Vernon’s Maggie MacPherson is a photojournalist with CBC Vancouver who recently captured the top Personality award in the 13th annual National Pictures of the Year competition. (Elena Sarasom photo)

Vernon photojournalist captures national honour

Maggie MacPherson and fellow CBC Vancouver colleague win at National Pictures of the Year

Her love of photography started when she was a student at Vernon’s W.L. Seaton Secondary. That’s when her parents gave Maggie MacPherson an Olympus point-and-shoot camera.

Since graduating from Seaton in 2007, MacPherson has upgraded her equipment and turned a hobby into a career.

MacPherson and fellow CBC Vancouver colleague Ben Nelms were recently named winners in the 13th annual National Pictures of the Year competition.

A fan of portrait photography, MacPherson won the Personality category for her portrait of Stephen (Red) Robinson, a former resident of Vancouver’s infamous Downtown Eastside.

“I met Stephen while shooting stills at a press conference in Oppenheimer Park,” MacPherson said. “Red and about 100 other people were living in the park’s tent city at the time. I asked if he would be comfortable with me following him around for a day and he liked the idea of sharing his reality with the public. The winning portrait is a photo from that photo story.

“I saw Red a couple of times while on assignment after that, then one day his tent was gone. Near the end of the year, I bumped into Red while he was visiting the park and he told me that he had received housing.

“I like shooting portraits slightly more than anything else because I love connecting with people. I am fascinated with what they might share with my camera in those moments. The other day I had a total blast shooting a roll of toilet paper though – so as long as there is a camera in my hands I’m pretty happy.”

Nelms won photojournalist of the year for a portfolio of work. He was also nominated for spot news.

“I am honoured to call Ben Nelms my colleague at CBC Vancouver,” MacPherson said. “His work is so stunning and sets a high standard that I strive to meet every day.”

MacPherson attended Toronto’s Ryerson University, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Radio and Television, a “fantastic hands-on communications program that allowed me to learn a wide range of skills although my focus was on cinematography and lighting.” It was there that MacPherson bought her first DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera, a Canon Rebel T2i.

“That camera was so special,” said MacPherson, 30, employed by CBC Vancouver. “I went from being a hobbyist to a professional with that camera because digital made experimenting and learning so accessible.

“I happily let it consume my life.”

MacPherson fully believes photographs are vital in today’s media world as society, she said, is bombarded with an overwhelming amount of information. But a good photo can draw people into a story with one glance.

“In that single glance, we make very quick conclusions about what’s happening in that frame and this could be accurate or completely inaccurate,” she said. “A good photojournalist works to provide a window into the situation with as little bias as possible.

“…It might seem efficient for a journalist to do their job and also gather all their own visuals but at a certain point the quality will suffer and the story won’t be able to rise above the noise. People are hungry, now more than ever, for really high-quality journalism, captivating storytelling and visuals that take our breath away.”

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Vernon photojournalist Maggie MacPherson won the Personality honour in the 13th annual National Pictures of the Year competition for this portrait photo of former Vancouver tent city resident Stephen James (Red) Robinson at Oppenheimer Park. (Maggie MacPherson - CBC photo)

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