Ross Taylor, David Weatherwax, Picked As BOP's Photojournalists Of The Year

By Donald R. Winslow
© 2012 News Photographer magazine

DURHAM, NC – Ross Taylor of The Virginian-Pilot was named today as theNational Press Photographers Association's Best Of Photojournalism 2012Photojournalist of the Year (Larger Markets), and David Weatherwax of The Herald, in Jasper, IN, was picked as the Photojournalist of the Year (Smaller Markets).

Freelancer Donald Miralle of Carlsbad, CA, is the Sports Photojournalist of the Year, and freelancer Brad Vest of Concord, NH, is the winner of Cliff Edom's "New America Award."

In the Photojournalist of the Year (Larger Markets) category, second place is David Guttenfelder of the Associated Press, and third place is Mauricio Lima (who was on assignment for The New York Times). Honorable mentions were awarded to Paula Bronstein of Getty Images and Jim Lo Scalzo of EPA.

In the Photojournalist of the Year (Smaller Markets) category, second place is Michael Holahan of The Augusta Chronicle (last year's winner), and third place is Corey Perrine (now at the Omaha World Herald in Nebraska, but who was at The Augusta Chronicle at the time of entry). Honorable mentions were awarded to Jacob Ehrbahn of Politken and Andrew Craft of The Fayetteville Observer.

Taylor, working an afternoon shift at the Virginian-Pilot this week, was helping a friend move to a new home this morning when he got word of his first place Best Of Photojournalism finish. His portfolio this year contained an extended essay on the unemployed, near-homeless, and homeless called "The Thin Line"; an essay on a U.S. Navy hospital in the war in Afghanistan that was a series in the newspaper called "A Chance In Hell"; an essay on Haitians rebuilding after a deadly earthquake; and some single images.

"I love being a part of photojournalism," he told News Photographer magazine, somewhat overcome emotionally by the news of his win. "I love what I do and I believe in what we do. It's been a long road to this point."

What Taylor means by that is that he is deeply able to empathize with the subjects of "The Thin Line," his economic story.

"I was laid off in 2005 (from the Herald-Sun in Durham, NC) and unemployed for 15 months. Nobody was hiring me and I was really scared that I'd never get to be a part of this again." It was the beginning of the big wave of layoffs across American newspapers. Taylor was eventually hired by The Hartford Courant, and then two-and-a-half years ago he joined The Virginian-Pilot staff.

"Having been unemployed, I know what it's like for those people to walk that road. I know what it's like to feel like you've been forgotten. Because of the layoff, I see myself and I see my friends and I see that the people in my story are much more like me than they are different. I'm a better person now as a result of it, and because of photojournalism."

Taylor's boss at the Pilot, photography director Randy Greenwell, brought the photojournalist in a little more than two years ago.

"We could tell that Ross was really special," Greenwell said today. "We saw that he had a unique vision and a unique way of processing what he sees and shoots, and he follows up with people and stays in touch with them in such a way that they understand what he's trying to do. His openness with people makes it possible for the intimacy you see in his photographs. They're a direct reflection of how he works with a subject. He's transparent with them and they're transparent with him."

"We're blessed to have such an amazing photography staff here, everyone here is really really good," Greenwell said.

Taylor credits Greenwell and the Pilot for creating an atmosphere where photographers can succeed.

"The Pilot is really good at allowing photographers to create their own path, to have time off to do personal work like the Haiti story, they're open to sending us places like Afghanistan, and to have time to research and pitch stories. And the paper is good about providing space where photographers can pick a theme and document that theme for a three-month period in Common Ground, the weekly photo column. It's a good place for photographers to explore whatever theme they'd like."

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Another newspaper with a reputation for giving photographers the space to display long-term documentary projects is The Herald, the current home of David Weatherwax who is this year's Photojournalist of the Year (Smaller Markets). The Herald is a family-owned and edited newspaper in southern Indiana where the Rumbach family has showcased photojournalism for more than 30 years.

"The bread and butter of the Herald is the Saturday Feature," Weatherwax said today, "those long-term projects that we do while balancing the daily assignments, sports, and juggling schedules." Every Saturday the newspaper's entire front page is the weekly photojournalism story, kicking off on Page One and jumping to inside pages and layouts. It's a feature they've done for several decades, and it requires producing multiple long-term projects across the months and having one ready to go into print each week.

