Gehrz Named Newspaper Photographer Of The Year, Anderson Is Magazine Photographer Of The Year

ST. PETERSBURG, FL  – The Best Of Photojournalism 2005 Still Photography judges today ended a long week of picking winners by naming the new NPPA Best Of Photojournalism 2005 Newspaper and Magazine Photographers of the Year.

Jim Gehrz of the Minneapolis Star Tribune is the NPPA Best Of Photojournalism 2005 Newspaper Photographer of the Year, and freelancer Chris Anderson is the NPPA Best Of Photojournalism 2005 Magazine Photographer of the Year. And Barry Chin, a staff photojournalist for The Boston Globe, won the Sports Portfolio of the Year award.

Gehrz, an NPPA member since 1999, joined the Star Tribune in 2004 after working for the St. Paul Pioneer Press for nearly four years, following 14 years as a staff photojournalist for The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Before that, he was a photographer at the Worthington Daily Globe where, in 1985, he was first named Minnesota POY. Four times he’s been named Minnesota News Photographer of the Year, and six times the Wisconsin News Photographer of the Year.

“It’s been an extraordinary year for Jim. He’s probably the most passionate, humble photojournalist I’ve ever met,” said Peter Koeleman, the Star Tribune’s director of photography. “He’s very critical of himself, and he’ll go back on a story many times if he’s not happy with it, and he’ll do it in a very compassionate and sensitive way.”

Gehrz was riding on a light rail train in Minneapolis with his daughter when called with the news that he’d won Newspaper Photographer of the Year. “Wow!” he said, “That’s just amazing. It’s funny, because it’s my first year at the Star Tribune, and that first year you try to get into ‘the zone’ and prove to them that they hired the right person. I did that in Worthington, I did that in Milwaukee.”

One of Gehrz’s mentors is Erv Gebhard, a photojournalist recently retired from The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “When Erv retired last year, I remember saying that you’ve got to pick and choose your mentors, and I have to say there’s a lot of Erv Gebhard in that portfolio. I’ve got to thank him.”

Gehrz dreamed of being a newspaper photojournalist while growing up in St. Paul, MN. He studied English at Hamline University where he took photographs for the school and started freelancing for area newspapers.

Asked if there was one moment in his winning portfolio that was special for him, he said, “Yes, Jessica’s story.” Jessica Clements, 27, was one of more than 10,000 American soldiers injured in Iraq. She was a model and massage therapist before becoming a soldier. Clements was critically injured when a roadside bomb exploded beneath the truck she was riding in, sending shrapnel into the right side of her brain. She was given less than a 2 percent chance to live. Gehrz followed her recovery through surgery and rehabilitation at the Minnesota Veterans Medical Center.

“The moment that moved me the most was when I shot Jessica in the hospital, right before she went into surgery, and she was kissing her fiancé goodbye during a quiet moment. We almost got arrested by the naval police. They didn’t want any photographs taken in the hospital. We’re walking up to her room, literally 10 feet away, and the public relations person says, ‘You know there are no pictures allowed, right?’ We’d gotten to that point with her, and I wasn’t going to be there without saying goodbye, so I put down my cameras and went in. She said, ‘Where’s your cameras?’ and I told her they weren’t allowing photographs. She said, ‘That’s not right.’ For those few minutes, for that instant, we really connected, and I took that picture.”

Jahi Chikwendiu of The Washington Post was awarded second place in the Newspaper Photographer of the Year category, and Andrea Woodall of The Washington Post finished third. Judges gave an Honorable Mention in the category to Scott Strazzante of the Chicago Tribune.

After judging the Newspaper Photographer of the Year category, judge Victor Vaughan said, “The first place winner displayed a wide variety of approaches to the subjects. The photographer documented quite well with striking and direct photographs. I can hear the photographers voice.” Judge Gary Hershorn said, “What I liked best in this portfolio was that it had one of the strongest picture stories."

