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Column: Republic staff members earn judges’ acclaim

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Some jaw-dropping winning entries highlighted last weekend’s Indiana News Photographers Association’s 2013 photo contest.

Chief Photographer Andrew Laker, a 10-year member of the Republic staff, captured three first-place honors distributed in 14 categories of open-division judging.

Laker competed shoulder to shoulder, or shooter to shooter, against the best photographers in the state, no matter what size of newspaper they represented. When all the results were tabulated, he finished among the top three in the contest.

Two of Laker’s first-place photos looked familiar when I got a chance to view the results:

The winner in General News showed jail chaplain Burt Powell praying with prisoners Kurtis Findley and Matt McKay in July at the Bartholomew County Jail. The visual contrast was clear between the tattoo-bearing prisoners and 85-

year-old Powell, who has been ministering to inmates at the jail for 25 years. What these subjects had in common, however, was an emotional bond, which the photo powerfully demonstrated.

The top Sports Action photo showed Columbus North’s Olivia Stewart colliding with Columbus East’s Hayden Lang during the October sectional soccer championship at the Richard Wigh Soccer Complex. You could see and feel the force of the collision just by looking at the girls’ faces, surely what the contest judges also saw.

But the third first-place entry was one that took me aback — not that Laker won, but that I didn’t remember having seen this state-best photo in The Republic.

It turned out my memory hadn’t failed me. Laker’s winning entry in the Illustration category never appeared in the newspaper. It was taken for a different purpose, to enter a contest sponsored by the Petco retail store for its annual Make a Scene Photo Contest.

Indiana News Photographers Association entries do not have to be published in the newspaper. It only matters that they were taken during the contest year by a member photographer.

There is an interesting story behind that entry, one worth sharing.

The dog featured in the photo is Hoagie, a 12-year-old Pembroke Welsh Corgi Laker rescued from the Columbus animal shelter in 2007.

Yes, that’s a hunting cap and flannel shirt Hoagie is wearing, which Laker and his wife, Amy, a former Republic page designer and copy editor, rescued from a local thrift shop.

In the background, nailed to the wall of the Lakers’ Columbus basement, are some of Hoagie’s actual toys, mounted on plaques that Amy picked up at a local store, with glue and nails holding things together.

Laker’s photo illustration won first place in the pet dog category, earning a Petco gift certificate worth $500. The cat contest winner also earned a $500 gift certificate, as did the non-dog/non-cat “other” category winner.

All three competed for the $25,000 cash grand prize, which went to the contestant who photographed a pet mouse dressed as Marty McFly from the “Back to the Future” movies.

It’s tough to compete against a McFlying mouse.

Laker wasn’t the only local winner in the state news photographers contest.

Chet Strange, a 2013 Indiana University graduate who joined The Republic as a staff photographer in November, competed in the college division, entering photos he shot before coming to Columbus.

Strange’s four award-winning entries:

Third place in College News Photo for a picture of Indiana University Police Department Capt. Thomas Lee during a heated exchange with a campus protestor.

Honorable mention in College News Photo: Appellate Court Judge Vicki Wright surveying damage to her historic office in Prophetstown, Ill., after a fire swept through the downtown.

Honorable mention in Feature Photo: Fisherman casting lines at Davenport, Iowa, along the Mississippi River after flooding left them standing in water up to their knees.

Honorable mention in Sports Photo: PGA golf pro Zack Johnson dropping his club and falling to his knees after a bad chip cost him the John Deere Classic in Moline, Ill.

The three later photos were taken during Strange’s internship with the Moline Dispatch.

Day after day, Republic readers are treated to high-quality photos from these exceptional photographers. I hope you will join me in saying “Nice job, guys.”

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