Athens, Georgia — The National Press Photographers Association has awarded its highest honor, the Joseph A. Sprague Memorial Award, to Michelle Agins and Lisa Krantz for their commitment to the craft of visual journalism and to education that advances the profession. The Sprague Awards, along with NPPA’s other top honors, will be presented during a ceremony at NPPA’s Northern Short Course in Iselin, New Jersey, on March 9.
Michelle Agins joined the staff of The New York Times in June 1989 as the paper's second-ever African-American female photographer. She has received two Pulitzer Prize nominations, first in 1990 for her coverage of the Bensonhurst protests and then again in 1995 for her work on The Times series “Another America: Life on 129th Street.” In 2001 Agins and her colleagues won a Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for their series “How Race Is Lived in America.” In a career that spans over 30 years, Agins has consistently maintained the highest level of work and continues to cover her community with heart, soul and an incredible eye. She has been a speaker and mentor at the Eddie Adams Workshop and the National Association of Black journalists, as well as a portfolio reviewer at the Northern Short Course. For her trailblazing path and body of work, as well as the constant inspiration, education and mentorship she provides, Agins exemplifies qualities found in Sprague Award winners.
“I am truly grateful to be the recipient of this prestigious award for my career in photography,” Agins said upon finding out she’d won the Sprague Award. “First, gratitude for The New York Times for allowing me to maintain a professional career at one of the most important media organizations in the world. Second, I’d like to acknowledge my family and community, which has been an ongoing source of motivation and inspiration, including Sokka Gakkai International (SGI), the international lay Buddhist organization of which I have been a practicing member for 30 years. And finally, thanks to all of my colleagues who make telling stories through visual imagery their mission.”
Lisa Krantz began her career at the Naples (Florida) Daily News in 1998 and has been a staff photographer at the San Antonio Express-News since 2004. Her photography has twice been named a finalist for Pulitzer Prizes and has been recognized by NPPA’s Best of Photojournalism, World Press Photo, American Society of News Editors, Photo District News’ Photo Annual and Pictures of the Year International. She is a three-time National Press Photographers Association Region 8 Photographer of the Year and two-time winner of the Scripps Howard Foundation National Journalism Awards. Her images have been screened at Visa pour l’Image in Perpignan, France, and exhibited at the Festival della Fotografia Etica in Lodi, Italy. She teaches and mentors young photographers at workshops like the Eddie Adams Workshop, Mountain Workshops, Northern Short Course, Hearst Journalism Awards and the NPPA’s Women in Visual Journalism. Krantz’s dedication to her community, intimate approach to capturing the simple moments of everyday life in beautifully composed and compelling ways, and mentorship skills epitomize the Sprague Award.
“To be recognized by my peers, for my character as well as my work, is the most meaningful thing,” Krantz said. “I want to thank my editor, Luis Rios, for his constant support, his belief in what I do and the freedom he gives me to immerse in people's lives and share their stories. I’m incredibly honored to receive this award, and I will continue to strive to live up to its legacy and those who’ve come before me.”
Established in 1949, the Sprague Award is NPPA's most prestigious honor. It recognizes individuals who advance and elevate photojournalism by their conduct, initiative, leadership and skill, or for unusual service or achievement beneficial to photojournalism and technological advances. It honors Joseph A. Sprague, a press technical representative for the Graflex Corp., who is credited with designing the Big Bertha, Magic Eye and Combat Camera for the company as well as dozens of improvements and refinements to the original Graflex Speed Graphic 4x5 camera, which was once the press industry standard.
In addition to the Sprague Awards, NPPA’s other top honors and annual recognitions were also announced.
NPPA President Michael P. King has given the President’s Award to the staff members of the Capital Gazette newspaper for their journalistic resilience and integrity in the face of their own tragedy. The staff of the Capital Gazette is honored for its dedication to the Annapolis community and to the state of Maryland, and for its collegiality and love for one another; and in memory of Rob Hiaasen, Wendi Winters, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Gerald Fischman.
California-based independent commercial and editorial photographer Todd Bigelow is the winner of the Clifton Edom Award. He is known for giving back to the photojournalism community by sharing his knowledge and educating photographers on best business practices — both online and through workshops he runs and others at which he volunteers to speak about the business of photography. The Edom Award recognizes an individual in the tradition of University of Missouri photojournalism professor Cliff Edom to inspire and motivate members of the photojournalism community to reach new heights.
