Photographer: Mark Dawson
Former Chicagoan Tajeria Beacham walks out her apartment in Iowa City, Iowa
Photographer: Rachel Mummey
CQ Smith gets his picture taken by Douglas Walker during a controlled prairie fire at Grant Wood Elementary School in Iowa City, Iowa
Photographer: Rachel Mummey
Nov 23, 2010
By Colleen Kiphart
Rachel Mummey, a master's student in the School of Visual Communication (VisCom) has been named the 65th College Photographer of the Year (CPOY). As winner, she will be awarded equipment and additional educational opportunities.
The College Photographer of the Year Competition was founded by Cliff and Vi Edom in 1945. The University of Missouri administers the worldwide contest with support from its co-sponsor, Nikon Inc.
To Mummey, who also came in first and second place in the "Documentary" category, the victory was a total surprise.
"I felt certain that I'd get knocked out of the competition, but both my submissions won! And, all my friends got really excited," said Mummey. "I'm like, 'Yeah right nothing is going to happen.' So, I was in total disbelief that I got that phone call on Thursday [Nov. 11] night and was told that I was the 65th College Photographer of the Year."
Mummey graduated from the University of Iowa in 2006 with degrees in journalism and fine arts. The school didn't have a photojournalism program, so she frequently found herself trying to tailor her two majors to fit her ambitions. In 2008, she applied and was accepted into the master's program in VisCom.
"It's amazing to think how much moving to Ohio and VisCom has changed the whole course of my life," said Mummey. "It was that moment that I accepted that everything changed for me. It had been a turning point."
That humility and drive has marked Mummey's time in the VisCom program.
"She is a hard worker that really came into the program realizing she had less experience and she made up for it by sheer tenacity and work," said Terry Eiler, director of VisCom.
To help Mummey address some issues she had with visual storytelling, Eiler suggested a summer workshop. She took advantage of the opportunity and lessons gleaned there can be seen in her winning series.
"One of the comments the COPY judges made was that they were impressed with the storytelling throughout my projects," said Mummey.
Eiler said Mummey significantly improved her skills over the course of a year.
"In terms of just Rachel's ability, she won one award last year in the competition and this year she really dominated," Eiler said. "It's exciting to see a young talent do that, and it's really propelled her onto a series of good internships."
Mummey's first-place documentary photographs are of displaced African-American communities in her hometown of Iowa City, Iowa, and were the result of a capstone magazine class. Her second-place work followed a year in the life of an elderly couple in an isolated rural setting. The male subject, Bernard, was caring for his wife, Mary, who has Alzheimer's disease.
Mummey also came in first in "Individual Multimedia or Essay" category and second in the "Pictorial" category.
"I just wanted to witness and be a witness to people's lives," she said. "I always have been quick to defend people who are judged quickly, and I always feel like I'm there as the devil's advocate."
Her quiet demeanor and humble attitude have endeared her to those around her and has opened many doors for her, often making subjects feel comfortable enough to allow her to see them in their most vulnerable state.
"She's a very gentle and quiet and caring person who sometimes gets more access than she really wants or should have," Eiler said.
The photo competition isn't Mummey's only victory. The young photographer, who always had near-perfect vision, spent many years dealing with the effects of Blepharophimosis Ptosis Epicanthus Inversus Syndrome (BPES).
She explained that, "It affects the development of the eyelids while in the womb. It's pretty rare. Part of my application to graduate school was a documentary of a young girl who had BPES – she was the only other person I had met at that point in my life affected by the syndrome."
Mummey underwent five surgeries on her eyelids between ages 5 and 23 to maintain her peripheral vision. The surgeries increased the size of the opening through which she sees.
"I think I was always trying to cope with being different from other kids," Mummey said. "Art in general was a way for me to express myself in a way that I don't think I could have verbally. I guess in a way, photography has always been a way that I can prove to myself as well as to others that I can see, not only as a function of my body but distinctively with creative sensibilities."
For Mummey, the victory is just part of a greater joy that she gets from knowing she's doing what she loves.
"When I'm looking through the lens of a camera I am just so happy and hopeful," Mummey said. "Anything can happen."
Ohio University bested all colleges and universities in overall awards in the contest. OHIO took home 21 awards, which is 26 percent of the total given.
Complete list of Ohio University winners:
• College Photographer of the Year, Rachel Mummey
• Spot news, Award of Excellence, Brad Vest
• Spot news, Award of Excellence, Ryan Young
• General news, Award of Excellence, Dan Krauss
• Feature, Silver, Tracie Van Auken
• Feature, Bronze, Brad Vest
• Sports action, Award of Excellence, Joel Hawksley
• Sports feature, Bronze, Brooke LaValley
• Portrait, Gold, Maddie McGarvey
• Portrait, Bronze, Dania Patricia Maxwell
• Portrait, Award of Excellence, Andrew Spear
• Pictorial, Silver, Rachel Mummey
• Domestic Picture Story, Gold, Ross Brinkerhoff
• International Picture Story, Bronze, Amanda Steen
• Documentary, Gold, Rachel Mummey
• Documentary, Silver, Rachel Mummey
• Documentary, Award of Excellence, Andrew Spear
• Documentary, Award of Excellence, Andrea Morales
• Sports Portfolio, Bronze, Joel Hawksley
• Portfolio, Award of Excellence, Andrew Spear
• Individual Multimedia or Essay, Gold, Rachel Mummey