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Local photo contest is refocused to honor late photographer & social justice advocate Tyler Gerth

A past winning image from Olmsted Parks Conservancy's annual photo contest, featuring Cherokee Park.
Andy Christ
A past winning image from Olmsted Parks Conservancy's annual photo contest, featuring Cherokee Park.

An annual photo contest is being re-imagined to honor the late Louisville photographer Tyler Gerth.

Olmsted Parks Conservancy has held its competition for more than a decade, and this year it’s been renamed the Tyler Gerth Memorial Photography Contest

Gerth was killed at the age of 27 while photographing protests against the police killing of Breonna Taylor in the summer of 2020. He was also an advocate of the movement.

At his vigil, family members said they wanted people to know that Gerth had a passion for photography, and used that passion to capture and support a cause he felt so strongly about.

Olmsted staff worked in partnership with Building Equal Bridges, the Tyler Gerth Foundation, to refocus the contest this year and into the future.

Gerth’s sister, Brittany Loewen, said local parks have always been important to their family.

“We grew up going to Seneca Park and Cherokee Park all the time,” said Loewen, who serves as president for Building Equal Bridges. “That was, I think, where a love of nature first started for all of us, and especially for Tyler.”

She told WFPL News her brother found himself through nature and photography, and a trip west in 2020 “gave him purpose and vision for what his life could be.”  

Jessica Holman, director of marketing and corporate support for the nonprofit conservancy, said the collaboration felt like a natural fit.

“The historic Olmsted park system connects nature and neighborhood, providing the perfect environment to document community spaces and connections through to the art of photography, and that's what [Gerth] did so beautifully,” she told WFPL.

Loewen added that Gerth had a sense of how historic the summer of 2020 would be.

“I think Tyler’s big message in sharing the protests of 2020 was around hope… Tyler’s lens through which he viewed the protests was one of humanity and the dignity of individuals participating, and he always showcased hope,” she said. 

Submitted photos should show scenes from one of the 17 Olmsted Parks or Parkways. Judges will weigh the “visual appeal and creativity” of the images to select winners and honorable mentions in five categories: winter, summer, spring, fall and smaller parks, those under 100 acres. They will also pick a best-in-show winner, who will receive a $100 gift card to Murphy’s Camera. All winners will have their work featured in Olmsted Parks Conservancy marketing items, including the annual notecard collection.

Loewen is excited about the notion that the photo contest might inspire other people to “find their passion, find their gift through photography, and what kind of doors that would open up for their lives.”

“For Tyler, photography kind of started as a side hobby and morphed its way into what he felt like was his deeper calling and purpose,” Loewen said. “And so we love the idea of photography and access to parks opening up that excitement and that passion within other people.”  

People can submit photos via email or regular mail, along with a release form. The deadline is Oct. 7.

Gerth is also being honored in a retrospective of his photographs on view at the Frazier History Museum in downtown Louisville.

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