The beautiful people

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Self-taught photographer wins awards, to open new studio.

MEXICO – In the early 1980s, Mexico High School student Christal Treadwell wanted to learn photography, but the class was dropped due to a budget cut.

That, however, didn’t end her goal to become a professional photographer. It only delayed the desire by 13 years.

Last month, the 40-year-old working, single mom won statewide recognition for one of two portrait photographs she entered in the Maine Professional Photographers Association’s annual convention in Lewiston, including Photograph of the Year.

“I was shocked,” the self-taught photographer and owner of Photography by Christal said of that honor on Wednesday morning in Mexico. She has been a professional photographer for the past nine years.

The striking commercial portrait of tattooed Dixfield musician Adam Mazza holding a guitar, titled “Dark Melody,” also garnered Judges’ Choice, Kodak Photographic Excellence, Court of Honor, and a blue ribbon.

“The picture was truly an incredible shot with just brilliant light,” said association member and professional photographer LeeAnn LaFleur of Livermore Falls late Wednesday afternoon.

The Court of Honor award, LaFleur said, is for a photograph that takes Best of Show of a particular category. In Treadwell’s instance, it was commercial photography.

Treadwell said she has taken several classes with LaFleur, and considers LaFleur her mentor.

But, it was another professional photographer and association member, Pat Michaud of Augusta, whom Treadwell credits with helping her understand lighting at a seminar, enough to create what is to become an album cover for Mazza.

“I learned lighting techniques, and went home and tried them. Then, two days later, I had this vision in my head of how to use a lighting technique, and what I wanted to accomplish,” Treadwell said of the award-winning portrait.

It was also shot with her new Nikon D200 digital camera using studio lighting that she bought 10 years ago, the features of which, she didn’t know how to use until Michaud’s seminar.

The other print she entered was a portrait of her daughter, Jessica, titled, “Just Seventeen.” It won a red ribbon at the same event.

Treadwell also said she has a pending showing of her photography in June at Rumford’s Pennacook Art Gallery on Congress Street.

On Wednesday, Treadwell was building a new portrait studio and renovating the room she’s now renting for her photography business at Paradise Spa at 125 Main St.

Her first studio was in her basement. She next rented a space beside Ta Dah’s hairstyle studio on Main Street for three to four years, before moving to Paradise.

Paradise also is where Treadwell is self-employed as a hair stylist. It’s something she’s been doing for the past 22 years after completing cosmetology school in Auburn, where she lived for five years before returning to Dixfield in 1989.

“Twenty-two years doing hair, you can only get so creative, but the creative part of photography, I fell in love with it,” Treadwell said.

Nurturing that creativity with photography workshops, seminars, books, the Internet, and a borrowed Pentax K1000 35 mm camera, all helped Treadwell realize her goal.

It also has helped the teenager who didn’t have the opportunity to learn photography, teach it to teenagers now at the Region 9 School of Applied Technology in Mexico.

She had seven students in her Creative Photography course, which recently ended after six weeks. This fall, Treadwell is to start a more intense nine-week class in the same subject.

“She’s really working within her community, and, I think she’s going to go places,” LaFleur added.

Treadwell hopes so, too.

“Maybe I can make a living at photography, and stop doing hair. If I could make a good living at it, that would be wonderful,” she said.

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