Kernel photo director Michael Reaves wins Kentucky Student Photographer of the Year

Michael Reaves and Taylor Pence pose for a photo with their KNPA Awards.

For the first time since the inception of the Kentucky News Photographers Association’s student contest more than 10 years ago, a UK student was named Kentucky Student Photographer of the Year.

Michael Reaves, a marketing and management senior and the director of photography for the Kentucky Kernel, won the award, along with other awards including 1st Place Pictorial and 1st Place Sports Action.

Kernel photo editor and marketing junior Taylor Pence also earned awards including 1st Place Illustration and 2nd Place Sports Action.

“The student contest was really strong, it was a pretty remarkable selection of images from all across the state,” said Jack Gruber, a judge for the contest and a staff photojournalist for USA Today.

The Kentucky Student Photographer of the Year is usually awarded to a student from a school with a traditional photojournalism program, like Western Kentucky University.

Reaves and Pence submitted photos from UK football games, the Breeders’ Cup and other events on campus, as well as photos from internships.

Reaves worked as a photojournalism intern at the Dallas Morning News during the summer of 2015.

Judges for the contest reviewed portfolios of students from UK, Western Kentucky University, University of Louisville and Morehead State University. The judges review the portfolios without knowing which photographer submitted them.

Gruber said Reaves’ portfolio stood out immediately, and said people would not ordinarily expect photos of such high caliber in a student competition.

“I’m just happy for the Kernel because Kentucky is a very competitive state,” Pence said. “This is the first time we’ve ever been able to compete with Western (Kentucky University). It’s just better knowing that we were able to hold our own against such strong competitors.”

Both Pence and Reaves said the award says more about UK and the Kernel than it says about them as individuals. With such steep competition, they both said the awards were humbling.

“It’s not about me,” Reaves said. “Awards are great, but I think it just affirms what we do.”

Michael Reaves:

  • Student Photographer of the Year
  • 1st place Pictorial
  • 1st place Sports Action
  • 2nd place Spot News
  • 2nd place Sports Feature
  • 3rd place Sports Feature
  • 3rd place Illustration
  • Honorable Mention Feature Picture
  • Honorable Mention Sports Picture Story

Taylor Pence:

  • 1st place Illustration
  • 2nd place Sports Action
  • 3rd place Sports Picture Story