Award-winning photos. Internships with National Geographic and The New York Times. Sounds like the resume of a seasoned photographer. And yet these accolades belong to Ana Pelham, a seventeen-year-old high school student at Christ Church Episcopal School and the Fine Arts Center.

Ana is ambitious. I know this not only from looking at her resume, which, along with the competitive national internships, includes two gold key placements from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. But she also blind-emailed me, recommending herself through her portfolio, which is indeed quite good.

Adopted from Russia, Ana has possessed an artistic curiosity since an early age. “Art has always been in our family,” she says, noting her father Bill Pelham’s work as an architect. Her mother, Laura, agrees. “She was in an orphanage for two years, and she came with this personality that was wanting to know everyone, know the world.”

But her penchant for imagery didn’t spark until her uncle, a photographer, gifted her a Sony non-detachable lens. The camera, accompanied with a freshmen intro to photography class taught by veteran Greenville News photojournalist Owen Riley, unlocked Ana’s natural eye for light and shadow, composition, and capturing emotion.

Under Riley’s tutelage, Ana applied for an internship with National Geographic in Prague in 2018, and most recently, a photojournalism internship with The New York Times in 2019. Both of these experiences exposed her to professional photographers at the top of the field, and encouraged her passion for street photography.

Her street portraits echo the iconic style of Vivian Maier, who Ana cites as a significant influence. Maier captured raw shots of Chicagoans’ day-to-day life in the mid-1900s, an emotive essence Ana displays in her works. “I want to know people’s stories. I want to know what their background is, learning about what people have gone through,” she says.

When she’s not booting deadly crosses as a left forward with Carolina Elite Soccer Academy and the Christ Church varsity women’s soccer team, Ana is busy with a myriad of other art projects and maintaining her high grades. But her passion for pursuing photography full-time reigns supreme.

When asked where she sees herself in twenty years, Ana’s dreams reflect the ambition, self-motivation, and talent that is already so evident in her. She wants to attend an arts-based college like The Pratt Institute to explore environmental portraiture and commercial photography, and, ultimately, continue to tell people’s stories through her work. “I’m all about expressing connections,” she concludes.

Photography by Ana Pelham