April 29, 2014

Tezak wins second top student photo honor

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A recent graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s photojournalism program earned top student honors from the Illinois Press Photographers Association for a second straight year.

Jessica Tezak of Carbondale won the association’s student photographer of the year award earlier this month.  Tezak, the daughter of Ellen and Richard Tezak of Joliet, earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism with a specialization in photojournalism in December 2013.  She is preparing for a three-month internship with the Chicago Tribune this summer.

Tezak’s award was for a portfolio comprised of 33 images of single photographs and photo stories. The competition was open to all students attending Illinois schools and students from Illinois who attend out-of-state schools.

“It’s a great feeling to know that people I look up to see potential in me and enjoy my photos,” she said.  “I have a lot of fun when I am shooting and most of those photos hold a lot of great memories so I feel lucky that I was able to receive awards for doing something that I love.”

Mark Dolan, assistant professor in the School of Journalism, said Tezak’s win is “a great example for our other students and gives our students something to shoot for.”  This is the third straight top student photographer award for SIU; Brooke Stevens won the award in 2012.

Tezak said that Dolan and Philip Greer, photojournalist in residence, “have pushed and encouraged” all photojournalism students from the start of classes.

“They always let us know that winning awards is awesome, but it doesn’t mean that you are done taking photos and telling stories,” she said.  “Phil would probably say, ‘You won an award yesterday, but what did you do today?’ That mentality, I hope, has rubbed off on me a little.

“Being in the photojournalism program at SIU has helped me to understand the importance of photos and why I want to continue taking them.  We are lucky to have professors that genuinely care about us,” Tezak said.