A new Facebook page entitled Native Talent is hosting monthly competitions for student-shot photos of the UCSB and Isla Vista communities.

The page was created by Special Projects Coordinator of the Isla Vista Community Relations Committee (IVCRC) Nicolai Safai, a fourth-year biopsychology major, and IVCRC Co-Chair Elizabeth Akman, a fourth-year financial math and statistics major. Native Talent accepts photos taken through any method — whether by a professional camera or a smart phone — and the top three winners are determined by how many “Likes” the photo receives. Each winner is awarded a gift card prize to a local business of their choice, with second and third place winners receiving $50 gift cards and first place winners receiving $200 gift cards.

The Facebook page began hosting monthly contests for photos that receive the highest amount of Facebook “Likes” in March. For the site’s first contest, the first place winner received 235 likes and the current lead for this month has 465 likes, with the public page receiving over 20,000 views in total.

Safai said he hopes the page will actively unite the local community by bringing together residents and businesses alike, using efforts that are commonly used in IVCRC.

“The reason that this project is awesome is that it goes along with a lot of our mission statement goals at IVCRC,” Safai said. “The big ones among them are to promote local businesses, which is why we give out the gift cards. Another is to bring the community together, which is why we put on Chilla Vista and other [events] — to have everyone in Isla Vista be able to share moments in our home, not just UCSB students. The third one is to showcase the paradise we live in.”

While Isla Vista presents its residents with many opportunities for a good photograph, sometimes capturing the right moment is not just a matter of expertise, according to Safai.

“We all have great pictures, but sometimes great photography is not just skill; it’s luck,” Safai said. “You’re just there at the right time.”

Since winning images depend on the number of “Likes” they receive, Safai said the contest is not just a subjective decision of a committee, but rather the collective decision of everyone who wishes to take part.

Akman said Native Talent was originally a project that selected 12 student photos and turned those images into a printed calendar.

“We love the pictures students submit. The bummer with the previous calendar project was that not everyone got to see the pictures and we ended up with boxes of leftover [photos],” Akman said. “We wanted to reach more people in a more sustainable way, and I wasn’t sure how to do it at that point.”

According to Akman, she and Safai eventually teamed up to create the revised version of Native Talent, in which all photographs could be shown at some point.

“I really loved the calendars, but I wasn’t sure how to revamp it,” Akman said. “So he had the idea of making it a Facebook competition. It all just clicked together.”

IVCRC seeks to promote all aspects of Isla Vista and UCSB, not just their stereotypes being ‘partying’ atmospheres, according to Akman, who said Native Talent successfully contributes to these goals.

“We love Isla Vista…But, a lot of things affiliated with Isla Vista haven’t been showing that,” Akman said. “Instead they focus on how much of a party school we are — we’ve got UCSB Confessions and Hookups, etc. We just want to show how beautiful this place is, and it’s not often that it [gets] done.”

Suzanne Saroff, a second-year film and media studies and communication double major, was the first-place winner of Native Talent’s previous competition.

Saroff agreed with Akman that photos submitted to the page oftentimes reveal a distinctive quality of the campus and community that could otherwise be overlooked.

“I love the idea of Native Talent and think it is great because sometimes it is too easy to take the beauty and uniqueness of where we live and go to school for granted,” Saroff said. ”As a photographer, I am always looking to capture unique moments, and Native Talent is the perfect place to share and view photos from multiple Isla Vista perspectives.”

In order to get the page known to students, Native Talent will be tabling at the Arbor, from Wednesday until Friday and from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. According to Safai, they will also be handing out free tank tops to students who “Like” the Native Talent and IVCRC Facebook pages and submit a picture to the Native Talent wall.

“Essentially, the biggest part of it — now that the project is up and running — is to reach the community,” Safai said. “We are starting, and it is an exponential growth that we see in our reach. That’s why we’re giving away tanks and making efforts to let people know.”

The page has the potential to last for many years, according to Safai, who said he hopes it will continue to unite students and other community members long after he graduates.

“As a project that is funded by the school, I hope to leave this as a legacy, and that in 10 years, we’ll be able to check back on Native Talent and see what Isla Vista looks like and what students are showing,” Safai said.

The variety of images that are showcased on the page also contributes to its overall uniqueness, according to Safai.

“We’ve got four to five sunset pictures. We’ve got 30 to 40 pictures that have nothing to do with that,” Safai said. “More and more, we’re going to get different aspects. There are pictures where I don’t even know what it was until I asked them if it was in Isla Vista.”

To enter the contest, visit www.facebook.com/ivtalent and to learn more about IVCRC, visit www.facebook.com/IVCRC.

talent photo


The Isla Vista Community Relations Committe is accepting photos of the Isla Vista and UCSB Community. Check out Native Talent’s Facebook Page to submit your photos or cast your vote for the next contest!
A version of this article appeared on page 1 of the April 10th, 2013’s print edition of the Nexus