The National Press Photographer’s Association “Best of Photojournalism” has been highlighting exemplary photojournalism since the 1940s. In it’s 2023 competition, NPPA hopes to see not only how photojournalists are documenting global issues, but also how they are bringing to light the people and solutions that help improve our world. We caught up with educator and photojournalist Mark E. Johnson to learn more about the National Press Photographers Association Best of Photojournalism 2023 competition. Read our interview with Mark below to learn more about what sets this competition apart, and what the organization is hoping to see in submissions this year.
What sets this competition apart from other photo contests?
The Best of Photojournalism is rooted in the work that members of the National Press Photographers Association do on a daily basis. The membership works across online, broadcast and print mediums producing still and video work. And the categories reflect the path that visual journalism takes—from its creation in the field to its crafting through the editing process.
How long has this competition been going on? How has it transformed over the years?
Some iteration of the Best of Photojournalism has existed since the founding of the National Press Photographers Association in the 1940s. It was run in partnership with the University of Missouri for a very long time, before coming back to the NPPA about 20 years ago.
Originally started as a still photojournalism competition, it added broadcast categories as those photojournalists began joining the association. Each year, the competition committee looks at how the industry has changed and adjusts the categories to reflect the work being done in communities around the world.
Most recently, a dedicated Documentary division was added. As technology for creation, delivery and consumption of digital media has evolved, photojournalists are broadening their ways of helping communities understand the events and issues that impact them. Your standard camera now has the ability to do both high quality stills and video and photojournalists are taking advantage of those tools—the story is now driving the delivery method, not the employer’s platform.
What are you hoping to see in the 2023 competition?
I want to see how photojournalists are tackling some of the biggest issues in the world. I’d expect to see stellar work from the world’s tragedies, but also insight into the people who are helping to improve our world. Conflict and joy coexist in our winners lists each year.
As an educator, seeing work from around the world and hearing our judges debate what is the Best of Photojournalism will help my students become better visual storytellers.
Can you tell us a little bit about NPPA’s visual integrity expectations and code of ethics for this contest?
The NPPA is an association of journalists who work in photographic mediums, so at its heart this is a journalism competition, not a photography competition. All entrants must ascribe to the association’s Code of Ethics which guides photojournalists every day. That code goes beyond manipulations and alterations, it also impacts who is making the images. Ethically, a journalist cannot be beholden to those they document so work created by someone who is working for an entity will not be accepted.
Who is your jury, and how will the winners be decided?
With six divisions to judge and nearly 100 categories, we have two rounds of judging. Shortly after the close of entries, we will have around 120 first round judges go through every entry. Each entry will be scored by at least three judges, looking at the quality of the work and ensuring it conforms to both the category it was entered in and the ethical standards of the industry.
In late February, two dozen final round judges will come to the University of Georgia and spend a very long weekend looking at the top-scored entries from the first round. Student volunteers will be in the room to help track information and we record all of those deliberations so students and professionals can hear the conversations.
Anything else you’d like our audience to know?
This is a massive collaborative effort. The NPPA committee, headed up by A.J. Chavar along with the division heads have put in countless hours already to refine categories and find the leading experts in our field to work as judges. Linda Epstein, Bob Gould, Shawn Montano, Emily Jan and Ray Arzate will be joined by one of my colleagues, Dr. Amanda Bright, in moderating all of the discussions.
On the ground here in Athens, Georgia, my colleagues Dr. Kyser Lough and Dr. Andrea Hudson help keep everything working behind the scenes. We will have about four dozen student volunteers, from both UGA and other institutions, here to help, as well. And all of this wouldn’t be possible without support from Sony, the presenting sponsor.
We have done virtual judging for the last two years, I cannot wait to be able to walk into a room and hear the debates going on again.