The recent Harrisburg Academy graduate didn’t expect to score the top spot, let alone see his work displayed in the Cannon Tunnel, a pedestrian walkway that leads to the U.S. Capitol Building.
DePamphilis’ winning photograph, “Jumping in Ice Cream,” depicts two miniature figurine children enjoying a swim in a fake cup of spilled ice cream. One figure is balanced precariously on a spoon, while the other stands behind with his hands on his hips.
“It’s honestly pretty awesome, but at the same time, I don’t know if I should be up here,” DePamphilis (above) said about winning the 10th Congressional District’s 2019 Congressional High School Art Competition. “Because although I won, I’m a little embarrassed.”
DePamphilis started creating art when he was only 3 years old during art classes at Harrisburg Academy.
When he was older, he started taking art classes with the Paxtang Art Association, studying mostly drawing and painting under Nick Feher, a local artist and teacher.
At age 11, he participated in the “Photography for Kids” program, an introduction to photography camp at Wildwood Park taught by Charlie Smith, a local photographer. There, he realized his love for photography, especially wildlife photography.
“Since then, I started to enter some contests and noticed I was winning, so that gave me a lot of encouragement, in addition to the encouragement my parents and teachers give me,” DePamphilis said.
Although his main interest lies in abstract, architectural and wildlife photography, he recently has taken an interest in photographing miniature scenes with food, everyday objects and miniature model figurines, typically used for model trains and villages. After completing several assignments with the figurines, he spotted a cup of fake ice cream and got an idea.
“I just thought that it would be pretty neat to incorporate my figures into the ice cream because it’s already fake, and you don’t have to mess around with it,” he said. “It’s not messy.”
So, he connected with Smith, who had taught him for seven summers, and asked to borrow two swimmer figurines. After a trip to pick up the figurines, DePamphilis set up his uncle’s professional lighting equipment and got to work.
However, his subjects were not so willing to cooperate.
“I took many, many photos to get the one I really liked,” DePamphilis said. “It was very difficult to get the kid who’s standing on the edge of the spoon to stay. I used this temporary glue, and he just kept falling. I was getting a little bit frustrated with that.”
His persistence and perfectionism has paid off. In addition to winning the Congressional High School Art Competition, he has also won Scholastic Art Awards, including winning a National Medal, Pennsylvania Farm Show photography ribbons and many other awards.
However, he often remains surprised by his own talent.
“The funny thing is, I don’t think that they’re good photos until I put them up on my computer,” he said. “I just think, ‘Oh well, I think I might have gotten a good one in there,’ and don’t really think much of it. Then I pull up the photographs on a larger screen and I’m like—holy crap.”
Additionally, DePamphilis’ popular photograph of a frog, titled “Seeing Green,” was sold at Harrisburg Academy’s spring gala for more than $300. He has also donated work to Caitlin’s Smiles, a nonprofit that helps children with chronic or life-threatening conditions.
Though already an accomplished artist, DePamphilis is weighing a more practical career as he gears up to attend the University of Pittsburgh this fall. Under consideration: a career in dentistry.