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Home > Publications > Quill > Sigma Delta Chi Awards Winners - Art/Graphics


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Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Sigma Delta Chi Awards Winners - Art/Graphics

By Austin Considine

Click here for introduction to the awards and a menu of all categories.

Breaking News Photography (Newspaper Circulation 100,001+ or Affiliated Website/National Magazine)

Winner: Steven Day, The Associated Press

“Miracle on the Hudson”

Few events in recent history have been so unlikely and miraculous as the US Airways Flight 1549 emergency landing in the Hudson River, in which not a single person was killed.

Photographer Steven Day’s opportunity to capture one of the most widely viewed and most iconic images of the year was almost as unlikely.

“I have a freelance job on 47th Street, on the eighth floor,” Day later told Time magazine. “I was working on my computer when someone passed by me and said, ‘What is that?’ So I instinctually grabbed my camera […] and went to the window and started shooting.”

Day told judges: “My initial reaction was that it must be some sort of practice rescue because everyone seemed so calm from my point of view.” But it quickly dawned on him that this was not the case because it was so cold on that icy January day. “The banks of the river were frozen.”

The grainy picture that would appear in newspapers and on televisions across the country was a technically difficult exposure to render clearly from inside the 47th Street building. Day zoomed in on the plane as it floated swiftly down the river and past his building in a matter of seconds, as passengers stood awaiting rescue on the wings of the plane.

Judges recognized the singular importance of the image, and the decisiveness of its capture in their decision: “Technically, it’s not great, but it will be an iconic moment in history,” they said. “A hard-to-believe moment: the entire crew and passengers of a large jet waiting on the wings to be saved.”

AP editors agreed. “It’s all so incongruous — planes aren’t supposed to be in waterways, people aren’t supposed to be standing on water — and so this image underscores the miracle of a jetliner’s short flight,” they said in their nomination letter. “But the grainy image is also intensely real. It puts us there, with all of these people who were so unfortunate to be in a crash, and so fortunate to survive one.”

Link to picture: tinyurl.com/SDXArt1

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Breaking News Photography (Newspaper Circulation 50,001-100,000 or Online Independent)

Winner: Justin Cook, The Roanoke Times

“Suspect in Custody After 8-Hour Standoff”

At the end of an eight-hour standoff with police, Warren “Gator” Taylor emerged from the Wytheville, Va., downtown post office, wheelchair bound and hands held aloft. It was a dramatic end to a long day for Taylor, for police and for Taylor’s three hostages, who emerged unharmed.

The first to greet Taylor was an unmanned tactical robot to inspect him for explosives. Justin Cook’s timely photograph told almost the entire story, capturing in a single image the bizarre scene, as a phalanx of helmeted, flak-jacketed police stood in relative safety behind the cover of an armored vehicle, letting the robot do its work.

The overweight man in the wheelchair, the robot — both blanched in the cone of a stark white spotlight amid piles of snow — the grainy, nighttime exposure: It could have been a scene from a David Cronenberg film.

As difficult as the day had been for local authorities in the tiny Virginia town, getting the perfect shot had been nearly as challenging. Cook persevered through a multitude of difficulties caused by failing technology and icy weather.

“His batteries had died on him several times that night — and at one point the shutter wasn’t firing correctly because of the low temperatures — forcing Cook to leave his car running to keep his spare gear warm,” said Michael Stowe, managing editor of The Roanoke Times.

“Then he discovered the wireless card on his computer wasn’t working,” Stowe continued. “He had no Internet connection and no way to send the pictures. And he was already past deadline.”

Judges said the image is “compelling and translated the severity of the situation,” calling it a “good photo of a tense situation.”

Link to picture: tinyurl.com/SDXArt2

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Breaking News Photography (Newspaper Circulation 1-50,000 or Regional Magazine)

Winner: Dave McDermand, The Bryan-College Station Daily Eagle

“Black Hawk Down”

On Jan. 12, 2009, Dave McDermand was the only photographer on assignment for The Bryan-College Station Daily Eagle, a small daily newspaper based near Texas A&M University with only two staff photographers. McDermand was out searching for a feature shot that day and hoped that some afternoon helicopter exercises by the university’s Rudder’s Rangers would provide good material for the front page.