Judge Bonnie Jo Mount said, “This winning portfolio contained beautiful photographs, all the stories are well told, there’s not a weak image in this portfolio." Judge Hal Buell said, “The difference in the quality between the finalists is very small. This is something that has happened in several of the categories we've judged in this contest. It is something the profession, not just individual photographers, can be proud of."

Freelance photojournalist Chris Anderson is the NPPA Best Of Photojournalism 2005 Magazine Photographer of the Year. The bulk of Anderson’s winning portfolio appeared in U.S. News & World Report and was shot when he was still with Agency VII, although some of the winning pictures were shot for Esquire and Premier magazine. He’s since left VII and is self-represented, and he has moved back to New York from Paris where he lived in recent years.

“Time really flies," Anderson said when he was told that he’d won the Magazine POY title. "I look back at that portfolio and think, ‘Was that only last February?’" He’s just back from shooting in Venezuela, where he’s continuing an essay that he started there last year, in addition to spending time back in his native Texas photographing what he calls “a sort of portrait of America, updating in my mind how it looks now as opposed to how it was when I was growing up in Abilene."

Some photographs in Anderson’s portfolio were from last year’s Republican National Convention. "The convention was pretty bizarre," Anderson says. "It’s not the kind of thing that I normally photograph, but I requested it and I found it to be pretty visual – but very bizarre."

Anderson is a past winner of the Robert Capa Gold Medal, given by the Overseas Press Club for exceptional courage and enterprise, for his coverage of Haitian immigrants sailing to America. He was awarded the Visa D’Or in Perpignan for his photographs of the Afghan refugee crisis.

Anderson thanks U.S. News & World Report for making his recent work possible, “especially Oliver Picard, for his backing and support.”

Marcus Bleasdale was awarded second place in the Magazine Photographer of the Year category for his coverage of rebel uprisings and strife in the Democratic Republic of Congo that was published in the Saturday Telegraph magazine. James Nachtwey of VII Agency was awarded third place for a collected essay that included coverage of Alexandra township in Johannesburg, South Africa, the Li River in China, the crisis in West Darfur, and other stories.

In the Sports Portfolio of the Year category, Barry Chin of The Boston Globe was awarded first place. Adam Pretty of Getty Images was second place, and Scott Strazzante of the Chicago Tribune was third. Judges gave a Special Recognition honor to Louis DeLuca of The Dallas Morning News for his sports portfolio entry.

The judges also announced winners in other categories judged yesterday and today.

In the Magazine Feature Picture Story category, James Nachtwey of VII Agency won first place for an essay on a 52-mile stretch of the Li River in China. Second place went to Ryan Anson of Network Photographers, and third place to Per-Anders Pettersson of Getty Images for an essay shot for Stern magazine. Honorable mentions were awarded to Tamara Voninski of Oculi/Vu; Carlos Villalon ofNational Geographic; and Roger Lemoyne of Redux Pictures.

Yesterday judges named Chicago-based freelancer Jon Lowenstein the winner of Cliff Edom's "New America Award" for his essay “Pocket Town Kids: Passion, Hope, and Connection on Chicago’s Southside.” The essay of 25 color photographs tells the story of the teachers who struggle to make education better for every child at the Paul Revere Elementary School, grades pre-kindergarten through eighth.

In 2003, Lowenstein won the NPPA-Nikon Documentary Sabbatical Grant, and in the 58th Annual Pictures Of The Year competition he was the Magazine Photographer of the Year. Currently he’s working on several book projects in addition to teaching photography to students at Paul Revere Elementary School, where he also coaches basketball and helps to publish the community newspaper, Our Streets, in the same Southside Chicago neighborhood that he’s documenting.

Winners in all Best Of Photojournalism 2005 categories are now posted on online at NPPA's contest Web site.

Tonight marked the end of two weeks of NPPA Best Of Photojournalism 2005 contest judging at The Poynter Center for Media Studies in St. Petersburg. Last week, the Television Photography and Editing categories were judged, preceding this week’s Still Photography contest. Poynter hosts the judging as part of their ongoing sponsorship of the NPPA's Best Of Photojournalism contests.