Spontaneous kiss leads to photo award

Michelle Nelson

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Psychology major Danny Matson's award-winning photo depicts him, top, kissing his girlfriend Laura Vallet, 22, on the Westminster Bridge in London. Photo courtesy of Danny Matson

Psychology major Danny Matson's award-winning photo depicts him kissing his girlfriend Laura Vallet, 22, on the Westminster Bridge in London. Photo courtesy of Danny Matson

Danny Matson waited for his girlfriend on Westminster Bridge in London. The Houses of Parliament and the famous Big Ben clock tower loomed in the background over the haze of the foggy mist.

Matson, separated from his girlfriend for a month, anxiously waited for her arrival.

Once he spotted her, he set the timer on his camera, balanced it on the bridge, and in a classic Clark Gable move — leaned her over the rail and kissed her.

Matson produced the winning photo in the National Student Exchange (NSE) photography competition.

Matson, a 23-year-old psychology major, submitted the photo to the Study Abroad and NSE photography contest this fall and won.

The contest was held on Cleary Walk from October until November, where all the photos were on display for passing students to look at and vote on.

Matson received the most votes and was awarded a $100 Student Travel Agency (STA) gift certificate.

This year, 34 photos were submitted, said Juliet Aylmer, the study abroad and national student exchange program adviser.

The Student Travel Agency (STA) sponsored the contest. STA is a student travel discount Web site that offers discounted flights and deals on hotels and hostels.

Aylmer introduced the contest in 2007 and worked with Kevin Mojardi, marketing and public relations coordinator of Associated Students, to promote it.

Every year students in the study abroad program are contacted and requested to send in their three favorite photos they took while abroad for the contest, Aylmer said.

“It was just a complete spontaneous, spur-of-the-moment thing,” Matson said about the photo. “And she didn’t know I was taking a picture … she was like, ‘what are you doing with your camera, why are you leaving it on the rail over there?’”

“I (was) just like, ‘come here, follow me’ … and I tipped her over and kissed her right in front of the camera,” he said.

The competition is designed to let students share their experiences with other students and encourage them to participate in the programs, Aylmer said.

The study abroad and NSE program allows students to study for a year or a semester at another college in the U.S. or another country while paying CSUN tuition.

Matson studied psychology in Swansea in the United Kingdom through the program.

It was in Swansea where he met Laura Vallet, the woman in the photo.

Vallet, a-22-year-old graduate student, originally from Bordeaux, France, was also studying abroad in Swansea.

They met in February and instantly connected.

After dating for a month, they were separated due to a month-long vacation from school for the Easter holiday.

“It was kind of hard being away from each other for a month, after just getting together a month before,” Matson said.

When the vacation was over, they agreed to meet each other on Westminster Bridge.

Matson captured the moment in one shot.

“It was so accidental, the weather wasn’t even good that day, that’s why it’s in black and white, ” Matson said.

Almost a year later, they are still together, although Matson said he is unsure of where their paths will lead them.

Matson is either planning on continuing studies at CSUN and getting his teaching credentials or teaching English abroad in Japan.

Vallet is planning to finish her graduate studies in France next year.

“We don’t know yet what’s going to happen with us … it’s kind of the unfortunate thing with international relationships,” said Matson. “We’re just happy to spend every day together now.”