Kynslee Reece’s plan for where she hopes to be in 10 years is specific and heartwarming. It includes serving in the Navy as a nurse, owning a classic car, living off the grid on a self-sustaining farm, providing a healthy and happy home for her Aunt Venus, and freelancing for National Geographic.

Given that a photograph of Kynslee’s was displayed in the U.S. Capitol as a winning entry in the 2020 Congressional Art Competition exhibit, National Geographic seems well within her reach. 

Kynslee’s picture, a study in black and white, evokes a nostalgia for the times she and her dad visited the Euharlee Creek Covered Bridge after her sister left for college. In October 2019, when she flew back to Georgia for a wedding, she took with her the Nikon DSLR camera set she received as a 16th birthday present. 

“I wanted to use my camera more often and capture the places I missed visiting in Georgia,” Kynslee said. 

Later, as she looked through those photos while seeking inspiration for an entry for the Congressional Art Competition, she came across the photo of Euharlee Creek as the song, “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” was playing.

“At that moment, I had an epiphany,” Kynslee said. “If I had stayed in Georgia, I don’t know what would have happened to me. So, I’m glad I got out of that place because I wanted more opportunities and knew there was more than just Georgia to experience in the world.” 

Kynslee’s photograph is the first-place winner for Washington’s 10th Congressional District. Members of Congress host individual art competitions in their districts each year for high school students. The artwork of the first-place winner hangs in the Cannon Tunnel, one of the most well-traveled paths from the U.S. House into the Capitol building. Each year, hundreds of thousands of tourists and distinguished visitors plus Members, staff, media, and others marvel at the artistic achievement of the country’s youth.

The competition is sponsored by the Congressional Institute, a nonprofit organization that helps Members of Congress better serve their constituents and helps their constituents better understand the operations of the national legislature.

Kynslee has viewed life through the lens of a camera for years, although she wasn’t allowed to touch her first memorable camera. Her father had a 35mm Canon AE-1 film camera that Kynslee said she was “fascinated with” but was forbidden to handle.

Photography isn’t her only artistic outlet, though. Her sister, also an artist, let her use leftover graphite and charcoal pencils and that is the medium with which she learned to draw with instruction from her dad.

“My Dad inspires me in my creative process,” Kynslee said. “He’s where my creative ability springs from. When he was young, he was an artist, but he stopped doing what he loved because life got in

the way. I’m going to make every effort to not let that happen to me.”

Kynslee is forging a solid path into the world of art. As a first-place winner of the Congressional Art Competition, she is eligible for a scholarship to the Savannah College of Art and Design, which has more degree programs and specializations than any other art and design university. There, she could follow in the artistic path of her favorite photographers such as Ansel Adams, Steve McCury, Dorthea Lange, and Alfred Eisenstaedt or work toward a reputation like her favorite painters are Salvdor Dali, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Tamara de Limpicka.

Her first reaction to winning the competition for Washington’s 10th Congressional District, Kynslee said she was “flabbergasted.” But it took some time for reality to sink in. Still, she believes it was kismet. 

“I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be,” she said.