Graduate film student Tania Cattebeke Laconich wins first Moody College of Communication photojournalism contest

Aaron Sullivan, General News Reporter

The Moody College of Communication opened its second photojournalism gallery exhibit on Thursday, where a collection of photos from graduate film student Tania Cattebeke Laconich is displayed after her work was crowned “Best in Show.”

Contest participants submitted a series of five photos with captions to tell a cohesive narrative arc. Cattebeke Laconich, one of 32 students who competed, said the images she submitted were taken for UT photography classes. 

“I was experimenting with a lot of narratives,” Cattebeke Laconich said. “I met this woman (at Mueller Park). She was just walking with her daughter having a Sunday walk around the park.”

Cattebeke Laconich said she tried strobe lighting effects when taking pictures at the park, also taking pictures of at least ten other people at the park. Her displayed photo features a young woman standing with confidence and ease. 

“It was a very quick thing,” Cattebeke Laconich said. “It’s not like other pictures (where) it took me hours to get to that specific situation. She was so empowered. She looks so self-confident in the picture.”

The contest’s judge Jasmine DeFoore said she looked for compelling storytelling and technical knowledge of photography within the submissions. She gained her experience judging professional juried photography contests and curating gallery shows in New York like the Magenta Foundation.

“There was something really beautiful about Tania’s portrait,” UT journalism alumna DeFoore said. “The (subject’s) gaze was thoughtful and relaxed. You could tell the person wasn’t intimidated or nervous to have their picture taken.”

Photojournalism associate professor Donna DeCesare, who co-curated the gallery, said juried contests are important in building a photographer’s portfolio. She said she and her co-curator, photojournalism assistant professor Raymond Thompson Jr., have experience judging professional shows worldwide, but did not for this contest in order to legitimize it.

“A juried show matters,” DeCesare said. “That’s one of the reasons why Raymond and I decided not to judge. (Because) your professor doesn’t carry the same weight as having an esteemed outside juror.”

Cattebeke Laconich said the photography classes she’s taken at UT helped prepare her for this contest, particularly her studio and documentary photography classes. She said the classes provided a strong technical foundation and introduced her to the techniques she used in her winning photos.

“It’s always interesting (to compete),” Cattebeke Laconich said. “Not for the fact of winning something, but for the fact of sharing your love with other people in a similar stage of their career.”