Rick Gershon ('04) first took a newspaper photo in 2000 as a favor to his mother's employer -- the editor of the Pilot Point Post-Signal , his hometown newspaper.
"I was home over Christmas break during my freshman year, and the editor asked me if I could cover some high school basketball," Gershon says. "I took a camera along to shoot photos, and taking photos turned out to be fun."
The editor, David Lewis, praised the photos, telling Gershon that nearly every shot on the roll of film was good.
Realizing he may have a hidden talent, Gershon enrolled in a photography class when he returned to UNT for Spring 2001. He soon switched his radio, television and film major to photojournalism.
Four short years later, he has received one of the highest honors for photography majors. Gershon was named the College Photographer of the Year by the University of Missouri School of Journalism and Kappa Alpha Mu, a national honorary photojournalism society. The nationwide competition, which awards prizes in 13 other categories in addition to naming the three top college photographers of the year, has been held every year since 1945.
Gershon, who is currently a freelance photographer for the Dallas Morning News, was presented with his award in April. He received a plaque, a $1,000 scholarship from the National Press Photographers Foundation and a Leica M7 camera.
His winning portfolio includes 37 photos, some in photographic essays and others as stand-alone images. The two essays feature a Chinese orphan brought to America to receive craniofacial reconstructive surgery and the plight of South African children whose parents have died of AIDS.
The stand-alone images include several sports photos, some of which were shot for the North Texas Daily when Gershon was on staff. He played on the Mean Green football team his freshman year and says he enjoys shooting sports images, but he adds that shooting them "just pays the bills."
He prefers photographic essays.
"When I took my first photojournalism class, I discovered the impact that images have on society," he says.
Gershon hopes eventually to earn a seminary degree and incorporate his photographic talent into a ministry with teenagers.
"My passion is working in youth ministry," he says. "I like doing issue-related stories that have an impact on Americans and that can speak to modern youth, showing them that there’s more to life than materialism."
In the meantime, he has applied for an internship with National Geographic to "learn from the best photo staff in the world."
"I want to grow as much as I can in storytelling ability through photography," he says.
Gershon received his idea for the photographic essay “A Chance at Joy” when Dallas Morning News photographer Louis DeLuca and DeLuca’s wife, Dinah, became foster parents to Fu Yang. The Chinese orphan was brought to America in 2003 to receive craniofacial reconstructive surgery. The photos appeared in the 2004 issue of Cover magazine, published by UNT’s Mayborn Graduate Institute of Journalism. Gershon's photographic essay "An Uncertain Future" tells the plight of South African children orphaned when their parents died of AIDS. "My goal in doing that story was to show the trauma that the children were facing," he says.