When Tobey Schmidt won the Drew Gyorke photojournalism award, she used the $200 to help pay for a new full-frame DSRL camera. Now, two years later, she hopes to make photojournalism a career.
She is just one of many recipients who say the contest, held every semester in Professor Kim Newton’s JOUR 203 beginning photojournalism class, gave them confidence in their photography skills.
“The award inspired me to take photography seriously, buy a really nice camera, build a website for myself and start selling my work,” Schmidt said. “I hope to pursue a career in photojournalism after I graduate.”
Schmidt is putting her skills to use as an intern this summer at Alaska’s award-winning community paper, The Skagway News.
Drew Gyorke, an adventurer and aspiring photojournalist at UA, died his junior year in a May 2013 car accident. The award, endowed by his family and friends in fall 2013, recognizes the best beginning photojournalism students.
The top three photos each semester — along with photos from the nine other finalists — hang in the School of Journalism hallway near Newton’s office (Marshall 327). The winner is awarded $200, followed by second place ($100) and third ($75).
The school recently asked past winners of the award how they were affected by the contest, and their replies were forwarded to the Gyorke family.
Sara Gyorke, Drew’s mother, called the students’ response “really touching on many levels, a real tear jerker — so awesome.” She and her husband, Andy, are “very happy we set up this award knowing how much Drew enjoyed photography.”
“Having something to strive for, especially the recognition from your peers, is so important for young students and a wonderful way to build confidence and have them feel accomplished,” Sara Gyorke said.
“Drew was a very giving person and enjoyed being there for people by listening to their stories. He respected and accepted others’ differences. He also loved skiing, being outdoors and sports which were strong motivations for him to be a photojournalist.”
Here are testimonials from students:
Tobey Schmidt, fall 2015 winner
“The award had a lot of meaning to me. I had recently became interested in photography shortly before that class had began. The class was a lot of fun for me and I was really considering a career in photojournalism, but I wasn’t sure if I was good enough to make something of it. ... When I won first place out of my entire class I was so inspired to make my career around photojournalism. The cash that I won went toward a new full-frame DSRL camera. The picture on the wall made me feel like a real artist. I always thought that I had a good eye for composition and lighting, so the award really confirmed that and gave me a lot of confidence. Since then, I’ve been a lot more proud of my photography work. I’ve become much more confident when I’m shooting and editing. Sometimes I look at my work and think it’s average, but I always think back to the award and tell myself, ‘Hey, I wouldn’t have won that award if other people didn’t think I was a good photographer.’ The award inspired me to take photography seriously, buy a really nice camera, build a website for myself and start selling my work. I hope to pursue a career in photojournalism after I graduate. Thank you so much for this. I’ve been able to put the award on my resume and receive three photo and journalism internships since. I can’t express how much it meant to me at the time and how it really changed what I wanted to do with journalism.”
Michelle Jaquette, fall 2016 winner
“It was a great surprise and honor to receive this award. I went to the same high school as Drew Gyorke, although I graduated five years later. I picked up a professional camera for the first time last semester and had a lot of fun getting behind the lens and capturing moments. I now realize what a key part photos play in attracting reader attention to newspaper articles. Receiving this award gave me confidence in my skills and has challenged me to see how far I can go with photojournalism. This award was in the back of my mind when I applied to study advanced photojournalism with Prof. Kim Newton in Orvieto, Italy, this summer. Seeing my photograph hanging in the hall of the Marshall building never failed to make me feel humbled and excited for the future. The monetary award was also a blessing and it helped me pay off the camera I bought at the beginning of last semester. To Drew Gyorke’s parents I say thank you! You have inspired me and I’m sure many other winners to continue pursuing photojournalism. This is an amazing way to honor your son.”
Ashley Summerset, fall 2014 winner
“Receiving the award had great meaning to me and my family. Of course the money always helps with school, but I felt a great sense of accomplishment and pride seeing my picture in the hallway and now it is hanging in my parents’ house. Hearing my name called in class as the winner was surprising and also inspiring. I had really enjoyed the class and this showed that I was actually good at it. I actually bought a camera for the class, and now I use it and take pictures as a hobby since I have left the major. I am very grateful to the Gyorke family for their endowment and just for the recognition.”
Courtney Talak, fall 2015 second place
“Being a photojournalist, the award meant a great deal to me academically and personally. It was a reminder that I was progressing in the right direction, and solidified even more so my passion for photojournalism. As a student who is paying for her college experience independently the prize money helped alleviate some of the financial burden, but I think I speak for most when saying students who pursue this award don’t do so for the money but rather for the experience. I am proud to have seen my work hanging in the J-school and to be able to list this on my résumé. … I had pretty much already decided I wanted to pursue photojournalism before taking the class, but I will say it solidified my decision even more and strengthened my passion for visual journalism. … The photojournalism course, and award, is invaluable for those hoping to pursue photojournalism, and also for those that aren’t. I would love to see a more in-depth photojournalism program here that allows aspiring photojournalists to build on skills learned in 203. ...
Jordan Glenn, spring 2015 second place
“In the spring semester of my sophomore year, I knew two things: I was good at writing and I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do with my life after college. That semester, I had joined The Daily Wildcat hoping to write at one of the desks. When told that the only position open was at the photo desk, I took it reluctantly with the plan to switch desks whenever another position was open. After a few months had gone by, I had discovered a new love: photography. I became more involved in my photojournalism class, became the president of NPPA and set my sights on winning one of the Drew Gyorke photojournalism awards that professors had talked about with pride. I experimented, I read books and I made A LOT of mistakes but at the end of the semester, I saw things differently. I saw everything in terms of composition and payed attention to the emotion/stories of people around me. When I placed second in the competition, it made me realize that I could possibly make a career out of this newfound talent. Seeing my photos displayed on the walls of the journalism school was one of the most meaningful accomplishments I had while in college. It led me to keep my job at The Daily Wildcat photo desk and opened the doors to the seven other internships I've had including The London Times and High Country News. Most importantly, it made me happy. I gained more friends who shared the same love for photos that I did and over these past three years, they've joined me on some of the most exciting and unique reporting adventures. This award wasn’t about the money but rather the acknowledgement of having some of the same great talents and characteristics as Drew did. Without that award, I’m not sure I could say I would be where I am now or that I would have a bedroom covered with photos from all of the stories I’ve been a part of as a result. Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of this.
Elizabeth Kinney, fall 2016 second place
“I think the award had lots of meaning to the entire class — it’s something to look forward to the whole semester. Everyone enjoys talking about their favorite pictures and the countdown to the winners is very anticipated! I think the award of a cash prize is exciting but I personally have had way too much fun showing off my picture hung in the hallway! My photo is hung outside of Kim Newton’s door and he has caught me a handful of times showing it off. I am extremely proud of my accomplishment especially because I never found photography as my strong suit. I think the Drew Gyorke award has given me a confidence in photography I needed. I haven't looked into photography as a career but I have been much more aware of my soundings while interviewing and excited to add visual aspects to my stories. I think the award is awesome and a great way to remember Drew and his passion for photography.”
Elise McClain, spring 2016 second place
“The Drew Gyorke photojournalism award was a great honor. I both appreciated the money, but also the boost in pride the award provided. Though I have no intention of becoming a photojournalist, I still found immense value in the competition. The Gyorke award provides a tangible opportunity for prospective journalists to take pride in their work and aspire to be the best versions of themselves. I hope the award lives on for years to come.