Beatrix Lozach: NSPA Photojournalist of the Year portfolio

Beatrix Lozach: NSPA Photojournalist of the Year portfolio

My name is Beatrix Lozach, and I have always been riveted by the power of images to persuade, advocate and reveal truths lurking beneath the surface of our media literacy. Whether the photograph be of an earthquake in Haiti or immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, images are a universal language, and as a proud granddaughter of immigrants and heritage bilingual currently learning her third language, communicating our common humanity is my raison d’être. 

I began this year in digital media with no photojournalistic savvy whatsoever, but a burning desire to communicate the importance of social justice to my chronically online and thoroughly desensitized peers. Over the course of this year, I covered a range of social justice-oriented events, such as my school’s fundraising for breast cancer awareness week, pro-Israel and pro-Palestine protests at the University of Texas, and the Hispanic Heritage Month and AAPI Month candy sales. In addition, I covered my school’s Black History Month events such as our Black Student Panel and hair-wrap demonstration, my school’s annual quinceñeara for socioeconomically disadvantaged girls, and the Ballet Folklorico Cinco de Mayo celebration. 

To further my aspirations of inspiring political consciousness in my classmates, I used the aforementioned protest photos to write an article on the history behind the political and humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which landed on the first page of our second issue. This article garnered a rare thing for the Shield: a letter to the editor criticizing my story for perceived inaccuracies (such as labeling the crisis with a death toll of over 30,000 Gazans a genocide.) The author of this letter then proceeded to buy an advertisement in the Shield, so all’s well that end’s well. 

Ultimately, the experience of receiving reader feedback taught me is that I will never sacrifice my journalistic ethics and the integrity of an over 70-year old publication for a political agenda. I don’t seek to propagate an ideology or proselytize a keyboard warrior’s faith: I merely seek to educate, following in the footsteps of my mother, an art teacher, and the Shield’s adviser, Dave Winter. At a juncture in world history where the very fate of our planet depends on the abolition of apathy, it is my sincerest hope that I can work to diminish it through the awe-inspiring magic of a camera lens.

I have received awards for this work this year. My photo of Jude Masoni and David Herring fending off a water balloon was recognized by NSPA with fourth place in the Best of Show category. For the Quill and Scroll contest, I won first and third place for the Feature and Breaking News Photography categories respectively. For the Southern Interscholastic Press Conference, I won first place in both the News and Club Photography categories respectively, as well as second place in the Photo Gallery category alongside my peers. I earned second place and an honorable mention in the Texas Association of Journalistic Educators’ Print News photo category. I received First Honorable Mention in the Association of Texas Photography Instructors’ Fall Photo Contest. I earned second place in the Interscholastic League Press Conference’s feature photo category, as well as honorable mentions for their news writing, general news photo, and online news photo portfolio categories. 

However, accruing awards was never the end goal. I joined digital media with the aim of learning to collaborate with my peers in a more productive manner. I’ve always been a staunch individualist and autodidact, prone to dominating conversations and spearheading campaigns- I even shot and designed Mr. Winter’s Barbie-themed poster for Teacher of the Year (which he won, to the credit of his aptitude for teaching.) But in the process of emerging from my photojournalistic chrysalis, I’ve metamorphosed into someone who observes carefully, who chases decisive moments, who strives to give voice to the unheard and image to the unseen. The selections below were chosen in the hope that they reflect that ethos.

CHASING WATERFALLS: Seniors Jude Masoni and David Herring dive headfirst into the water balloon shooting PAL-ery for McCallum PALS’ annual Pink Week, which raises funds for the Breast Cancer Resource Center of Central Texas. This year, they raised $2,731 through a myriad of activities ranging from painting nails to a basketball booth, to the pride and joy of their teacher, Richard Cowles.

According to him, PALS has gone from raising $200 to $2,000 by incorporating unifying activities for McCallum students that “provide an excuse for us to do things in common- wearing pink, the lunchtime carnival. They highlight our similarities.” He became the PALS sponsor in 2011, and on its metamorphosis over the years, noted “People are more generous when they realize their donations are having a direct impact.”

Cowles has a veritable wealth of experience with having a direct impact- his father endured prostate cancer and his mother, a (likely hormonal) cancerous tumor in her lung. Thus, when it comes to fundraising for the Breast Cancer Resource Center, he’s all aflutter. Cowles asserted, “for cancer survivors, it’s rough. It’s a great benefit to have such a groundswell of support behind you, so Austin’s very fortunate to have such a powerful non-profit devoted to them.” On the myriad merits of Pink Week as an exercise in civic duty, Cowles avowed, “the PALS spend 9 to noon or 5 to 7 decorating, so for those who can make it, it’s a great opportunity to spend time with their community.” 


This photo was a Herculean labor to obtain because the PALS were surrounded by a perimeter of people clamoring to witness their classmates and friends get drenched, so it was my prerogative to find an area where I wouldn’t get shoved. Once I did that, I had to set my focus on either one person or two because my camera was only equipped to take wide shots (we later had to crop the image.) I chose Jude and David because they’ve been friends since elementary school and I figured I could capture a moment of camaraderie. One of the aspects I love about this photo is that even though Jude is using David as a human shield, the mutual respect they have for each other and the boundless joy they feel in each other’s company are easy to ascertain.

A CROSS TO BEAR: Junior Felix Kahlor folds his arms over his chest in a moment of contemplation during the inaugural day of 2023’s Pink Week. Kahlor is a first year PALS student, and has a personal connection to raising awareness for breast cancer.

“My aunt, who I was really close with, passed away from breast cancer three years ago,” Kahlor said. “We used to spend Christmases at her house.”

