Newhouse-trained photographers nab top honors in College Photographer of the Year competition

By Wendy S. Loughlin

November 8, 2019

Two photographers trained at the Newhouse School have received top honors in the College Photographer of the Year (CPOY) competition, the most prestigious and longest standing visual journalism competition for college students in the world.

Graham Dickie, who during the spring 2019 semester was a visiting Alexia Foundation scholar at Newhouse, was named College Photographer of the Year. Maranie Staab, a graduate student in Newhouse’s multimedia, photography and design (MPD) program, was named Runner-Up College Photographer of the Year.

Dickie won for his portfolio of images comprising work he produced at Newhouse and for his Alexia Grant project. Alexia Grants are administered by the Newhouse School’s Alexia Tsairis Chair in Documentary Photography, Mike Davis.

Staab’s winning portfolio included images documenting the female refugee experience in Central New York and the life of a local girl diagnosed with a Wilm’s Tumor, a rare form of childhood kidney cancer.

“To have one student win the top award in CPOY is a big deal. For students from one school to take both top spots has only happened one other time in the last 16 years. It’s a really big deal,” Davis says.

Dickie is a photographer and filmmaker from Austin and an alumnus of the University of Texas. He also has professional experience as a writer and audio storyteller.

“Photography to me represents a search for authenticity and closeness. Instead of seeing a camera as something that creates distance or injects performance into life, I like to think of it as a means for creating intimacy with the world and people I feel connected to,” Dickie says. “Photography has been a balm in my life and a way of finding an existence that means something to me.”

Dickie credits Davis and Professor Greg Heisler with having pushed him to “dig deeper into what all this is about.”

Staab, a native of the Pittsburgh area, left a corporate job in 2015 to pursue photography full time. Her work focuses on human rights and social justice issues.

“Photography, for me, is a way to connect to people, and to tell stories I feel are important or under discussed,” Staab says. “I am driven by curiosity about the world—about people and places. Photography is a way for me to better understand them, to capture those moments, and to communicate with the world those things I have seen and experienced.”

About being a photographer, Staab says, “I don’t want to do anything else with my life. It is a privilege to be let into people’s lives, and I hope to do their stories justice.”

Staab also won Gold, Bronze and Award of Excellence recognitions in the Feature category of the competition; Silver in the Illustration category; Award of Excellence in the Documentary category; and Bronze in the Multimedia: Individual Story or Essay – Standalone category.

Additional Syracuse University students honored in this year’s competition were Hieu Nguyen, a senior in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, and Gabrielle Cavallaro, a graduate MPD student, who won Gold and Bronze awards, respectively, in the Illustration category; and Laura Oliverio, a sophmore photography major, and Jordan Larson, a graduate MPD student, who both won Awards of Excellence in the Interpretive Eye category.

Newhouse students won more awards in this year’s CPOY competition than students from any other school in the world, according to Davis.