Helicopters were making rounds between campus and a military training site 60 miles away, where they transported members of the school’s cadet corps a group at a time. McDermand later said that he hadn’t been satisfied with the shots he was getting, so he returned with each new round of pick-ups, in attempts to capture the perfect shot.

McDermand was standing only yards away, camera poised for a third round of shooting, when one of the Black Hawks crashed during take-off, killing A&M graduate Zachary Cook and wounding four Army guardsmen.

“The dramatic photo that he captured of the helicopter crashing violently, debris flying in all directions, was used in newspapers and on television news across the country,” said Kelly Brown, managing editor at the Station Eagle. “We’re always proud of Dave’s work, but we’re especially impressed with the calmness and skill it took for him to keep shooting as debris flew toward him.”

Judges said McDermand “was in the right place, at the right time, with the right amount of moxie as he captured in gruesome detail the exploding helicopter that spewed metal debris in his direction,” commending his “courage, calmness and keen eye in the face of adversity.”

More online: tinyurl.com/SDXArt3

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Feature Photography (Newspaper Circulation 100,001+ or Affiliated Website/National Magazine)

Winner: Sonya N. Hebert, The Dallas Morning News

“Choosing Thomas”

How does a married couple prepare for new life while death waits in the wings?

Deidrea and T.K Laux faced one of the hardest choices expecting parents could ever face. After a sonogram revealed that their first child would be born with a fatal genetic disorder, the couple was forced to decide: deliver their son, whom doctors said would die soon after birth, or discontinue the pregnancy and save themselves the heartbreak?

The Lauxes “chose Thomas,” deciding to go ahead with the birth, preparing themselves for the worst kind of pain a parent can ever face: the loss of a child.

Sonya N. Herbert followed and befriended the Lauxes in the months leading up to Thomas’ birth and into the dark days culminating in his tragic death, capturing some of their most intimate joys and sorrows with grace and dignity in her series “Choosing Thomas.”

As Leslie White, director of photography at The Dallas Morning News, put it: “Her work is both intimate and powerful because she won acceptance into the most personal moments of a tragic family story. Her photographs show utter helplessness mixed with so much love that it’s difficult to look at them and not feel the Lauxes’ pain. That is the job of a still photograph: to tell a story by capturing a fleeting moment.”

In their decision, judges added that Herbert “found a unique and touching story. An emotional connection is immediately made with the subjects. The access on this story is wonderful. […] The emotions come through. The photos of a family choosing to have a baby with only a short time to live are heartfelt and original. You feel the emotional rollercoaster of the family through the photos.”

More online: tinyurl.com/SDXArt7

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Feature Photography (Newspaper Circulation 50,001-100,000 or Online Independent)

Winner: Mary F. Calvert, The Washington Times

“Congo’s Greatest Shame”

Eclipsed by the humanitarian crises of genocide in Darfur, the horror of life in nearby Congo has gone relatively unreported, despite the twin scourges of violence and poverty that have claimed more than 5 million lives since civil war overtook the country in 1998.

Yet the human cost of war in Congo is scarcely confined to those who have died. Countless Congolese women and children have been systematically raped since the violence began — what The Washington Times called “Congo’s Greatest Shame.” As Betsy Pisik reported during her six-week sojourn in the country for the Times, “Gang rape has replaced looting and pillaging as the chosen weapon of social terror because it is more effective in destroying families, villages and tribes.”

Photographer Mary F. Calvert accompanied Pisik on the six-week assignment, capturing images of societies riven to pieces by Congo’s hidden nightmare — images that are in turn gruesome, gut-wrenching and edifying.

Calvert noted that an average 1,100 rape cases are reported each month in the Congo, according to the United Nations Population Fund. “Rape has been a tool of war since the beginning of time,” she said. “But what is different in Congo is the systematic nature of this crime and the sheer numbers of women being attacked. Each new battle between government forces and rebel militias leaves behind the scar of more brutalized women and girls.”

Carleton Bryant, director of multimedia for the Times, emphasized the hazards faced by the two women in such a dangerous country. “The conditions under which (Calvert and Pisik) worked — in terms of access, logistics and personal safety — were among the most grueling and nerve-wracking for an overseas assignment,” he wrote. “The images Ms. Calvert photographed were shocking, disturbing and heartbreaking.”

