Well, obviously there are different organizations, of varying size and import that can & do give awards for news, sports, feature photo, etc.
These are not to be confused with wedding photo contest awards and the like. It's a different animal. Many wedding photographers pay fees to enter these contests, so they can build their credentials competing against other wedding photographers. We've done it, it's nothing to be ashamed of. It's just different.
Journalists have a code of ethics they have to adhere to--it's not art for art's sake when you shoot professionally for a daily paper. Does that make photojournalism superior to artful wedding photography?
For us, it comes down to a matter of what you like. We like to use a little bit of what we've learned through the years as journalists, artists, and people who just flat-out like good photos.
But for the record, because it should be said, Stephen has won his awards not from wedding contests, but from an impartial jury of journalists, who selected his work to be the best, among all the photographers from all these newspapers (and some that were not mentioned on that page). This is a remarkable achievement for any career professional, and if he'd done it once or twice--maybe it could be passed off as lucky, or the whims of judges. Steve won these awards twelve times in five years.
I am not just trying to brag on him--but it was brought to my attention today that "award-winning photography" has become a commonly-tossed around phrase. I'm not degrading other sources of awards, or other styles and organizations. I will say that photojournalists are extremely competitive, and it is a difficult field to break into. Of the 50+ graduating photojournalists from Steve's class at Ball State, for instance, there were only two who got a job upon graduation.
"The competitiveness of photojournalism inspires you to do your best work. Any situation can lead to solid photography, but award-winning photography comes when you can capture the emotion and tell a story." That's Steve's explanation.
As for me, I see Steve's devotion to his work as secondary to his natural talent. I believe he won his awards as a working photojournalist--and continues to take superior photographs in all circumstances--because of that combination of talent, creativity, and competitiveness, all driving him to do his best. He doesn't ever stop striving to do better work.
"You're only as good as your last photograph," he says. If anyone has earned the right to rest on his laurels, it is he. But that's just not in his nature. Every shoot, whether it is commercial photography, your wedding, or a Friday night basketball game, is a new and welcome challenge to Steve. I think it shows--but it shows probably the best in his wedding and engagement photos.