Anne Herbst is the winner of the Joseph Costa Award. Herbst is the director of visual journalism at KUSA in Denver, where she is also a multimedia journalist. Her work has led to four national Murrow awards, over 30 Emmys and numerous NPPA awards, including the NPPA Solo Video Journalist of the Year and four regional NPPA Photographer of the Year awards. Her tireless efforts have resurrected the NPPA Women in Visual Journalism conference, after a sevenyear hiatus, to make it one that has sold out and been standing room only the last several years. The Joseph Costa Award is named after the NPPA’s founder and is given for outstanding initiative, leadership and service in advancing the goals of NPPA in Costa’s tradition.
San Francisco Chronicle director of photography Nicole Frugé has won the Jim Gordon Editor of the Year Award. One item of note: Frugé joined the Chronicle as a photo editor in 2012 and has only been in the role of DOP since 2016, having spent the previous 11 years working as a staff photographer at newspapers in Texas and Florida. Her tireless work at the Chronicle has lifted the prominence of the department and helped make it one of the most diverse staffs in the country. Her deep-seated understanding of elevating photographers, knack for photo editing and running powerful images prominently, and commitment to having her staff reflect the community it covers are all exemplary leadership skills. This award is named after Jim Gordon, who was NPPA’s News Photographer magazine editor for 25 years until he retired in 2003.
Jose R. Lopez has been honored with the John Durniak Mentor Award for his incredible wisdom, generosity and unconditional support. Lopez recently retired from The New York Times after 31 years there, the first 16 as a staff photographer and the final 15 as a photo editor, where he used his talents to advocate for photographers. As one nominee said in support: Lopez always says “plant the seeds, nourish the talent, then stand back and let the flowers bloom.” His mentees say that his list of accomplishments is long, but so is the list of young photographers who took their interest in photojournalism seriously because of his support. The Durniak Award is given to an individual who has served as an outstanding photojournalism mentor. Durniak was executive editor of Popular Photography magazine, a picture editor at Time magazine and The New York Times, and the managing editor of Look. During his career he nurtured some of the most prominent photojournalists of the 20th century.
Marcy Nighswander, a professor at the Ohio University School of Visual Communication, has won the Robin F. Garland Educator Award for her dedication to her students, as evident by dozens of nominations we received in support of her, and the breadth of her professional knowledge, tough love and honesty that made them strive to be better, instilled confidence in them to take risks and challenged them to be better. One nominee summed it up nicely: “Marcy is a living legend, not only for her work and vision as a photojournalist, but as a professor who has maintained her passion for education over a two-decade career as a teacher. She is kind, caring, and doesn't cut you any slack. She is largely responsible for shaping an entire generation of visual communicators and photojournalists who are working today.” The Garland Award is given for outstanding service as a photojournalism educator. Garland was a picture editor and war correspondent for the Saturday Evening Post until he joined Graflex Inc. as press technical representative after World War II. Later he became a press photography product specialist for Eastman Kodak Co.
Sony Electronics received the J. Winton Lemen Award. Sony’s Alpha system has been a huge technological advancement and game changer in the world of still photography, causing other camera companies to follow suit in pursuit of the growing mirrorless camera market. We would also like to recognize Sony’s creation of Alpha Female, a program that offers five female-identifying photographers a $25,000 grant, $5,000 in gear and a mentor. The Lemen Award is given in recognition of outstanding technical achievement supporting and advancing the best interest of the visual journalism community. Lemen was a charter member of the NPPA. In 1952, after a distinguished career as a news photographer at the Rocky Mountain News, Pittsburgh Press and Buffalo (N.Y.) Times, he established the photo press markets division of the Eastman Kodak Co. and served as the firm's liaison with news photographers.
Kathleen Flynn, an independent photographer and documentary filmmaker, has won the NPPA Humanitarian Award for her tireless work and commitment to a career spent covering human rights issues and injustices. Flynn’s most recent work for ProPublica and Time magazine called “Unprotected” helped shed light on a subject not often addressed: the fact that humanitarian aid can both help and harm. The project explores an acclaimed American charity that said it was saving some of the world’s most vulnerable girls from sexual exploitation. But Flynn and reporter Finlay Young found that from the very beginning, girls were being raped, while the charity’s founder was winning awards for their work and being given money for her organization. After publication, the charity, More Than Me, apologized to the victims, for the first time conceding it had failed them. The charity announced schoolwide HIV testing. The board chair and two other board members resigned, while the founder took a leave of absence pending two internal inquiries — one commissioned by its American board of directors and one by its Liberian advisory board.
