By Jillian Risberg
Living his passion and now Vrishank Malik can count himself a second-place award-winner in the NJ TSA (Technology Student Association) Competition — Photographic Technology category — for his ‘Hidden Beauty’ project submission.
According to the Academy for Mathematics, Science and Engineering (Morris Hills High School) ninth-grader — photography is a longtime hobby/extracurricular (activity) and this competition allowed him to not only do something he loves, but also compete for it.
He planned to submit a group project, but then his group members dropped out.
“I decided to do photographic technology, as an individual project,” Malik says he was enthusiastic about his creation and wanted to share the pictures. “I was very happy and excited because this meant I qualified for Nationals in Texas.”
And he feels prepared because the 14-year-old is keen about the subject.
“I love talking about my pictures, making them in a way that I could present to a greater audience,” he says. “I’m looking forward to it.”
The ninth-grader was in TSA all three years of middle school, so it was nothing new to him.
“I knew how TSA competitions were and never placed in such a major way,” Malik says.
He was tasked with creating a picture collage that epitomized the 2021-22 theme: ‘Challenges – personal, school, family, friends, etc.’
For each image he had to edit the frame and use technology to make this message clear.
Participants demonstrate understanding of and expertise in using photographic and imaging technology processes to convey a message based on an annual theme.
“And the message they wanted the pictures to convey — I got the (feeling) they were trying to hint at talking about the pandemic and explaining what’s underneath all this hardship,” the 14-year-old says.
Challenges were major in society. But Malik wanted to do something special and made sure to prepare for the TSA.
“I looked at themes that came out of COVID and used that as inspiration towards my project,” he says, including his parents and healthcare professionals.
“Throughout (the pandemic) they were the ones going to work in these hospitals knowing they could be risked with COVID every single day,” says Malik.
When one thinks of a sunrise they may imagine a perfect, beautiful day and not a reminder of unease.
He changed the picture so people realize that things are unpredictable and do not always have to be bad.
“There’s still beauty in things that may not be normal and you can find love and happiness in (those) things,” Malik says, of the purpose of his edits. “Just like how the sunrise remains behind all the clouds and rain, happiness can be hidden behind challenges.”
That meant daily for a solid two/three weeks he spent editing his pictures and making them look their absolute best.
“I did an (online) master class that helped me optimize how to use editing software like Snapseed and Adobe Lightroom to convey meaning,” Malik says the programs facilitated him completing this project.
And the 14-year-old wants to change the stereotype in people’s minds that photography is always the perfect image. Photographers shouldn’t give up after looking at their pictures and thinking they are not as good as they wanted.
“Try different platforms to make them into unique models,” he says.
Many photographers take pictures with regular high-tech cameras and that’s not necessary, according to the ninth-grader, who used an iPhone 8,11 and 12 to snap his pics.
“You can use an iPhone to calculate beautiful images and editing software to make them into something amazing,” says Malik, of the phone’s cool features that match that of cameras.
Since your iPhone is always on you, make the process your own anytime.
“After school I see a beautiful sunset, I would go to the top of the hill and take pictures,” he says photography is more on-the-spot than planned. “That’s how I pursue (mine) at least. Whenever I see (anything) worthy of a picture, I stop what I’m doing and go straight to that.”
Malik has taken a page out of Apple’s playbook.
“I looked behind the scenes (on their Instagram account) of photos digitally created using the iPhone camera,” he says. “That’s how I do my photography.”
Going to a STEM school (with access to advanced technology software and challenging courses) has provided Malik a great foundation to design photo-realistic and dramatic pictures.
“I would like to be in the field of computer science or even meteorology because I’m keen on climate change and love editing projects like this — both have an artsy background,” he says. “Engineering creates products and for that you need innovation. It can come from my photographic instincts.”
Mom Ritu Malik is proud of her son.
“He’s focused on all his work, extracurricular and academics,” says Ritu. “An easygoing, positive person… Vrishank is very social, always smiling, also plays soccer and tennis and participates everywhere.”
The 14-year-old was always a standout: salutatorian at Mount Olive Middle School, won ‘best overall student’ and ‘First in Math’ awards at Mountain View Elementary School.
Being present while an eye on the future — Malik keeps shining his light.
“Little things that may seem bad but if you go between the lines and look at the deeper message you would see that it’s not such a bad thing,” he says.
Follow Vrishank’s photography journey on