High schooler captures nature’s most serene moments in solo photo exhibit

Rain Gan, a high school senior, started taking photos at 13 with his grandfather. // Photo by Sophia Guddemi/Long Island Advocate

By Sophia Guddemi

Taking inspiration from his grandfather, Chogrun “Rain” Gan has been photographing nature since he was 13 years old. Now, at 18, Rain has already held his own solo photography exhibition.

From Feb. 5 to 24 at the Great Neck Library, the William A. Shine Great Neck South High School senior had 13 of his photographs displayed in his exhibit entitled “Coastal Photography by Rain Gan.”

“My grandfather is a very important person in my life,” Gan said. “It was he who started teaching me photography. It allows me to see the world from another perspective.”

The photos in the gallery featured images of sunsets, landscapes, nature and wild creatures, particularly birds.

“A lot of my photography skills and inspiration come from [my grandfather],” Gan said. “He told me that it takes patience to take good pictures of scenery and animals.”

All of Gan’s photos displayed at the library were shot with a Canon EOS 5DS R and a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. // Photo by Sophia Guddemi/Long Island Advocate

However, Gan did not start with such a prominent display. Gan had a smaller showcase in Great Neck Library last year featuring some of his work. Head of Adult Programming and Outreach Cindy Wolfe explained how Gan was given his own display serendipitously. After an artist withdrew from showcasing their art in the space, Wolfe turned to the high schooler whom she had been impressed with before.

“When I first saw [the photographs], I couldn’t believe a high schooler took these photos,” Wolfe said. “I wasn’t even taking pictures with whatever camera I had when I was his age. He’s been taking photographs for a while and it shows. And I can only imagine if he keeps up with it how much he will improve.”

Gan has also been recognized by his high school for the exhibit, congratulating his accomplishment in news releases and social media posts. Gan is taking Advanced Placement 2-D Art and Design at Great Neck South High School, taught by Lisa Stancati, an art and photography teacher.

“He is a very motivated, technically advanced high school student who has a beautiful story about how he takes these pictures,” said Stancati about her student, Gan. “He shares this experience with his grandfather…I think that is very special.” 

Stancati expressed how impressed she was with Gan, who set up the exhibit by himself, including the printing, framing and hanging of each photograph. 

“When I saw it in person, I was blown away because I know, from being an artist-teacher myself, what it takes to print out pictures by yourself,” Stancati said. “It’s a lot of work, even for an adult who has been doing it her whole life.”

When asked about her initial reaction to the exhibit, Stancati continued to praise Gan, not only as an artist, but also for his character.

“He is very modest,” Stancati said. “He casually mentioned [the show] to the class, and I got so excited.”

According to a 2020 report conducted by the Arts Education Data Project, 32% of high school students are enrolled in at least one art course out of schools that offer visual arts courses in Nassau County. That figure compares well with New York State, where 33% are enrolled in an art course.

Information from the Arts Education Data Project. // Graphic by Sophia Guddemi
Information from the Arts Education Data Project. // Graphic by Sophia Guddemi

“It’s been very well received,” Wolfe said about the success of the exhibit. “We’re really proud of him.”

Gan’s passion for photography revolves around portraying moments in nature. // Photo by Sophia Guddemi/Long Island Advocate

“The landscape of this world is waiting for everyone to explore, like a pile of treasures that can be discovered by anyone,” wrote Gan in his Art Statement displayed in the gallery alongside his work. “Through this photography exhibition, I hope to express that treasures are around you and me.”