POY RJI | Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute

A Brief History of POY

Pictures of the Year International began as a photographic contest in 1944 by Cliff Edom at the Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia, Missouri. It was called the “First Annual Fifty-Print Exhibition.” Its purpose was, “to pay tribute to those press photographers and newspapers which, despite tremendous war-time difficulties, are doing a splendid job; to provide an opportunity for photographers of the nation to meet in open competition; and to compile and preserve... a collection of the best in current, home-front press pictures.”

Cliff Edom followed up in 1945 to found a collegiate photo competition, College Photographer of the Year. CPOY turns 75 this year. It has evolved and experienced many changes on its own. Because of the pandemic, it was held virtually this year with great success. More than 600 students entered, representing 29 countries and about 130 universities. Winning entries are posted at www.cpoy.org.

POY also continued to grow. In 1948, invited magazine photographers to participate and the Fifty-Print Exhibition Contest became the News Pictures of the Year Contest. Then, in 1957, the University of Missouri and the National Press Photographers Association, NPPA), merged their respective contests. “Pictures of the Year” was born.

Guided by directors Angus McDougall and Bill Kuykendall, the scope of POY changed dramatically through the 1990s. The number of entered images increased to tens of thousands, and Pictures of the Year became an international program. In 2001 NPPA and Missouri parted ways and POY became “Pictures of the Year International” and continued to evolve and inspire new efforts.

In 2011, POY partnered with Dr. Loup Langton and Dr. Pablo Corral Vega, who founded POY Latam as a competition in Latin America. Celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year, POY Latam has become the largest and one of the most important programs of its kind in Ibero-America. To honor the work that photographers, writers and artists are creating during COVID, POY Latam has created an online magazine: https://poylatam.org/revista/.

And, new this year, we are proud to announce the formation of POY Asia. Headed by Tay Kay Chin of Singapore, Tanya Habjouqa of Jordan, Prashant Panjiar of India and Maye-E Wong of Singapore/New York, POY Asia is committed to seeing the world from an Asian perspective and celebrating excellence in documentary and artistic photography throughout the continent. You can visit the site at https://poyasia.org.

At its heart, POY is an educational program. Connecting student and the public with the curated work in POY shows the value of photojournalism and allows people to interpret the news and historic events through an empathetic lens. For the students who visit or work directly with POY and the jury panel, it can be a humbling, inspiring and even transformative experience. In all of our efforts we hold to the guiding principle set forth by POY founder Cliff Edom, “Show truth with a camera.”