Thousands of photos compete for POYi judges' attention

Thursday, February 9, 2012 | 7:24 p.m. CST; updated 9:30 p.m. CST, Thursday, February 9, 2012
From left, Sujong Song, Larry Price and Carolyn Cole judge the Spot News category during the 69th Pictures of the Year International competition being help at Fred W. Smith Forum in the Reynolds Journalism Institute on Thursday. Earlier in the day, they judged the General News category, one of 49 different categories to be judged.

COLUMBIA —  Nine photos at a time flashed on screen for five to 10 seconds. There were images of widows at the side of a soldier's casket, destroyed homes and starving children with every bone showing.

Several hours later, by the third round of judging in the general news category for Pictures of the Year International, the number of entries had gone from about 1,400 to 38.


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The fifth and final round of judging centered on three photos: An image of a protester in Greece with a bloodied face; a black and white photograph with the reflection of a boy looking out a window at a line of Libyan refugees; and a bright photo of the royal wedding kiss.

The judges discussed the strengths and weaknesses of each photo. After nearly five hours, they awarded first place to the photo of the Greek protester, second place to the black and white photo of the Libyan refugees and third place to the image of the royal wedding.

During a span of three weeks, judges for the 69th annual Pictures of the Year International contest in the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism will look at more than 14,000 entries.

The entries include photographs, edit pages and multimedia presentations.

Rick Shaw, director of Pictures of the Year International, estimated the number of photos in the competition is between 47,000 and 50,000.

The judging in the Fred W. Smith Forum is open to the public, and Shaw said the learning experience it provides is one of the main reasons for the competition.

"One of our primary missions is education," Shaw said. "The judging serves as an educational tool for both student and professional photographers."

Contest judge Sujong Song said POYi knows "how to take care of the link between professional and educational at the same time. It’s a real great chance for professional and student journalists to be together at the same time."

Song has judged other competitions, but this is the first time she has judged Pictures of the Year International. Unlike other competitions, this one is more open, Song said.

"Normally, during procedure, it’s very exclusive or protected," Song said. "Jury members make sensitive arguments so normally what happens stays inside."

In addition to being open to the public, the competition is streamed live on POYi's website.

Shaw said the live streaming contributes to the openness of the judging.

"We pride ourselves on being transparent," Shaw said. "Not only is it open here, anybody can log in and watch it and witness."

"The open forum can be both a good thing and sometimes not a good thing," Shaw said. "We do it in the spirit of learning."

When the judging is complete, POYi puts together a selection of the winning images for a tour of the United States and other nations.

"The purpose of the exhibition is for civilian outreach and public engagement," Shaw said. "Our goal with the public exhibition is to bring awareness to news events and social issues."

The judging will continue through Feb. 28. Judging begins around 8:30 a.m. each weekday and concludes when every category for the day is completed. A complete schedule of the divisions and categories can be found at the bottom of POYi's home page.

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