Although words are my “thing,” per se, I’ve always admired the unwritten stories told through photography. Much like a good feature story, good photography evokes emotion as well as tells a story. It makes viewers see the subject matter from a different perspective, whether literally or figuratively. Photographers take great care in selecting the subject matter of and composing the shots they take, and their perspective also influences the photograph both literally and figuratively. And though writing can be as descriptive as the author wishes, down to a description of the color of the sky, sometimes photography is the most effective way to document an event or convey a message. Pictures are powerful.
I first heard of the College Photographer of the Year contest when I toured MU. Our journalism ambassador pointed out the CPOY panels as we walked through the Reynolds Journalism Institute (not like you could miss the huge display by the Ninth Street entrance), and I remember being in awe as I glanced at the winning entries. Photographs I had taken in my photography, yearbook and Advanced Placement art classes could not even begin to compare with these works of art, these snapshots of time with at least a dozen different possible interpretations each.
I looked at more of these pictures when I wrote a story about CPOY for The Maneater last year and was intrigued by the components of the winning entries. Many were black-and-white or had shadows to increase drama. I hadn’t previously realized how important light and shadows were in photographs; they can set the mood as well as highlight or detract from certain parts of the picture. For example, the best-lit part of Michael Hansen’s sports action photograph is where the boxers are, drawing the viewer’s attention to that spot. The only light in Doriane Raiman’s sports feature photograph is the left side outline of the athlete and, consequently, the part around the shadow on the wall. This draws the reader’s attention to the shadow and his outline, when they look to see whose shadow it is.
Along with shadows comes color, which I found most interestingly displayed in Zach Nelson’s pictorial entry. The picture consists mostly of cool colors, which denotes harmony, yet red elements are present throughout, particularly on the carousel horse and in the water surrounding it. This use of warm colors disturbs the complete calm feeling established by the cool tone, which keeps it interesting, in my opinion.
One of my favorite parts about CPOY, though, is that college students, and not professionals, take the pictures. I’m amazed at the talent present in photographers my own age, and for that reason, I’m excited to follow the contest when it returns to MU in November.