By Brittny C. Valdes
When seven students and one professor chose to revive Florida International University’s chapter of Society of Professional Journalists last fall, photojournalism became their topic of interest.
Photos are critical companions to stories, but FIU didn’t offer any photojournalism classes. So SPJ-FIU made it a priority to fill that gap.
It began in November, when Miami Herald photographer Dan Bock and Barbara Corbellini Duarte, current SPJ-FIU president, held a photojournalism presentation at FIU’s Biscayne Bay Campus. There, they shared photo and caption examples, touched on technique and dove into the discussion about the difference one image can make in news.
By the spring semester, the idea to hold a photojournalism competition almost seemed natural. So they did. The contest: “Capturing Generation Y.”
“Photos are a great way to bring in a reader,” said Michae Baisden, SPJ-FIU vice president. “But a lot of students don’t know that this is really important. We wanted to put a focus on photography in journalism, and we wanted it to be interactive.”
For the contest, SPJ-FIU invited college and high school students around the country to submit one photo that harnessed the essence of their generation in any real moment. Photos had to be accompanied by a caption, and each was judged for content, quality, originality and grammar.
The contest received 22 entries and presented to an esteemed panel of judges, including: Jason Parsley, president of SPJ South Florida Chapter; Roman Lyskowski, photo editor at The Miami Herald; Chris Cutro, photographer at the Miami Herald; Chris Delboni, news director at the South Florida News Service; and Barbara Corbellini Duarte, president of SPJ-FIU.
A national and a South Florida winner emerged, and on the evening of April 25, at Yuca Restaurant in South Beach, about 30 people came together over mojitos, salsa music and Cuban tapas to award the South Florida winner.
Sana Ullah, a digital media studies student at FIU, won for her “Color Me Rad” photo featuring young runners in a 5K getting bombed with neon-colored powder.
“I couldn’t stop smiling,” said Ullah, whose her first reaction to winning was, “why me?”
“There are so many incredible photographers,” she said. “There’s no way this is for me. However, after being shocked, I felt honored and excited to have my work framed and appreciated by others.”
Adam Randall, a journalism student at Western Michigan University, won nationally for his “Kalamazoo Zombie Festival” photo, which highlighted a crowd of young people painted as zombies behind yellow caution tape.
Both winners will have their photos published in SPJ’s Quill Magazine and will be featured in the SPJ South Florida, SPJ Region 3 and South Florida News Service websites.
Ullah will also spend a day with a Miami Herald photographer out on the field as well as in the newsroom.
“I’m a little nervous,” said Ullah. “Photojournalists are professionals, and I consider myself an amateur.”
Sergy Odiduro, an SPJ South Florida chapter board member and reporter for the Forum Publishing Group, attended the event.
“This is a very enthusiastic group,” said Odiduro. “What you’re doing, keep on doing, and all the doors will open out of nowhere.”