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ACU student places in national photo competition


David Mitchell
David Mitchell

Tres Cox

David Mitchell, an Abilene Christian University student and photographer for ACU’s student newspaper, earned a spot in the top 20 in a national photojournalism contest. Mitchell, a senior psychology major, placed 18th nationally in the 2020 Photojournalism Championship, part of the Hearst Journalism Awards competition.

“The Hearst Awards are the most distinguished college media awards in the country because they draw entries from the largest journalism programs,” said Dr. Kenneth Pybus, associate professor and chair of journalism and mass communication. Other universities with students in the top 20 included Arizona State, Penn State, Florida, Georgia, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Oregon.

Mitchell’s images submitted for the competition include several from ACU sports coverage and one each from the university’s 2019 Summit and 2020 Sing Song events.


In this photo taken by Mitchell, ACU basketball players celebrate a basket in a matchup against Arlington Baptist.

“David’s images are just outstanding,” Pybus said. “He does an excellent job of capturing emotion, framing each situation to tell its story. The work really speaks for itself. He’s super-talented, but he also is willing to accept guidance and is constantly seeking ways to improve his craft. That’s the mark of a truly outstanding photographer.”

Mitchell’s interest in photography began early. “I went on trips in my childhood and liked taking pictures,” he said. “That’s kind of how I found a love for photography.”

In high school, he joined a photography club but never took formal classes; he honed his technique through practice and watching online videos. He joined The Optimist staff in 2019 and found a particular affinity for sports photography.


In this photo taken by Mitchell, Caleb Crisp sings 'Cry Me a River' during a Sing Song dress rehearsal.

“I like how quick-paced it is,” Mitchell said. “It was challenging at first, but I enjoy catching the action and people’s reactions.”

After graduating in May 2021 with a psychology degree, Mitchell said he plans to stay at ACU and work on his master’s degree in clinical psychology and ultimately hopes to pursue a Ph.D. Photography will likely continue to be part of his life and career.

“I think it’ll always be a side gig,” he said. “It’s a stress reliever for me.”

Learn more about ACU’s journalism and mass communication program.

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