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Well, look at that. I just won two state press association awards.

I've been reguarly updating this blog and this website for the better part of a year now and one of the biggest things I've tried to avoid doing is bragging about myself or making it seem like I'm something more than I am.

In the grand scheme of things, I think I am a good photographer. Nothing more, nothing less.

I pride myself on working harder than anyone else in the room but, at the end of the day, I still see a number of flaws in my game and, while I am working on them, there are some photographs I have idolized for years whose work and abilities I envy with every click of the button.

I say all that to say this: Deep down while I think I'm good, I know I can be better.

And that's why what happened to me last Friday night at the Rhode Island Press Association's annual banquet was incredibly humbling.

For those of you that are reading this blog and don't follow me on Facebook or Twitter, let me explain.

Every spring, the Rhode Island Press Association--an organization made up of all the newspapers in the state--holds an awards competition that truly pits the best of the best against each other in writing, photography and design categories.

The organization, of which I am the president but have nothing to do with the organization of the contest, sends out these entries to an organization in Idaho to judge and, at the banquet, reveals the winners in each of these categories.

As anyone who has been to the banquet can tell you, it's an incredibly special experience and a night where all of the negative aspects of journalism (low pay, hard work, rough hours) are forgotten.

Simply put, while none of us will openly admit to caring about awards, these awards matter.

And that's why when it was revealed that I had won not one but TWO RIPA awards, I was shocked.

I'm not the kind of guy who judges himself based on achievements. But I won't lie. I'm incredibly proud of this accomplishment.

The two awards I got were:

* First place in the Best Sports Photo category for a photograph I took last spring of the East Greenwich High School girls softball team defeating West Warwick in the championship contest at Rhode Island College, (perhaps my best sports photograph ever.) To see the photo, scroll below.

* First place in the Best Newspaper Front Page category for a front page I designed following the 2014 November Election in South Kingstown and Narragansett.

Both awards were for my work in the South County Independent and in both categories, I beat incredibly talented photographers and designers I admire from the Providence Journal, East Bay Newspapers and even my sister paper the North East Independent.

These awards represent the culmination of a years-long goal that I set for myself when I started my newspaper career. Knowing just how tough it is to get nominated for these honors, let alone winning them, I told myself back in 2007 when I first heard about this contest that I would someday win awards in writing, photography and design.

I knocked the writing award out in 2010 when I wrote perhaps my greatest story about a softball team that won a state championship in an emotion rollercoaster following the death of their coach earlier that season but it took me four ADDITIONAL years to finally be able to call myself an award-winning photographer and designer.

So what does that have to do with this website and my photography business in general? Well, to me, these awards are the culmination of a lot of hard work and time spent trying to become a better photographer and designer.

The benefits to winning awards like this are pretty clear for my photography skills. A picture doesn't lie. Either something is captivating or it is not and, with that photo, a group of professionals validated my ability to tell a story through the lens of my Nikon and for that I am grateful.

And the design award? Well, that one just means I know how to properly compose a front page. It may not seem like much but given that I design all of my wedding albums myself, and designed this entire website myself, that validation just means a little something extra to me.

But more than anything else, what these awards mean to me can not be stated here. As a man who is completely self taught in this profession, these awards mean I am not only on track to becoming the professional I want to be ... these awards mean I am there now.

While I believe I still have plenty of room to improve, I take milestones like this very seriously and I can not wait to get back out there and compete for even more awards.

In the meantime, these awards very clearly tell me I have begun to set a standard for my work. And if you've ever met me, you know I ALWAYS rise to the challenges set forth to me by others.

Now, let's get back out there. It's time to tell some more stories.



Beyond the Lens: A blog by Paul J. Spetrini

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