Ten top spots in 2020 College Photographer of the Year competition go to UNC Hussman students

by Barbara Wiedemann

Nine 2020 College Photographer of the Year (CPOY) judges painstakingly looked at over 10,000 images and multimedia projects over the course of three days each to make their decisions in the 75th annual award season for the esteemed international photography and multimedia competition. When all was said and done, ten of the top spots went to UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media students.

Winners included a Silver in sports feature photography for Hope Davison ’21 for the night shot of a team bus at right. Davison is a media and journalism and global studies major and an intern with Innovate Carolina on campus. A Bronze award for multimedia standalone group story went to recent graduate Jeremiah Rhodes and Roy H. Park Fellow Hadley Green ’21 (M.A.) for their video “Graduating in Isolation,” which debuted on The Washington Post website this spring. 

Green, a Tufts University graduate with multimedia experience at WBUR radio, NPR’s Here & Now, The Salem (Mass.) News and Harvard University under her belt, started graduate school at Hussman in 2019. Alongside her multimedia win, Green received two Awards of Excellence for feature and COVID-related photography.

Hussman senior Emily Sartin, president of the student chapter of the National Press Photographers Association at Carolina, garnered an Award of Excellence for sports action photography. Recent Carolina graduate Barron Northrup, a studio arts major and veteran of a number of UNC Hussman visual communication courses, was recognized for his moth photo in the "Illustration” category.


Overcoming barriers to keep the streak alive

The last time the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill did NOT place in CPOY’s sweeping “Multimedia: Online Storytelling“ category, the seniors in Professor Pat Davison’s Spring 2020 MEJO 584 “International Projects” course were six years old. One of those six-year-olds was Davison’s daughter, Hope.

This week, the 15-year streak continued when Davison, Teaching Associate Professor Kate Sheppard, lecturer Tamara Rice and alumnus Jason Arthurs celebrated the news of a CPOY Silver Award with 27 elated Hussman students who produced their epic “Barriers” project during a tumultuous spring semester. 

The “Barriers” website is rich with video, writing, photography, infographics and animation developed by the 27-student team. Their work unfolded over the course of the spring semester from raw materials garnered during a trip to the coastal country. “Barriers” takes a layered look at the Central American nation of Belize and the environmental challenges its 180-mile-long barrier reef faces. 

Davison expressed pride in each of the students who took part in the “International Projects” class — Caroline Almy, Alicia Carter, Lucia Castro, Nathaniel Consing, Veronica Correa, Malin Curry, Hope Davison, Dustin Duong, Haley France, Michael Gawlik, Hadley Green, Madison Hoffman, Molly Horak, Rachel McKinney, Meg McMahon, Will Melfi, Samantha Perry, Lucas Pruitt, Sarah Redmond, Jeremiah Rhodes, Emily Sartin, Ari Sen, Halynna Snyder, Taylor Tyson, Drew Wayland, Matthew Westmoreland and Hanna Wondmagegn — pointing out the challenge of returning from the coastal Central American setting to a tumultuous semester that required working remotely (due to the coronavirus pandemic) to produce a completed project.

“What a testament to how talented and smart this team is,” said Davison. “Nobody gave up. They rallied and supported each other. They published a really strong project and made strong bonds as a team that will always be there.”

Roy H. Park Fellow Alicia Carter ’21 (M.A.), a graduate student whose background is in foreign policy work, came to Hussman in search of a skills-based program that would allow her to refine her videography, photography and storytelling skills. She and then-sophomore Lucas Pruitt ’22 teamed up to produce “Can You Hear Her” for the Belize project, an Award of Excellence winner.

“A beautiful memory,” Carter says of the time spent working as a team in Belize, including a three-day shoot on a 1-acre island with Pruitt, some underwater reef photography lit by diver/graphic designer Meg McMahon, and two days of filming on a cacao farm where she embedded with a local family.

Carter treasures the skills-oriented team learning she's done with professors like Davison, Chad Heartwood and Laura Ruel over the course of her studies at Hussman. By the time she graduates this spring, she says, she will “not only know how to DO what I'm going into the workplace to do — but I'll also have an understanding of what it takes to do my co-workers’ jobs.” She credits the “Barriers” project with being “the best part of my degree program at UNC so far.”  

Can You Hear Her? from UNC | Carolina Photojournalism on Vimeo.

Recent graduates Caroline Almy and Sarah Redmond teamed up to produce another CPOY Award of Excellence winner, “Seeding the Sea,” for “Barriers.”

Seeding the Sea from UNC | Carolina Photojournalism on Vimeo.

The award-festooned Jeremiah Rhodes, who completed a 2019 video internship at NPR and garnered a multimedia fellowship with the Texas Tribune this summer, received a second Bronze award for his work with recent graduate Matthew Westmoreland on “Bitter & Sweet!” — also created for the “Barriers” project. Davison notes that some footage from “Bitter & Sweet!” will be featured in an upcoming HBO series—stay tuned for that story.

Bitter & Sweet from UNC | Carolina Photojournalism on Vimeo.

At the end of a long year filled with challenges for faculty and students alike, “Barriers” faculty member Kate Sheppard appreciated the autumn spotlight shining on the team’s outstanding work.

“The recent CPOY recognition is just further proof that our Hussman students are talented, creative and resilient,” she said. “‘Barriers’ is a true team effort to cover the vast, complicated challenge of climate change and environmental destruction in Belize. Each student’s contribution shines on its own and collectively. That the students completed the project against a backdrop of unprecedented upheaval is even more remarkable.”

Funds from UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media’s Ameel J. Fisher Scholarship, A.W. Huckle Memorial Scholarship and Emma Lineberger Scholarship helped to support students participating in the “Barriers” project in Belize.