In a small dark room between Gannett Hall and Neff Hall, a small group of student coordinators, noteworthy judges and student onlookers preview more than 1,000 photographs classified as news features in just one of the 18 categories judged in this year’s College Photographer of the Year competition.
The 67th annual competition collected 13,000 entries from photographers from dozens of countries around the world, said David Rees, photojournalism chair and Missouri Photo Workshop co-director. More than 600 college students competed this year, according to the CPOY website.
“The competition keeps growing every year,” Rees said.
The College Photographer of the Year Competition was founded in 1945 by Cliff and Vi Edom, CPOY director Rita Reed said in a history on CPOY’s website.
“The University of Missouri administers the contest with support from its co-sponsor, Nikon Inc., whose generosity allows CPOY to offer free entry to college students worldwide," Reed said.
CPOY judging sessions can last for multiple hours and have drawn photojournalism classes, Freshman Interest Group classes and other students to see them, though not all at one time. Approximately 600 people view the judging every year, Rees said.
On the first three days of judging, a group of judges ranks individual, small group and large group multimedia projects. During the final four days of judging, which will end Wednesday, a second group of judges ranks entries in the still photography category, according to the CPOY website.
The judges for this year are Cathaleen Curtiss, director of entrepreneurship at Daemen College; Robert Hood from NBC News; freelancer Amanda Lucidon; Kurt Mutchler from National Geographic; Janet Reeves from the Minneapolis Star Tribune; Bob Sacha, adjunct professor from the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism; Whitney Shefte from The Washington Post; Wally Skalij from the Los Angeles Times; and Joe Weiss from CPOY, according to the website.
“(CPOY) is an important augment to our program,” Rees said. “Students get a better idea of what makes a good picture by hearing what the judges say in structured conversation about the photos.”
The judging sessions, which are also recorded as podcasts, have reportedly been used as part of the curriculum in classes at other schools, Rees said.
“CPOY's greatest value is educational,” Reed said. “It encourages photographers to sort through and evaluate their own work and assemble the best of it to show, both to peers and to the working professionals who donate their time to judge the contest.”
At least 40 students worked on the CPOY competition this year, Rees said. Graduate research assistants Stuart Palley and Naveen Mahadevan serve as co-coordinators of the event, and a number of other students work to read captions and stock the hospitality tables, in addition to other tasks.
“It is really fun to try and figure out what the judges are going to pick,” said Jessica Salmond, a senior journalism major with a self-designed interest area in photojournalism and news reporting.
Salmond volunteered to read photo captions Sunday and Monday. She said her Sunday volunteer time earned her extra credit in one of her journalism-related classes.
Her favorite part of CPOY is that when you see the photos come through, you get to see the unusual ones that wouldn’t usually run in a publication, but that doesn’t mean they’re not amazing, Salmond said.
So far, approximately 61 photos and multimedia projects in 11 categories have been chosen as gold, silver, bronze or Award of Excellence winners, and there are still more categories to be judged, according to the list of winning images on the CPOY website. All of the winners' names will be announced after the remaining judging sessions conclude Wednesday. The overall college photographer of the year will be announced following the portfolio judging at 4 p.m. Wednesday, and the winner will receive a 14-week internship at National Geographic.