Last week was a national celebration of storytelling … and you may have missed it.
The National Press Photographers Association, or NPPA, announced the winners in its annual Best of Photojournalism video and editing competitions. This year’s judges selected breathtaking stories from some of the finest video journalists in the country. Most of the winning pieces are timeless; you could watch them two months from now or two years from now and be just as moved as if you watched them today.
Watching the winners this week, I felt one thing above all: I wish I had done better.
I don’t mean “better” in the sense of winning or losing. I have fared very well in past NPPA competitions, finishing in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place in the past three years in their standings for solo video journalists, or reporters who shoot their own stories. Since I joined in 2010, I have picked up an outstanding amount of photojournalistic techniques, gotten to know some talented colleagues, and found myself inspired by those colleagues’ stories.
No, what I mean is more insular: I wish I had done better work this past year.
I take great pride in the work I produced in 2012, but as I watched this year’s NPPA winners, I could not help but think about how much further I can grow as a photojournalist.
I should mention that I do not always prioritize the NPPA way in my daily work. As a solo video journalist, I must focus on every part of the reporting process: interviewing, researching, writing, shooting video, and editing. The NPPA tends to reward, I find, a certain style of story: one that emphasizes shooting and editing first while still valuing the other elements. They typically exalt the more stylistic, emotional stories above the investigative, information-heavy ones. This, of course, makes sense: the NPPA, after all, is an association of visual journalists, and they should not feel compelled to give out awards for writing and researching. But the NPPA philosophy does not always mesh with a newsroom’s philosophy or a particular day’s assignment.
That disclaimer aside, I greatly value the association for what it does so well: provide visual journalists a resource to continually improve their visual skills.