NPPA member Sarah Meghan Lee of Albuquerque, NM, is the winner of the 17th Annual Gordon Parks International Photography Competition, announced by The Gordon Parks Center for Culture and Diversity at Fort Scott Community College in Fort Scott, KS. Second place was awarded to NPPA member Benjamin Rusnak of Boca Raton, FL, and third place went to NPPA member Dr. VME Edom Smith, of Chesapeake, VA.
Parks, a world-renowned photojournalist, filmmaker, novelist, poet, and composer was born in Fort Scott in 1912. The Gordon Parks Center for Culture and Diversity was established at Fort Scott Community College in 2004.
Parks personally picked the winners after the competition was narrowed down to finalists, and they were asked to submit a large print for Parks to review. In a handwritten note that Parks sent with his selection of the winners to the Gordon Parks Center executive director Jill Warford, the legendary photographer wrote: “Dearest Jill – This was a most difficult task. All of the pictures are wonderful and it took hours and a lot of thought to reach a decision. My love and congratulations to all contestants! – Gordon Parks.”
Lee’s winning photograph showed a young woman waiting for medical treatment in a Haitian hospital, and that treatment never arrived. Rusnak’s second place photograph showed Angela Mercado, a mother of five, welling up with tears as she talked about the donated land and the new home that will be built on it for her family to live in, replacing the shelter made from black plastic sheeting that they live in now. Smith’s third place photograph shows a Sunday afternoon street scene in Rocheport, Missouri, a small river town “that’s seemingly isolated from the rest of the world,” the photographer wrote.
Lee, an NPPA member since 1998 who has taught at the Santa Fe Workshops and is represented by ZUMA Press, started photography as an assistant to a picture editor at USA Today before working with international relief agencies in Rwanda covering the refugee crisis in the mid-1990s. Her work as a freelance photojournalist has appeared in USA Today, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and the Boston Globe.
Rusnak, a staff photojournalist for Food For The Poor, has been an NPPA member since 1992. Smith, a photojournalist and educator who is the daughter of Professor Clifton C. Edom andVi Edom, and is a director of the Truth With A Camera Workshop, has been an NPPA member since 1995.
First place in this year’s contest received an award of $1,000, with $500 awarded for second place and $250 for third place. An exhibit of the finalists’ photographs will hang at Fort Scott Community College.
Parks awarded honorable mentions to Dean Tokuno of Yuba City, CA, for his picture “To Feel the Sunshine One Last Time”; to LouiePalu of Toronto, Ontario, for “Hands of Help”; to David Humphreyof Pendleton, IN, for “If Only My Eyes Could See”; and to AbirAbdullah of Dhaka, Bangledesh, for “Rescued Dead Child.”
Other finalists this year included Leroy Skalstad of Milwaukee, WI, for “Homeless Couple”; Jonathan French of Washington, DC, for “Blue Fields”; Debra Cram of Kittery Point, ME, an NPPA member, for “Queer”; Helen M. Giovanello of Torino, Italy, and New York City, for “Mother Of Fallen Soldier”; Keith Shawe of Tacoma, WA, for “Smoke”; and Steven Herppich of Cincinnati, OH, an NPPA member and a staff photojournalist for The Cincinnati Enquirer, for “Election.”
The photography competition is an integral part of the center’s Celebration for Culture and Diversity and it’s been conducted there since 1990. More than 3,100 photographers from around the world have participated in the annual program that, inspired by the photography of Parks, reflects important themes in life such as social injustice, the suffering of others, and family values.
Entry forms for the 18th Annual Gordon Parks International Photography Competition will be available after February 1, 2006, on the Web site, www.gordonparkscenter.org.