A sign of how committed co-publisher John and managing editor Justin Rumbach are to the feature being a complete and finished package before it goes into print can be seen in one of Weatherwax's portfolio stories this year, the story of Dennis "Red" Keusch and his losing battle with Parkinson's disease.

"I never expected it would get to the point [where Keusch died] within our timeframe, but it did, his health declined so rapidly. There was a lot more that I intended to shoot before he died. But I had spent enough time with the family that they understood what could come of it." So the story didn't end with Red's funeral. It ended up with small children from Red's family planting a tree in his memory, and then painting the fence around the sapling red.

"The editors put off publishing the story for a couple of months because we had to wait until the soil was right, at the right time of the year, to be ready to plant the tree." And then the story was done, and ready to print. Anyone who knows the Rumbach's commitment to photojournalism won't be surprised by their discipline in doing so.

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Cliff Edom's "New America Award" recognizes photographic storytelling that showcases the spirit of diversity as it is celebrated and witnessed in everyday life in urban communities and rural towns, and showcases issues that are often under-reported in the media.

This year's winner, Brad Vest, documented the life of a young man named Travis who has been in and out of jail most of his life, who was at the time he was photographing him serving out the final six months of his parole before becoming a free man. Travis was living in a camper by a river while struggling with sobriety, marrying his girlfriend, and trying to become a stable father to their two baby children.

Second place for the "New America Award" is April Saul of the Philadelphia Inquirer, and third is Francine Orr of the Los Angeles Times. Vest is finishing a master's degree program at Ohio University's School of Visual Communication and is currently based in Concord, NH.


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Sports Photojournalist of the Year Donald Miralle also won that top honor in 2007 and 2006. He's placed at or near the top in the finalists every year since 2005 through 2009 and in 2011. His portfolio consistently includes some amazing images shot while he's in the ocean or covering water sports.

"I was raised in the water, so it's kind of unfair," Miralle said today. "I just got out of the ocean a couple of hours ago. I'm in the water every day. For photography, it really adds a different dimension to the world." He was raised in Southern California and Los Angeles, and for the last 12 years has been based in San Diego.

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Judges today also released the winners in the contest's other still photography categories.

In International News, the first place picture is by Massoud Hossaini of Agence France-Press, his image that was also awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography last April, showing Tarana Akbari, 12, screaming in terror amidst the dead and dying at her feet who were the victims of a Taliban suicide bomber that targeted a religious festival.

In the International News Picture Story category, first place is John Moore of Getty Images for his essay on the victims of famine and drought in southern Somalia.

In the Returning Veterans, Coming Home category, first place is Lara Solt of The Dallas Morning News for her essay on a group of Marines who were the target of an Iraqi suicide bomber who blew a bridge out from under Cpl. Eric Morante and his men.

In the General News category, first place is Charles Dharapak of the Associated Press for "Handshake Of Honor," a photograph of President Barack Obama reaching for the prosthetic hand of U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Leroy Arthur Petry as the soldier received the Medal of Honor for valor in Afghanistan.

In Domestic News, first place is Rich Lam of Getty Images for his picture of a couple kissing in the street after being knocked to the ground by riot police in Vancouver during the city's Stanley Cup Finals hockey riots.

In the Domestic News Picture Story category, first place is Scott Strazzante of the Chicago Tribune for his essay "Ten Years After," a look at New York City in the days leading up to the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America.

In the Political Crisis category, first place is Rick Loomis of the Los Angeles Times for his picture from Tahrir Square of a high-ranking Egyptian politician breaking down into tears with the crowd of protesters during the Arab Spring uprising.

In the Contemporary Issues category, first place is Renée C. Byer of The Sacramento Bee for her essay "Twin Tragedy," a family facing both terminal illness from ALS and foreclosure on their home.

In the Contemporary Issues Story category, first place is Craig F. Walker of The Denver Post for his essay documenting the life of Brian Scott Ostrom, a Marine Corps veteran of the war in Iraq who returned home suffering from a severe case of PTSD and anxiety attacks. The essay is the same body of work that won Walker a Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography in April, the photojournalist's second Pulitzer in the last three years.