More online: tinyurl.com/SDXArt8

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Feature Photography (Non-daily Publication)

Winner: Marcus Donner, Jenny O’Brien & George Erb, Puget Sound Business Journal

“Energizing the Fans”

When Marcus Donner was asked to follow around Tod Leiweke, CEO of the Seattle Sounders professional soccer team, even the editors admit it seemed like a “pretty dull” assignment at first.

What they, and Donner, didn’t realize was that Leiweke would wind up being such an inimitable force — a born leader and consummate “man of the fans.” Donner discovered through his lens a visionary dedicated to generating enthusiasm and spirit among the fans above all else.

Leiweke led the fledgling team to an overwhelmingly successful first year, helping reverse a steep decline in soccer attendance seen since the onset of the recession, and earning Leiweke the Puget Sound Business Journal’s “Executive of the Year” award. Donner’s photographs captured the human essence of that dynamism — a man who loves what he does, and whose enthusiasm is infectious en masse.

“The photos needed to illustrate Leiweke’s ability to inspire, since fans explain the franchise’s success — and why the Puget Sound Business Journal chose him as Executive of the Year,” said PSBJ Publisher Emory Thomas Jr. “The photos capture much more: the character of the man and the spirit he brings to the field.”

Judges said: “Donner crisply captures the excitement of fans, young and old, green and blue, standing and moving around the Qwest Field in Seattle. Donner strategically placed the protagonist of the article — CEO Tod Leiweke — in each photo to highlight his role in revitalizing the Seattle Sounders. By simply looking at the high-quality photos, the reader gets the entire story even before reading a single word. This is the trademark of an excellent photojournalist.”

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Sports Photography (Newspaper Circulation 100,001+ or Affiliated Website/National Magazine)

Winner: Damian Strohmeyer, Sports Illustrated

“Head Strong”


The New England Patriots have gotten used to winning over the past decade or so. Led by three-time Super Bowl winners coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, the Patriots have been one of the most successful football dynasties in NFL history.

So when a competitor — even a great one like the Baltimore Ravens — beats the Patriots at home in Foxboro, Mass., one can hardly blame them for getting a little excited.

Damian Strohmeyer of Sports Illustrated captured that excitement as Baltimore’s Derrick Mason caught the winning touchdown against the Patriots on Oct. 4, putting them away 27-21 while the Patriots defense looked on helplessly.

But this was no ordinary catch, and no ordinary photo. As impressive as Baltimore’s victory was, it couldn’t compare to the image Strohmeyer captured of Mason as he tumbled heels-over-head in the end zone, frozen in time by the speed of Strohmeyer’s shutter. Just when you thought sports photography couldn’t offer another never-before-seen contortion, another gravity-defying still, Mason looks directly into the camera, an ecstatic expression on his face — while balanced in time on the crown of his head, peering out from between his own legs.

The image of the upside-down Mason clutching madly to the winning pass could be one of the greatest (and perhaps most comical) — stills in football history.

Judges agreed, calling it a “great moment that is rarely seen. Damian Strohmeyer took a strong, unusual moment: a player upside-down in the end zone still holding the ball with an excited expression on his face. A unique moment with solid composition. The gloves and eye contact create an unusual moment.”

Link to picture: tinyurl.com/SDXArt10

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Sports Photography (Newspaper Circulation 50,001-100,000 or Online Independent)

Winner: Jared Soares, The Roanoke Times

“Touchdown, Virginia Tech”

Hokies fans were already beginning to leave the stadium. Only 1:44 remained in the football game, as Virginia Tech trailed by five points to Nebraska at home.

Virginia Tech’s offense had only managed to rack up 55 yards the entire second half and was pinned down to its own 12-yard line. Nebraska fans who had traveled across the country in hopes their 19th-ranked Cornhuskers would upset No. 13 Tech thought their wishes were being fulfilled.

Until seconds later, when quarterback Tyrod Taylor connected with receiver Danny Coale for an 81-yard catch at Nebraska’s 3-yard line. The stunning pass play set the stage for a touchdown pass to Dyrell Roberts three plays later, putting the Hokies over the top for a 16-15 win.

But while other photographers were capturing the last moments on the field, Jared Soares was snagging his award-winning shot among the fans, deftly capturing the excitement of lucky Hokies — and the crushing disappointment of one unlucky Husker.