When asked if he had anything he wished he could share with his aunt, he said simply, “I miss you.” 


During the period that this photo was taken, Digital Media students were focused on optimizing the depth of field in our images, particularly for portraits, so I used a relatively high ISO for this outside photograph (somewhere in the neighborhood of 200-400) and considerably lowered the f-stop to around 2.0. Technical aspects aside, the reason why this photo speaks to me so much is because of Felix’s lived experience with having a family member with breast cancer and his fortitude despite the memories that Pink Week must have brought up for him. The choice to ask what he would say to his aunt if given the chance was born out of a desire to make the experience as cathartic as I could while giving viewers of the image an opportunity to resonate and/or emphasize with it. I believe that the photojournalist’s foremost task is to center universal emotions and create ways to empathize with experiences that may be different than our own, and I chose this image because I think it is emblematic of that aim.

PIÑATA PRINCESS: Valentina Altamirano-Cancino, daughter of McCallum’s very own Spanish teacher Sra. Telvi Altamirano-Cancino grins joyfully while wearing a hoof from the horse-shaped piñata, recently decapitated. As a return visitor to McCallum’s annual Quinceñeara, Altamirano-Cancino attended in style. Upon being told that she looked like a little princess by a passerby, Altamirano-Cancino asserted “I know!” The Quinceñeara originated under Sra. Juana Gun, predecessor of Telvi Altamirano-Cancino, and was originally intended to provide McCallum’s Latine students with an opportunity to celebrate their heritage regardless of economic barriers. According to KXAN, quinceñeara dresses alone can cost upwards of $1,000, which presents a formidable challenge to upholding the tradition.


Finding a good angle for this photo was somewhat harrowing because Valentina is obviously much shorter than I am and I wanted the photo to reflect her larger-than-life personality, so I essentially did a plié to capture the radiant expression on her face, which was also important because her mother asked me to take photos of her and I wanted to capture a moment that was representative of childhood whimsy. Fixing the lighting of the photograph was also a challenge because I had just shot a bunch of indoors quinceñeara photos and this photo’s setting was covered in trees, so I lowered the ISO quite a bit and opted for an area that was less smothered by foliage. All of the piñata photos were candids of quite rapid movements, so many of the photos are less in-focus than I would have liked, but what I appreciated about this photo is the clarity of focus: you can see all of her insouciance and verve as she wields the severed limb of a former horse piñata.

NUESTRAS BELLEZAS: Ballet Folklórico members Divine Seiler, Daira Benitez, Dylan Toruño, Natalee Ibarra, Valeria Robles Alcauter, Maverick Palacios, Mika Ponce, Esteban Alemán-Ward, and Sophia Lopez dance a whirlwind rendition of Jarabe Tapatío onstage for Friday’s Cinco de Mayo performance. Jarabe Tapatío, commonly known in English as the Mexican Hat Dance, is the national dance of Mexico and has roots in 16th century Guadalajara, Jalisco. The word “jarabe” comes from the Arabic “xarab”, meaning mixture, while Tapatío refers to a hat and is Guadalajara’s popular sobriquet. According to Señora Telvi Altamirano-Cancino, the goal of incorporating Jarabe Tapatío was to help foster a sense of community pride. Per Altamirano-Cancino, “We have a club here on campus that is dedicated to sharing the cultural experience that is Ballet Folklórico and that we do have culture here at McCallum. People don’t think of us as a campus with a lot of diversity, but we do and we need to highlight it.” 


Taking photos for the stage is something that I pride myself on because of my 12 years long  (and counting!) experience as a theatre kid, so I wanted to give every dancer the opportunity to shine. What really stands out to me about this photograph is the texture and vibrancy of the Jalisco dresses despite the diversity of expressions and roles in the dance’s formation. Another notable component of this image for me is that I was experimenting with using auto mode on my camera rather than my preferred aperture priority because the lighting plan created some streaking when using aperture priority mode, and it represents a moment of in situ problem solving that I believe is vital for photography.

RIDE OR DIE: Juniors Brianna Miller and Trinity Ritcherson participate in the Feb. 13 head wrap demonstration in the main hallway. Miller and Ritcherson are longtime friends who both have acted as advocates for Black voices at McCallum. Like Miller, Ritcherson also spoke on the student panel about the importance of finding community but also of her unique experiences as a person of both African American and Mexican heritage. Ritcherson said of the head wrapping, “It felt amazing to demonstrate something that is regular to me and a part of my culture. I know it was different for a lot of people to see, but it was nice being the representation that Mac needs for Black history.” 

Ritcherson also emphasized the importance of head wrapping in particular: “Brianna and I thought it would be a good idea to do a head wrap demo instead of hair braiding like last year because we knew it was unfamiliar and underrepresented so we thought it would be a cool switch.” 


One of my favorite themes to cover is long-time friends because there’s an intimacy, trust, and levity to the photographs that you just don’t get with other scenarios, so when I saw that Brianna and Trinity would be participating in the head-wrap demonstration, I just had to cover it. I also like the juxtaposition between the dramatic, looming tone of the anti-fentanyl poster in the background and the effervescence of their interaction, because it shows that even amid the chaos of high school shenanigans, if you can find your kindred spirits, you will be anchored in the best version of yourself. Oftentimes, I’ve noticed that when you see photos that are meant to highlight experiences integral to African American cultural heritage, especially from PWIs like my high school, they focus on resiliency and stoicism, which certainly has its place, but I wanted to showcase tenderness because it is underrepresented and can subvert both subconscious and conscious biases that the viewers of the image may have. 

Leave a Comment

Comments (0)

All The Shield Online Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *