ST. PETERSBURG, FL - John Moore of Getty Images was picked as the NPPA 2008 Best Of Photojournalism competition's Photojournalist of the Year (Larger Markets) today at the end of the final round of judging in this year's contest at The Poynter Institute for Media Studies.
Moore's winning portfolio included his stunning coverage of the assassination of Pakistan's former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto (which also won first place in International News as a single and in International News Picture Story as an essay), and Moore's heartbreaking photograph of Mary McHugh stretched prone on the ground on the grave of her slain fiance, Sgt. James Regan, at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day.
In the Photojournalist of the Year (Larger Markets) category the runner-up is Jahi Chikwendiu of The Washington Post, and third place is Stephen M. Katz of The Virginian-Pilot. Honorable Mentions were awarded to the portfolios of Mona Reeder of The Dallas Morning News and Cheryl Diaz Meyer of The Dallas Morning News.
In yesterday's judging, Denny Simmons of the Evansville Courier & Press was picked as the 2008 Photojournalist of the Year (Smaller Markets), and Mario Tama of Getty Images won Cliff Edom's "New America Award" for his coverage of the poor African-American community's struggle in New Orleans to recapture and rebuild the spirit of their city and homes after it was all but washed away by Hurricane Katrina.
Photographers from more than 140 countries entered this year's Best Of Photojournalism competition, which has remained a free contest with no entry fees since its beginning. More than 4,000 people entered the contest, up more than 25 percent over last year, and there are more than 21,000 entries totally over 58.000 individual items (photographs, clips, and Web sites). NPPA's Best Of Photojournalism judging was sponsored this year by Apple, Canon USA, NPPA, and The Poynter Institute for Media Studies. On-site Still Photography judging was powered by Aperture.
"What an amazing piece of news!" Moore said today when awakened by phone in Pakistan to learn of his selection.
"I really didn't expect to win, I know a lot of people say that when they win, but I'm really sincere. I frankly didn't think my portfolio would do that well because it isn't the 'traditional' portfolio that covers a rounded variety of events. This last year I concentrated on conflict coverage more than any other year, and not just the American wars but what you could call our 'proxy' wars also, like in Pakistan. I'm surprised and thrilled to see that a portfolio that specialized in one type of issue, like conflict, could be recognized. I'm grateful."
Moore's boss at Getty Images, photography director Pancho Bernasconi, says that the photographer's war images are not the "typical" war photographs that one might expect. "John's pictures from war are not the 'standard' war photos because he's the kind of journalist who knows 'why' he's taking the picture," Bernasconi said Saturday from New York. "That's what makes John who he is, such a well-rounded journalist."
Moore said that earlier this year the Arlington National Cemetery photograph had a big impact on his life. "So many people have contacted Getty with comments about the photo, and Pancho passes some of them along. Some of the things they've said have really touched me. I was asked recently what the most meaning photo, or impacting photo, was to me in my career, but once you've been doing this for a while it gets harder to answer that question. If I had to answer that question today, the most meaningful photo for me personally was the photograph that I made at Arlington National Cemetery of Mary McHugh stretched out on the grave. Because of all the time I've spent covering these wars the last few years, it is the most haunting photograph for me. It's not something that leaves my mind for very much time without coming back to me, in one way or another. And it's because of the courage she showed, and the love that's still there for her fiancé, it stays with me. But the event of the year with the most impact was surviving and photographing the Bhutto assassination."
Moore and Getty's Mario Tama, who yesterday won Cliff Edom's "New America Award" for his coverage of the people of New Orleans in the years following Hurricane Katrina, both credit Bernasconi with being the type of boss who supports them and sustains them with positive feedback, giving them the time it takes to make good photographs, along with the logistical and moral support they need to become who they've become.
"Pancho has made a huge difference. He's a hell of a boss. It's about him having a certain style of supervising, and a lot of positive reinforcement. We've been lucky with him," Moore said.
Bernasconi downplays his role in their success when he's told what the photographers say. "It's just about allowing them to be great photographers," Bernasconi said. "We just give them the support they need and send them in the right direction and they never disappoint."
Moore joined Getty Images in 2005 as a senior staff photographer based in Pakistan, covering South Asia and the Middle East. He was part of the team of Associated Press photographers who won a Pulitzer Prize in 2005 for their coverage of the war in Iraq. Moore started with AP in 1991 as a photographer based in Managua, Nicaragua. He graduated from the University of Texas in Austin in 1990 with a degree in radio, television, and film. Moore took his first photography class in high school in the mid-1980s in Irving, TX.
In his blog, Moore writes about his first-person experience of photographing McHugh at Arlington National Cemetery as well as what happened in front of his camera the day he photographed the assassination of Prime Minister Bhutto. Moore's blog is online here.
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JUDGES' FINAL COMMENTS
"We liked the amount of images entered in this first place winning entry and it was very well edited. Each story was complete," judge Mary F. Calvert said.
"The first place entry started with a powerful opening single photograph and the portfolio unfolds around that," judge Deanne Fitzmaurice said.
"The second place winning entry contained a lot of variety," judge Dudley Brooks said. "The humanity this person used to capture the images was done really well. The weaker part of this portfolio was its single photographs."
"The third place winning portfolio contained picture stories that were really different," Calvert said. "This photographer had a very good idea of which issues to photograph."
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During the week of judging at The Poynter Institute for Media Studies, Poynter's Kenneth F. Irby hosted a live series of Webcasts with various judges to give you an inside look at the Still Photography and Web categories as the winners were picked. If you missed the 15-minute interviews each day you can still listen to them, they are archived on the Poynter Web site. They're free and you can access them by enrolling in the NewsU "course" online here.
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Judges for this year's Best Of Photojournalism still photography categories were Dudley Brooks, formerly of The Washington Post and who is now with Ebony/Jet Magazines; Suzette Moyer of the St. Petersburg Times; Jens-Kristian Soegaard, the director of photography for Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten (the main daily newspaper in Denmark); Mary F. Calvert of The Washington Times; and Deanne Fitzmaurice of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Judges of BOP's Web categories were Ellyn Angelotti, an adjunct faculty member and editor for The Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg, FL; Michelle Maltais, a deputy editor of business and technology for the Los Angeles Times' Web site; Irwin Thompson, the deputy director of photography for The Dallas Morning News; Seth M. Gitner, a multimedia journalist for Roanoke.com and The Roanoke Times; and Thea Breite, multimedia photography editor for The Boston Globe.