It was “heartbreak for all of the Nebraska fans who had traveled across the country to Blacksburg in hopes of an upset,” said Michael Stowe, managing editor of The Roanoke Times. “Nothing captures the emotions of that moment better than this photo.”

Soares said the photo — and the award — reminded him how much great, emotional sports material can be found off the field, among a team’s devoted faithful.



“So much of a sporting event is devoted to the athletes on the field that I tried to show how important this game was to the fans from both schools,” Soares said. “It’s reinforced me to keep taking risks and to look for moments and stories on the periphery.”

Judges called the photo a “great juxtaposition of emotion. Depicts fans’ love for their teams. Great layers in a photo showing the emotions from the winners and losers. Nice juxtaposition of a losing fan surrounded by winning fans.”

Link to picture: tinyurl.com/SDXArt11

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Editorial Cartooning (Newspaper Circulation 100,001+ or Affiliated Website/National Magazine)

Winner: Jack Ohman, The Oregonian

The figure of the cartoonist, as expressed in popular imagination, evokes images of the lone scribbler, laboring like R. Crumb over a drafting table deep into the night, beneath the bright light of a single lamp, solitary and pensive.

Though Jack Ohman’s winning entry about a ramshackle squatter town at the outskirts of Portland is indeed pensive, it also reflects the intrepidness of a reporter, who seeks first-hand the realities of a sometimes harsher world, outside the relative comfort of the editorial page office.

“How many times have we walked or driven by homeless people and asked ourselves, ‘How does this happen? How can they help themselves? What is the answer?’” Ohman asks at the opening of his cartoon strip.

Rather than merely hypothesizing or reading about it, Ohman traveled to “Dignity Village,” a homeless community just beside a composting plant and a prison, to find out for himself.

Such intrepidness is standard practice for Ohman, who is as much a newsperson as a cartoonist. “Poverty in Oregon” was just one in a series of features he does most Sundays, which he calls “investigative cartooning.” His unique approach also earned him the Robert F. Kennedy Award last year.

“While all of America’s political cartoonists were tethered to their drawing board, Jack did something completely out of the ordinary,” wrote Robert J. Caldwell, editorial page editor at The Oregonian. “He left the office.”

Judges likewise commended Ohman, “not only for his willingness to leave his drafting table in order to cover a story but also for its elevation of a long-standing problem — homelessness — that has been around so long that most people don’t even stop to think about it.”

More online: tinyurl.com/SDXArt4

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Editorial Cartooning (Newspaper Circulation 50,001-100,000 or Online Independent)

Winner: Dwayne Booth, Truthdig

While so many editorial cartoonists make a living out of caricature, the winning entry by Dwayne Booth (aka Mr. Fish) is as exquisitely drawn as it is critically pointed.

“Spare Change,” which depicts a homeless man begging beside a sign reading “will hope for work,” using the Obama campaign symbol as the “O” in hope, is so expertly drawn it appears almost photographic, adding extra resonance to a powerful message. (See magazine cover)

For Booth, such mastery, both technically and symbolically, is par for the course. It’s also typically controversial — upsetting the expectations of some regarding what this typically liberal cartoonist should do.

In their nomination letter, Booth’s editors at Truthdig.com noted that, “like many liberals, Booth became disenchanted with the new president in 2009,” using Obama’s “Hope” symbol as a lesson to progressives “to pay attention to what the president does, not to what he said in the campaign.” It’s this sort of talent and subversiveness that have garnered him space in some of the country’s premiere publications, including Harper’s Magazine, Vanity Fair and the Los Angeles Times.

Booth says that two Lenny Bruce quotes have informed his sometimes controversial work since he was a teenager. The first is, “Knowledge of syphilis is not instruction to get it.” The other captures a similarly rebellious, anti-authority spirit but can’t be reprinted here.

He explained: “My process of cartooning is to respond emotionally to the news and then draw something that ignores the partisanship that typically colors most editorial cartooning. I do my best to communicate the humanity of my subject matter, always being careful not to ground my arguments in the false morality of any political or religious philosophy.”

More online: tinyurl.com/SDXArt5

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Editorial Cartooning (Non-Daily Publication)

Winner: Terrence L. Nowicki Jr., Freelance

“Editorial cartoonists have been among the first and most severely liquidated resources, despite also being o

ne of the biggest potential audience draws a paper could have,” freelance cartoonist Terrence L. Nowicki said.

