In a competition branded as “one of the most prestigious journalism awards in mid-America,” judges awarded T.J. Thomson, 22, of Golden, Colo., the 2013 Student Photographer of the Year title May 17 in Tulsa, Okla.
The eight-state competition includes Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota.A host of blue-ribbon journalists, including Pulitzer-Prize winners Barbara Davidson of the Los Angeles Times, Lane DeGregory of the Tampa Bay Times, and Louise Kiernan of Northwestern University judged almost 800 entries from an eight-state region during the annual Great Plains Journalism Awards competition.
Thomson earned the accolade for photography he produced during his senior year at Chadron State College in Chadron, Neb. While at Chadron State, Thomson founded a student magazine, ACCLAIM, and published a photo essay, “Firestorm,” in the magazine with images he took of a massive wildfire that threatened the college and consumed more than 86,000 acres in the fall of 2012.
Thomson submitted the photo essay to competition coordinators Jan. 28, 2013. After three months, the awards committee chair informed him April 18 that he was a finalist in the Student Photographer of the Year category.
During the afternoon of May 18, Thomson found out judges had awarded him the top photography spot while celebrating his sister’s graduation with his family.
“I am truly thankful for my friends and colleagues who supported and enabled me to win this award,” Thomson said. “From my former editor at The Eagle [Chadron State’s award-winning student newspaper] who encouraged me to pursue photography to my faculty adviser who mentored me constantly, I would not be where I am without their support.”