In the Enterprise category, first place is Charles Rex Arbogast of the Associated Press for his photograph of fog descending upon Chicago's Millennium Park.

In the Enterprise Picture Story (Large Markets) category, first place is Damon Winter of The New York Times for his essay on the deployment of the U.S. Army's 87th Infantry Battalion, 1st Combat Brigade, 10th Mountain Division to their assignment in Kunduz Province in northern Afghanistan.

In the Enterprise Picture Story (Smaller Markets) category, first place is Dave Weatherwax of The Herald in Jasper, IN, for the essay in his winning portfolio about Dennis "Red" Keusch and the local man's battle against Parkinson's disease. The story was part of the body of work that won Weatherwax this year's Photojournalist of the Year (Smaller Markets) title.

In the Best Published Feature Story (Large Markets) category, first place is Brian van der Brug of the Los Angeles Times for his essay on a group of prisoners who work under the supervision of a prison chaplain to provide hospice care for their fellow dying prisoners.

In the Best Published Feature Story (Smaller Markets) category, first place is Sergey Kozmin of Geo Ado (in France) for his essay on the Moscow Girls Cadet Boarding School.

In the Non-Traditional Photojournalism Publishing category, first place is Ariana Lindquist for s series of photographs of extraordinary and accomplished people who succeeded in coming, or who are still trying to come, to the United States.

In the Local Portrait & Personality category, first place is Brian Cassey, shooting freelance for the Sunday Mail in Australia, for his picture of Carol Mayer, who was horrifically burned in a house fire 11 years ago who beat all the odds by surviving.

In the News Portrait & Personality category, first place is freelancer T.J. Kirkpatrick for his picture of presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich as he waited to appear on the Mike Huckabee television show.

In the Portrait Series category, first place is freelancer Yunghi Kim for her images of some of the people who made up the crowd in the Occupy Wall Street protest at Zuccotti Park.

In the Environment (Nature/Wildlife) category, first place is Robert Becker of the Lincoln Journal Star for his picture of a grasshopper and a honeybee sharing a sunflower on the southeastern Nebraska plains.

In the Environment (Nature/Wildlife) Picture Story category, first place is Jay Janner of the Austin American-Statesman for his essay on the massive damage done to Texas livestock and wildlife by the 2011 record-breaking drought, and the wildfires that resulted in the dry conditions that wiped out hundreds of homes and farms.

In the Natural Disaster category, first place is Mark Avery of Mainichi, as represented by ZUMA Press, for his photograph of the tsunami wave hitting the beach and first line of houses after a deadly 8.9 earthquake hit Japan's coastline.

In the Natural Disaster Picture Story category, first place is David Guttenfelder of the Associated Press for his essay on the aftermath of Japan's deadly earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster.

In the Conceptual Illustration category, first place is Jim Weber of The Commercial Appeal for his fashion image shot to illustrate a story on great tailoring of clothing.

In the Art Of Entertainment category, first place freelancer Dina Litovsky for her image of three friends looking at the back of a digital camera to see the photograph they just shot of themselves while clubbing.

In Sports Action, first place is Bob Martin of Sports Illustrated for his image of horses clearing the final hurdle in the Albert Barlett Novices Hurdle horse race.

In Sports Feature, first place is Marc Serota of Getty Images for his picture of a bullfrog leaping around between a player's feet during a soccer game.

In Sports Picture Story, first place is Adam Pretty of Getty Images for his essay on divers at the 14th annual FINA World Championships in Shanghai.

A complete list of all winners in all categories is now online at

NPPA's 2012 Best Of Photojournalism contest was coordinated this year by contest committee chair Terry Eiler, director of Ohio University's School of Visual Communication (VisCom) in Athens, OH. The Still Photojournalism and the Best Of Photojournalism and the Best Of Web contest judging were done at VisCom with the additional assistance of OU associate professor Stan Alost. Judging of the Still Photography categories was done online using a panel of expert judges from around the world.

The Best Of Television contest judging was done earlier at the University of South Carolina's School of Journalism and Mass Communication and was coordinated there by assistant professor Denise McGill.

NPPA's 2012 Best Of Photojournalism competition is sponsored by Ohio University, PhotoShelter, the University of South Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communications, and Canon.