A Brandon Sun photographer beat out some of the most talented shooters in the country to take home a national news photography award on Saturday.
Tim Smith’s was awarded first place in the pictorial category at the National Pictures of the Year awards hosted by the News Photographers Association of Canada (NPAC) on Saturday evening.
The winning photo, captured from a small six-seater plane, shows a car swept to the side of a flooded-out highway in the aftermath of a storm that ripped through southwestern Manitoba last summer.
“It’s a newsy photo, but a pretty photo,” Smith said.
More than 1,150 images and multimedia projects from across Canada were entered in this year’s competition and the nominees were judged by a panel of some of the most prominent photographers, editors and educators in visual journalism in North America.
Smith was also a runner-up for photojournalist of the year, won by John Lehmann from the Globe and Mail. Smith’s 12-photo submission for the category included a photo from his ongoing coverage of 10-year-old Tatyanna Zazalak who lives with Batten disease, a rare disorder that has stolen her sight, speech and ability to move.
It’s long-term projects such as that one that feed Smith’s passion for photography.
“It’s what drives me,” he said. “The reason I do photography is not because it’s a nine-to-five job, not because I can get paid to do it ... it’s a passion and it’s something inside me that I need to do to express myself and to tell these stories.”
Smith is working on about six long-term projects right now, including an ongoing five-year photo documentation of some of southwestern Manitoba’s Hutterite colonies.
“My goal is to provide a balanced look inside colonies and the way colonies are changing and the way they’re adapting to change while holding onto traditions and values,” Smith said.
His ability to forge lasting relationships with the people he photographs also hasn’t gone unnoticed by some of the top editors in his field.
Smith recently returned from New York City for a portfolio review of his work with the Hutterite colonies. Smith’s work was lauded — and critiqued — by veteran photo editors of National Geographic, the New York Times and other international publications.
“I am so proud for Tim and for his whole family, as they must be incredibly supportive of all the extra time he puts into his photo projects,” said the Sun’s managing editor James O’Connor.
O’Connor, a former newspaper photographer, said he’s dedicated to maintaining a fully staffed photo department.
“While Tim might be the high-profile award winner of the Sun’s three-person photo department, Bruce Bumstead specializes in community outreach, such as mentoring high school students and giving presentations to schools, as he’s doing this week,” O’Connor said.
“Colin Corneau is dedicated to old-school film technology and produces some brilliant art shows that have been exhibited in Brandon and across Canada.”
Smith is no stranger to the NPAC competition. In 2008, he received an honorable mention in the feature category and placed second in the same category the next year. In 2010, he finished first in three categories: feature, pictorial and portrait, and took home photo of the year.
“It’s great that the Brandon Sun has a commitment to photojournalism and visual storytelling alongside its reporting, because it is an extremely important element,” Smith said.
“It’s my passion. I don’t know what the heck I’d do if I didn’t have that outlet.”
The work of Sun photographers, including their passion projects and long-term projects, are featured in the Exposure section of Sun’s Weekend magazine every Saturday.
Meanwhile, Sun crime reporter Ian Hitchen has also been nominated for a national award.
Hitchen is one of four nominees for the local reporting award in the 65th National Newspaper Awards competition. Winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in Charlottetown on Friday.
The nomination recognizes Hitchen’s continuing coverage of allegations that children in a close-knit Manitoba Old Order Mennonite community had been physically abused, some with a cattle prod.
Photojournalists from the Winnipeg Free Press, the Sun’s sister publication, brought home some hardware as well. Joe Bryksa and Melissa Tait took first place for multimedia team for their feature on deaf swimming, while Ruth Bonneville won first place for feature photo.
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