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Cara Owsley

Cara Owsley, a photojournalist and the Director of Photography at The Cincinnati Enquirer, has played an integral part in covering countless news stories, but there’s one story, in particular, that will always stick with her. “Several years ago, I learned about a young girl battling cancer. Her grandparents cared for her, also while trying to renovate their home to make it wheelchair accessible,” she remembers.

“I was able to follow her journey of chemotherapy treatments while a local church worked on the home renovations. After the first story was published, a nonprofit contacted us to offer help to the girl and her family. The nonprofit built the family a new home. Being a voice to that girl and family is one reason why I love my job.”

In more than two decades covering the news for publications like The Times-Picayune (New Orleans), The Sun Herald (Biloxi, Mississippi), and The Repository (Canton, Ohio), amplifying the voices of the people in her community has been at the heart of everything Owsley does. She stayed in touch with the girl she photographed all those years ago; she’s been cancer-free for nine years now.

This year, we’re honored to have Owsley as one of the judges for the Feature Shoot Emerging Photography Awards. In anticipation of our deadline (entries close September 3rd!), we asked the photojournalist to tell us more about her work at The Cincinnati Enquirer, including the story that won the newspaper a Pulitzer Prize in the local reporting category.

Cara Owsley edits photos from the trunk of her vehicle after covering a Black Lives Matter protest in the summer of 2020 in a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio.

Please walk us through a day in your life as Director of Photography at the Cincinnati Enquirer. 

“My day can be hectic with planning meetings, sometimes as many as seven in one day. When breaking news happens, that can make the day even more challenging. At times, I have had to reschedule assignments to cover the breaking news or cover the assignments myself. The rewarding aspect of my job is seeing my team succeed on their daily photo assignments/projects and helping them with photo editing and seeing the projects through production and publication. I also still shoot a couple of days, outside of a breaking news week, which is truly my first love.”

A page from Seven Days, a 20-page special section on the heroin epidemic in Cincinnati. The project won a Pulitzer for local news reporting. Owsley was a photojournalist and photo editor for the project.

Your team won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018, with you taking on the role of both a photojournalist and photo editor. Could you tell us about the project and why it was so important to ensure this story was told, shared, and understood? 

“The heroin epidemic had been a huge topic in the Cincinnati area for a while, but we wanted to show what’s going on in the community, every hour of every day, and how it impacted front line workers, families, and others who work to help those battling with addiction.”

What role do you see local journalism and daily newspapers taking in the next year? The next ten years? How do you see them changing or evolving?

“I think we will continue to see local journalism and newspapers try to keep up with whatever technology or social media site that becomes popular. I think now more than ever people are looking for stories that are uplifting or stories that can help inform or help others in their communities.”

The front page of The Cincinnati Enquirer, June 2, 2020, of the fourth day of demonstrations during the racial awakening of 2020.

What kind of work are you looking forward to seeing in the Emerging Photography Awards?

“I am looking forward to seeing the talent of photographers I have never seen. I have been a photojournalist/news photographer for over 25 years and have a tendency to only look at work of other photojournalists that I know. Photography can be a very competitive business to get into; I think social media has made it more popular. I would like to be a part of someone who is emerging to get a chance of their work being seen by a larger audience.”

Cara’s favorite photos from 2020.

The 7th Annual Feature Shoot Emerging Photography Awards are now open for single-image entries as well as series submissions. Cara Owsley will be one of our series judges. Learn more about the awards, this year’s prizes, and our esteemed jury panel by visiting our website.

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