Cole of ‘LA Times’ Is Newspaper Photog of the Year

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By: Jay DeFoore

Los Angeles Times photographer Carolyn Cole and VII’s James Nachtwey won newspaper and magazine photographers of the year, respectively, in the Missouri School of Journalism’s 61st annual Pictures of the Year International (POYi) competition.

Cole’s winning portfolio included war photography from Iraq and Liberia, and the judges were impressed with the personal connection and emotion present in her photographs. Time contributor Nachtwey won top honors in the magazine category for a record eighth time for his pictures showing both the Iraqi and American sides of the war.

Miami Herald Director of Photography Luis Rios, one of the judges in the newspaper category, says Cole narrowly beat out Danish photographer Jacob Ehrbahn for the top prize.

“Her Liberia story really put her over the top,” Rios says. “Her Iraq work was exceptional, but it almost would have been too limited [by itself]. By bringing in that Liberia work, it diversified her portfolio enough to win it.”

Ehrbahn, who shoots for the Danish newspaper Politiken, submitted whimsical color singles alongside gritty, black-and-white essays that take an empathetic view towards young people living in harsh conditions in Afghanistan and Mongolia.

Rios says Ehrbahn’s subject matter was vastly different from the often redundant war imagery, and his multidimensional storytelling ability is something newspapers should aspire to.

“Newspaper photography has really evolved over the last seven or eight years to the point where you have to do more magazine-style photography,” Rios says. “Because of the increased visual sophistication of our readers, if you don’t do it in your newspaper, you’re going to be left behind.”

Because 2003 was dominated by war photography, the POYi contest committee added two categories to recognize war’s impact on the profession while keeping it from dominating the competition.

Nachtwey won the conflict story category for his essay “A Soldier’s Life,” a chronicle of the daily routine of the U.S. soldier in Baghdad. Many of the pictures ran in Time’s Person of the Year issue, which Nachtwey was working on when he was severely injured in a grenade attack last December. Agence France Presse’s Odd Anderson won first place in the single image conflict category for his picture of a young Iraqi girl crying as British tanks take control of the town of Basra.

“We may have to keep a conflict category because I’m afraid it’s not going away,” says POYi director David Rees.

On the domestic front, a number of photographers were recognized for in-depth reporting. Freelancer Danny Wilcox Frazier received the Community Awareness Award for his essay “Through a Lens Darkly: Photographs from Rural Iowa.” Boston Globe photographer won first place in the News Picture Story for “Bringing Molly Home,” an emotional and in-depth look at one family’s search for their missing daughter.

David Lurie of IPG won the World Understanding Award for the story “Capetown Fringe: Manenberg Avenue is Where it’s Happening,” which looks at the life of drugs and violence that remain in a poverty stricken South African neighborhood.

In the editing category, the Los Angeles Times won the Angus McDougall Overall Excellence in Editing Award, beating out The Hartford (Conn.) Courant, which had won the award the previous three years. Time magazine and The New York Times Magazine tied for first place in the Best Use of Photographs by a Magazine category. The Herald of Jasper, Ind., won first place in the Best Use of Photographs by a Newspaper under 100,000 and the L.A. Times in the same category over 100,000.

The single Best Picture of the Year Award will by chosen by the public from nominees posted at www.msnbc.com.

POYi winners will be honored during the annual awards ceremonies and education programs, April 16 and 17, at the Missouri School of Journalism. The program will be open to the public.

Winning photographs may be viewed at the POYi Web site.

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