Shafkat Anowar, an undergraduate student at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, won the Reid Blackburn Scholarship.
Living in Hawai‘i for the past four years, I have spent countless hours documenting and storytelling. Some were worth mentioning, while others are not. However, this story will always remain as one of my major accomplishments in my short career. In the beginning of the year, I told the story of a man named Francis. He lives with his seven dogs on the street by my house. Reaching out to him, I learned his reason for being homeless. Because most homeless shelters would not accept a person with so many dogs, he chose to remain on the streets with them. What I thought would be a simple YouTube video for a journalism class became a story that reconnected Francis to people of his past. Overnight, his family and friends began emailing me in an attempt to reconnect with Francis after they lost contact with him due to his struggle with drugs and alcohol It was a defining moment for me; it was the first time I witnessed the power of journalism. Humbled by these experiences, my motive for being a photojournalist is driven by my empathy for others. Journalists have the power to be the world’s storytellers. I hope to do this, whether it be documenting stories myself or encouraging others to do the same. Apart from this, I was chosen as a finalist for the Associated Press and Minnesota Public Radio News photo intern for Summer 2020. Unfortunately, they got canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. I won my first college photographer of the year award of excellence in the COVID-19 and spot news category. My other achievements include College Media Association Pinnacle Awards for breaking news and photo package, Associated College Press photo of the year award for general news and singles category, first place in student video news at Society of Professional Journalists Hawaii Chapter Excellence in Journalism Award.
Upon graduation, I want to leave my comfort zone and to find new places, people, stories and work for the wire service. For my last year at college, I am preparing myself to apply for a photojournalism internship. With my commitment to journalism I want to venture outside of my island lifestyle and to see what the vast mainland United States has to offer, but more than that I want to dive deeper into news and politic. Most of my work has been in news, but instead of just showing up at a scene and snapping away, I want to really get to know the people so that I can go beneath the surface and really get at the human element.