A University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media professor recently served as a live judge for the Pictures of the Year International contest.
Alysia Steele, associate professor of journalism, has been virtually judging competition entries for the contest known by some as the oldest, most prestigious photo contest in the world. It started in 1943-44 and is held at the University of Missouri.
This year, Steele said there are 28 judges divided into groups of four, and the contest will continue through March 7.
“This contest is incredibly important because it acknowledges and celebrates the tremendous physical and emotional work that photojournalists do every day,” said Steele, “because it’s their life’s calling and passion, and it’s not easy work.
“Photographers risk their lives to document history – to make public what’s happening around the world, and I don’t think many people realize the dangers they and their loved ones also face. Not just about the physicality of the work in dangerous situations, but also the stress and worry their loved ones go through when they are in the field, or the support they give when the photographer works long hours and misses precious family moments. That’s real.”
In our ever-changing technological world, Steele said we don’t always see what’s happening, but the contest is one way to acknowledge and honor the work photographers contribute to the world.
“Photographs have helped change international policies and bring light to human causes,” she said. “We are not ‘just’ photographers – we are visual storytellers, who report, who also find stories, and who dedicate an immense amount of time to our work.”
Steele said she teaches that captions are just as important as visuals.
“Oftentimes photographers are still at an event or situation reporting by themselves,” she said. “They arrive early and stay late. They pay attention to details, they’re thinking about composition, moments, light, and so many other technical factors that go into creating an image, but they’re also thinking about their surroundings and the reporting of what they see and hear. Their accuracy, honesty and transparency are incredibly important to journalism, and this esteemed and well-respected competition honors the work.”
Steele said being asked to help judge the competition was one of the greatest honors she’s ever been given.
“When I read the email initially inviting me, I had to re-read it, to make sure I understood what was being asked of me – I was being asked to judge,” she said. “OMG was my response. It is a chance to collaborate, debate and provide perspective with esteemed peers, who also provide their insight.
“The conversations we had were thoughtful, respectful and in-depth. No decision was ever made lightly. We worked together for a common goal – to honor what we collectively thought was the best representation in the four categories we judged, which were Spot News, Daily Life, COVID-19 Picture Story and Local Photographer of the Year (one of the most premiere categories of photographers all over the world documenting their communities).”
Steele said they had two weeks to individually review thousands of photos and narrow down what they individually thought are the best of the best. Images that received two out of the four votes from their team made it to the next round.
“From there, we narrowed it down by additional rounds,” she said. “I think one category of finalists alone took us three hours on live stream. For example, one category had over 2,000 entries, and we narrowed the top winners and awards of excellence down to, I think, five entries.
“There is a tremendous amount of integrity in this competition, and to be asked to provide my humble professional opinion, and for this organization to see value in my small contribution, is just one way that helps justify the decision I made to become a visual storyteller in the first place. To be included in the ever-growing and long line of prolific judges, is a nod that I did something right in my career.”
Students can tune into the competition to learn more about storytelling, composition, moments, theory, ethics, newsworthiness, and how to articulate and defend photo choices. Visit https://www.poy.org/ to learn more.
To see a list of judges: https://www.poy.org/78/judges.html
A number of UM School of Journalism and New Media professors judge or have judged national competitions.
- Professor Graham Bodie, Ph.D. will soon be judging the International English Public Speaking Competition.
- Professor Michael Fagans has judged some categories in the Evangelical Press Association competition. He also helped judge the Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar’s Photo Competition pre-COVID-19.
- Professor Debbie Hall will be serving as a judge for the American Marketing Association collegiate competition in April.
- Professor Samir Husni, Ph.D. will be judging the Best Use of Print category for the International News Media Association Global Media Awards. There are 50 entries he will be judging from all over the world.
- Professor Iveta Imre, Ph.D. will be judging the Broadcast Education Association documentary entries for the Festival of Media Arts.
- Professor R. J. Morgan, Ph.D., has served as a judge for many state organizations, as well as the National Scholastic Press Association, Columbia Scholastic Press Association, Journalism Education Association, and Society of Professional Journalists Foundation.
- Professor LaReeca Rucker has served as a judge for the Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Awards that honors the best in collegiate journalism.
- Professor Marquita Smith, Ed.D., just finished judging the The Robin Turner Program, or Toner Prizes, in Political Reporting at the Newhouse School of Syracuse University.
- Professor Patricia Thompson judges several national competitions annually. She recently served once again as a juror for The Robin Turner Program, or Toner Prizes, at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University.
- Professor Kathleen Wickham, Ed.D, will be judging the National Headliner Journalism Awards for the 11th year. The contest, founded in 1934, is one of the oldest journalism contests and the only competition to judge across all media platforms: print, broadcast, photography, magazines, radio, digital and online journalism. This year, the number of submissions topped 1,000, Wickham said. More than 3,000 medallions have been presented since the contest was created by the Press Club of Atlantic City.