing scent of rain in the air, as small droplets stubbornly cling to leaf and petal; or traces of musty earth as it reclaims both plant and animal, a cycle of rebirth that is repeated over and over again. At times the views she offers us are stark and austere, like a seed pod cocooned in webbing, while other times we are confronted with richly populated and colorful scenes, depicted by clusters of fungi and leaves, insects pollinating flowers, a spider savoring its catch, or catfish jumping at the surface of a lake. 

Sometimes she only hints at a human presence (an impression of footprints in the sand) or she shows the outright wonder of nature, reflected in the action of two young boys as they indulge in the simple joy of peering off a dock at the ripples of water below.

These images, along with the white wooden frames in which they are displayed, were deliberately chosen to allow the viewer an unimpeded view. Not only to focus beyond individual scenes or organisms, but on the entire exhibition as a whole, giving us a chance to consider how we relate—and are ecologically linked—to the world around us. We are meant to see the beauty inherent in the everyday, to understand and appreciate the changing seasons and the frailty of each moment as it passes by.

-Christina Katsolis