But at a time when many journalists are lamenting the fate of print media, Nowicki was also quick to note that “it’s not just the papers’ responsibility to remember the value of a cartoonist. It’s also the cartoonist’s responsibility to make himself valuable.”

Two impoverished children begging, above a caption that reads “Bush’s Legacy”; President Obama, as a character from the cult film “The Evil Dead,” fighting the zombies of Reaganomics with a shotgun and a chainsaw; a homeless man sleeping beneath a newspaper that reads “Economy Improving”; a newly married gay couple, stranded while their getaway car sits disabled by an Obama symbol serving as a wheel clamp: Nowicki has made himself valuable by concocting and artfully rendering images in a variety of appealing styles that speak to the deeper political and moral truths of our time.

Like the best minds in media, his political perspective is tough to pin down, taking no prisoners from either side of the traditional political divide. “I attack subjects not often addressed by other cartoonists; I don’t play favorites according to party affiliations; I approach topics from unexpected angles with creative methods,” he said.

Judges agreed: “Wow. Cartoon after cartoon you find yourself saying, ‘Wow!’ Beautifully drawn, simple and very powerful. The art is stunning with a strong opinion, which makes Nowicki’s work not just the best in this category but among the best of any cartoonist in the country.”

More online: tinyurl.com/SDXArt6

_____________________

Informational Graphics (Newspaper Circulation of 100,001+ or Affiliated Website/National Magazine)

Winner: Doug Stevens, Lorena Iñiguez Elebee, Julie Sheer & Adam Zoll, Los Angeles Times

“Obama Inauguration”

The election of America’s first African-American president was among the most significant moments in recent U.S. history. As such, President Barack Obama’s inauguration the following January was undoubtedly one of the most saturated, thoroughly reported events of the year.

It took creativity, ingenuity and a good deal of panache to make any single work stand out from the mass of material generated around the inauguration. The graphics team at the Los Angeles Times managed to muster just that.

Les Dunseith, graphics editor at the Times, described the paper’s approach to designing a graphic that would at once convey all the important information in an easy-to-access fashion — the way any successful graphic should — while also standing out as something special for people to cherish as a souvenir.

“We approached the challenge of providing readers a definitive guide to the inauguration with a high degree of enthusiasm,” Dunseith said. “We realized that the graphic we prepared — and the special section in which it would run — would be savored by many readers as a keepsake of an important event in their lives.”

Judges’ comments reflect both the wealth of material to choose from and the outstanding qualities of the Times’ work: “This was a difficult category to judge as there were a number of excellent entries,” they said. “However, the Los Angeles Times’ bird’s-eye view of the city and where the inaugural events were taking place stood out because of its completeness and ‘you are there’ quality. It brought the event to its readers in an interesting and highly readable manner. Clean design, graphics and typeface stand out and help make this section a keeper.”

_____________________

Informational Graphics (Non-Daily Publication)

Winner: Eric Semelroth, Modern Healthcare

“Healthcare by the Numbers”

Few topics were as tirelessly debated and rehashed in 2009 as health care reform. And the deeper America waded into the endless amounts of information and misinformation that accompanied the legislative process, the clearer it became that few topics were as complex and difficult to disentangle.

Health care is also a grave matter for millions of Americans who struggle to provide coverage for themselves and their families. As President Obama said on several occasions, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Add it up, and the words “fun” and “exciting” aren’t the first words conjured by the thought of anything associated with American health care — let alone statistical breakdowns about insurance companies and Medicare inpatient date updates.

But “fun” and “exciting” were exactly what Eric Semelroth attempted to achieve in his series of graphics for Modern Healthcare. “I wanted to present these vital statistics, facts and figures in a fun, inviting and exciting way,” he said.

“Toward this end, I filled the graphics with numbers of different sizes, shapes and fonts,” he explained. “I used bold colors and textures to create powerful visual impact. I activated the borders around the graphics to make them integral to the overall design.”

Judges agreed: “While it seems contradictory to use the word ‘fun’ in relation to health care costs, these colorful graphics result in a fun way to read some serious figures. The use of color, typeface (letters and numbers) and placement is excellent, and results in a highly readable series of pages. This is a creative contrast to the plain way in which such figures are normally presented, which can make the difference in whether someone will read it through to the end.”

More online: tinyurl.com/SDXArt9

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