In 2000, Mowry began his career in market 197 in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, which is where he grew up. After Nebraska, he moved to Albany, New York, to be a photographer at WXXA, where he captured a UFO on camera that led to national exposure and an FBI investigation. The video made it into a series on the History Channel called “Monster Quest.”
Mowry won a regional Edward R. Murrow Award for his coverage on the EF5 tornado that wiped out Greensburg, Kansas, in 2007. At the time, he was working at KSN in Wichita, Kansas. It was there that he first heard about the National Press Photographers Association.
At first, he was reluctant to join, thinking he could still be a great storyteller without having to be an NPPA member. But that changed in 2013 when Mowry sent his first story submission to the organization while he was at WJLA for the Washington, D.C. market. Mowry won his first quarterly award for his story on a man who taught his retired racehorse to paint.
“I was like, wow, this is awesome,” Mowry recalled. “It happens every three months, and we can compete against other photographers?”
It was a couple of years later when Mowry saw a winner of the Photographer of the Year on the cover of this national magazine.
“He had the pose, he was smiling ear to ear and the sunset was setting behind him,” Mowry said. “And I was like, God, I really want to be that guy. My goal from then on: I just wanted to be a finalist.”
The Ernie Crisp Photographer of the Year award is the highest honor in television news photography for the National Press Photographers Association. It’s named after the late Ernie Crisp, vice president and president of NPPA from 1968-70. Crisp won the title in 1966 while chief photographer of WFBM-TV in Indianapolis.
Mowry believes he’s no different from any other storytellers. He admitted he’s learned from all of them over the years and has stolen their moves along the way. But Mowry prides himself on his meticulous editing.
“Producing content I feel is worthy of leaving my hands to be aired often requires time you aren’t getting paid,” Mowry said. “Almost every story in my entry consisted of off-work time, especially in the editing process. It’s a deep drive that has to be seen through so that it’s the best it can possibly be. And I do that because I have to. I can’t explain it. I just have to do it.”
Mowry credited three reasons for winning the POY award:
First, his job at WFAA, which he described as photojournalism heaven. WFAA also happens to be the winner of the 2019 Large Market Station of the Year award.
“The environment that they’ve created there is second to none,” Mowry said. “I wouldn’t be up here right now if it wasn’t for Carolyn Mungo, Brad Ramsey and Andy Wallace.”
He shared his gratitude for his news director at WFAA.
“I credit our news director [Mungo] for still having that mentality that storytelling is still No. 1,” Mowry said. “It’s still the No. 1 thing in the business. No matter what.”
The Ernie Crisp winner explained how with Mungo “it’s not a time thing.”
“If the story is good, she gives it time,” Mowry said. “And she has the people that can come through and have these stories be great even though they are long. Just to have the management staff that backs us 100% and lets us do our thing because they know that we can do it ... it’s… you can’t put a price tag on it.”
Secondly, Mowry thanked the people he collaborates with, including Panicker, the reporter from the spot news story about the flaming motorcycle.
“It ended up being the best spot news story I’ve ever done in my career,” Mowry said.
He described how on that last day of 2018 he had given up. He figured he would just have to submit a general news story and hope he wouldn’t get disqualified. But for Mowry, where there is smoke, there is luck.