A second NPPA Humanitarian Award is being given to Associated Press staff photographer Rodrigo Abd, who was photographed by other photographers in the act of protecting children who were tear-gassed by U.S. border agents near the San Ysidro Port of Entry in California. As his nomination letter so eloquently put it, “Rodrigo Abd knew how and when to put down his cameras and be a human being.”
David Muraskin of Public Justice has been named the recipient of this year’s Alicia Calzada First Amendment Award. Muraskin and his firm represented the National Press Photographers Association and other advocacy groups in a legal challenge that resulted in an unconstitutional law being struck down in the state of Wyoming. The law targeted “data collection” and was widely considered an “Ag-Gag” law, which restricts First Amendment rights in order to protect the interests of the agricultural industry. The award recognizes an individual who has worked to promote and advance the First Amendment, especially as it relates to visual journalists. It is named after NPPA past President Alicia Wagner Calzada, the founder and longtime chair of NPPA’s Advocacy Committee, who is now an attorney specializing in media law.
Whitney Shefte, a senior video journalist at The Washington Post, is the winner of the Morris Berman Citation. Shefte is the current president of the White House News Photographers Association, which took a recent stand against the White House’s sharing of a doctored video of Jim Acosta’s interaction with an intern trying to take the microphone away from him during a news conference, saying: “As visual journalists, we know that manipulating images is manipulating truth. It’s deceptive, dangerous and unethical. Knowingly sharing manipulated images is equally problematic, particularly when the person sharing them is a representative of our country’s highest office with vast influence over public opinion.” The Berman Citation is given to individuals or organizations for special contributions that have advanced the interests of photojournalism.
Kenneth P. McLaughlin Award of Merit has been given to both Tim Underhill and Adam Vance for their tireless work supporting the NPPA’s News Video Workshop. Both Underhill and Vance have dedicated countless hours to mentoring students, solving logistical and technical problems, and assuring that both the workshop and its students succeed. The McLaughlin Award is given to those who have rendered ongoing and outstanding service in the interests of news photography. McLaughlin, a photographer for the San Francisco Chronicle until his death in 1966, was the third president of the NPPA.
Marilyn Newton is the winner of the Burt Williams Award for her tenacity in chasing down breaking news and her dedication to the job. Newton, now 74, is believed to be the first woman hired as a full-time newspaper photographer in Nevada. The veteran photographer came to the Reno Evening Gazette in 1963, starting as a girl Friday. Within a week, she wrote her first front-page story and within six months was carrying a camera. By 1967 she switched to the Nevada State Journal and photojournalism full-time. Newtons career spanned over 50 years working for Reno newspapers, the Reno Evening Gazette, Nevada State Journal and Reno Gazette-Journal. Even in retirement, she’s still actively photographing the community and is the photographer for the Reno Rodeo and Great Reno Balloon Race. The Burt Williams Award is in memory of one of NPPA’s founders and its first national secretary. It is given to a news photographer who has completed at least 40 years of service to the industry.
The John Long Ethics Award is given to Steve Raymer, who has been an outstanding photojournalist and educator. Raymer’s professional photography career spans decades, and he has always held himself to the highest ethical standards. And most recently, he has been teaching students at Indiana University for many years, and his commitment to instilling in them the vital importance of professional ethics is undiminished.
The Outstanding Student Chapter Award goes to the Ohio University Student NPPA Chapter. The officers of NPPAOU and the students of the School of Visual Communication (VisCom) have continued their student outreach and leadership in organizing workshops, guest speakers, research, portfolio critiques and social gatherings. This chapter, which consists of about 40 students, has truly set the bar for what our student chapters should be doing, by way of volunteering with judging the Best of Photojournalism competition, sending students to workshops and conferences, creating a mentorship program between grad and undergraduate students, and obtaining grants through their university to attract talented speakers.
An NPPA Special Citation has been awarded to James Estrin, a photographer for The New York Times, and co-editor of The New York Times Lens blog, and co-founder of the New York Portfolio Review, for the countless ways in which he has inspired, educated and mentored photographers throughout the years.
Note: In the interest of transparency, Anne Herbst is on the Honors & Awards Committee but recused herself from the judging of the Costa Award, in which she was a nominee, and was absent from the call when it was being discussed and voted on.