Current, former CM Life photographers win MPPA awards

Katy Kildee/Staff Photographer Mount Pleasant sophomore Shannon Millard listens intently to award winning independent photographer Matt Eich of Virginia, one of the three judges for this year's Michigan Press Photographers Association seminar on Saturday in Lansing.

Central Michigan Life photographer Daytona Niles and other CM Life alumni came away winners at the 2014 Michigan Press Photographers Association seminar in Lansing this weekend.

Neil Blake, Jake May, Sean Proctor, Jeffrey Smith and Zachary Wittman are former CM Life photographers who won MPPA awards.

As the multimedia specialist at The Flint Journal, May won third place in the Photographer of the Year Award category while Whittman won first place in the category for the second year in a row.

Niles, a Sand Lake sophomore, who took third place for College Photographer of the Year Award, submitted a photo story about Mixed Martial Arts fighter and mother Autumn Flynn. Niles, who started at CM Life last fall, said she shot more than 3,000 photos of Flynn.

From snapping photos of Flynn fighting in the octagon or watching her search for her wedding dress, the photos she took were whittled down to just eight for the competition with the help of freelance photographer Danny Wilcox Frazier and Midland Daily News photographer Sean Proctor. Proctor went on to take first place in Photographer of the Year as another CM Life alumni.

"Danny looked through them and told me what I should be looking for," she said. "It's a process. I'd take like 1,000 photos then take 30 then break it down to one."

Starting at CM Life last fall, Niles said the award is the first she's ever won and it won't be the last.

"I'm a pretty young shooter," she said. "I definitely know what my flaws are and what in my portfolio brings me down. I have a lot of people who I look up to and want to get to their level."

May, who is also the president of MPPA, said three judges from out-of-state are brought in to judge the competitions.

"They live judge what they think about our photos," May said. "We let them decide what's the best in Michigan."

He submitted a 36-photo portfolio documenting his time in Flint during 2013.

Wittman interned at The Flint Journal from June 2013 to January 2014.

Wittman's award-winning portfolio comprised a story about the Genesse County Warrior Dash, which won first place in the sports story category as well as other photos from events he covered during his internship.

"My portfolio is almost all photos I took while interning at The Flint Journal," Wittman said. "There was a photo from a graduation that I covered. It's just an eclectic mix of my photos."

He said the photos showcased his talents.

"There was a photo of a drunk driving accident and that illustrates how I can shoot spot news and different categories, but I am still able to maintain and shoot my own style," Wittman said.

He also won first place last year in the Feature Story category and had an Honorable Mention in the Single Feature category.


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