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2021 BOP Competition Committee

It’s an understatement to say that 2020 has been a challenging year for the world. We’ve experienced tense social dynamics and pivotal events that many of us couldn’t have imagined – much less attempted to cover. But true to the human experience, we all found a way to prevail under a semblance of new normalcy. Our industry was no exception to the downsides of these life-changing occurrences.

But like the millions of others affected, photographers, videographers and visual editors found a way to make it work. You did what you do. You made impactful pictures, powerful videos, and told poignant stories across the board. As work became nearly nonexistent for some of our colleagues and the assignment loads became feather-light for others, you responsibly masked up, hit the streets and made images that brilliantly defined this difficult period in time. To your credit, many of these chronicles were self-generated.

For our 2021 Best of Photojournalism contest, we want to enhance NPPA’s tradition of celebrating the results of your labor, vision and tenacity by recognizing the absolute best of the best. I’m especially honored to be the new chairman for this year’s competition and our division chairpersons are just as committed as I am to help this competitive experience be a fruitful one for you.

We have some returning members to BOP’s executive team, buoyed by two new ones. All of them have a broad range of experience in visual communications across multiple platforms, and their skills and qualifications will be a paramount element to what we want to accomplish this round. We added new categories to our existing lineup and repurposed others that speak specifically to the social issues raised during recent months.

We’re also revising our contest’s online experience to help you navigate our website with greater ease with a new site design and development by Seth Gitner and site design by Michael Johnson.

We all want BOP to continue its growth and relevance within the photo community and to be a place where great work shines. As always, your valued participation is key to making that happen.

We enthusiastically look forward to the work that you’ll submit. We’re sure it will be amazing.

Dudley M. Brooks
BOP Contest Chairman

Best of Photojournalism 2021 Division Chairpersons

Dudley M. Brooks

Dudley M. Brooks is the Deputy Director of Photography for The Washington Post, where he manages the creative strategy and production of photo content for the Features and Sports sections. He is also the Photo Editor for The Washington Post Magazine. Proceeding this, Brooks was the Director of Photography and Senior Photo Editor for the monthly magazine Ebony and its weekly sister periodical Jet - both published by Johnson Publishing Company in Chicago. These iconic publications chronicled the African American experience for over seven decades and he was a key member of the senior staff responsible for redefining the overall editorial content of each. Before returning to the Post in 2014, Brooks also served as the Assistant Managing Editor of Photography at The Baltimore Sun newspaper (2005-2007).

Bret Akagi

Brett is the chair for the Video Photojournalism division. An NPPA BOP Runner-Up Photographer of the Year, as the director of photography at KARE11, he led his staff to four NPPA BOP Large Market Station of the Year awards. Brett won NPPA regional photographer of the year, four years in a row. He earned national Edward R. Murrow awards at KARE11 and the Star Tribune, and regional Murrows at KARE11, the Star Tribune and KCTV5. He also has 24 regional Emmys from his work in four newsrooms. Some of his work was highlighted in the first edition of Al Tompkins’ book, “Aim for the Heart.”

A.J. Chavar

A.J. is heading the Online Video division. He’s a cinematographer, photographer, director, and producer. His visual journalism has been recognized with an Edward R. Murrow award and multiple honors from NPPA, WHNPA, POYI and the Capitol Emmys. He was previously a staff video journalist at The Washington Post and The New York Times, a producer with Apple News and a senior producer at Vox. A.J. has been behind his camera in every state (and most territories) in the U.S., and works independently out of New York City. He is a graduate of Syracuse University.

Linda Epstein

Linda joins our team as the new chair of the Still Photojournalism division. She’s a senior photo editor at Share America, a division of Global Public Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. Previously, Linda was a contract photo editor with The Washington Post, which included photo researcher for the Post database that won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting. Linda spent 15 years as senior photo editor for McClatchy-Tribune (formerly Knight Ridder/Tribune), handling all the photos for the McClatchy Washington Bureau's regional, national and foreign correspondents. Before KRT, she worked as a picture editor and assignments editor during her three years at The Washington Times. Linda started her journalism career as a photographer for several newspapers in Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey and Ohio. A graduate of Syracuse University, Linda is a member of the White House News Photographers Association and National Press Photographers Association. She served on NPPA’s Board of Directors as a regional director or associate director for over 10 years.

Danese Kenon

Danese is also new to our team and will take the helm of the Stills Picture Editing division. She is a dynamic visual educator with nearly two decades of photojournalism experience. Danese is the director of photography and video at the Philadelphia Inquirer. She teaches leadership and multimedia journalism at The Kalish and NPPA’s Multimedia Immersion video storytelling workshops and to student journalists in the National Association of Black Journalists. After receiving her bachelor’s in English from Virginia State University, she attended The Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida, as a Visual Fellow. She started her career as a photographer at The Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, N.Y., then earned a master’s in photography from the S.I. Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University. A Pulliam Fellowship took her to The Indianapolis Star, where she was a photographer, multimedia journalist and editor. She moved into management as assistant managing editor/visuals at the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and later as the deputy director of video/multimedia at the Tampa Bay Times.

Shawn Montano

Shawn will oversee the Video Editing division. Shawn has a passion for video editing, storytelling and teaching. In 2018 he joined the University of Northern Colorado’s Journalism and Media Studies program. He teaches Video Production, Digital Storytelling, Media Writing & Media Management. In his 20-year career before teaching, he worked for KPHO in Arizona and all 5 major stations in Denver; KUSA, KMGH, KCNC, KWGN, and KDVR. He's won 5 Heartland regional Emmys, an Edward R. Murrow award and 3 Colorado Broadcasters Association awards. He is a four-time winner of the National Press Photographers Association Video Editor of the Year award. Shawn is much more than a professor. He’s a manager, counselor, work-force trainer, comedian, motivational speaker and friend. He tells his students they are on a journey; he’s just the guide.