Snapping up awards

Snapping up awards
Winner: The New Paper's senior executive photojournalist Jonathan Choo with his award-winning photo of last year's Little India riot, which was also used by many other newspapers.

SINGAPORE - When a riot broke out at Little India last December, Mr Jonathan Choo was on desk duty in The New Paper newsroom. But the senior executive photojournalist grabbed his camera and jumped into the thick of the action.

Leaving his heavy camera bag behind so as not to appear conspicuous, he started snapping.

One picture in particular stood out. It was a shot of men throwing rocks near an overturned police car and it was used on the front page of TNP the next day.

This picture won Mr Choo another prestigious international award on Wednesday - Excellence in News Photography (Group B) at The Society of Publishers in Asia (Sopa) 2014 Awards for Editorial Excellence.

The judges' comment read: "When most other media caught the aftermath of the Little India riot, Jonathan Choo's photos caught the happening of it, with greater intensity and transparency."

Mr Choo, 57, said yesterday: "The night editor came to congratulate me after the results were announced. I had no idea what it was about, but when he said I had won a Sopa award, it was a great feeling."


His picture made the front pages of many Malaysian newspapers, including Harian Metro and Sin Chew Jit Poh, and wire agency AFP distributed it internationally .

It won a Society for News Design (SND) Excellence Award in March and was News Picture Of The Year at the Singapore Press Holdings' English and Malay Newspapers Division (EMND) Awards last year.

Mr Choo, who has been with TNP since its Day 1 about 26 years ago and with SPH for 33 years, has seen his share of danger while covering riots in Indonesia, clashes at the Thailand-Myanmar border and the 2000 coup in Fiji.

Recounting the night of the riot, he said: "At first, I thought it would be nothing much. But when I got stuck in a traffic jam near the area, I saw the sky glowing from flames."

When he reached the scene, he took the chance to get closer, taking photos as he walked among the rioters.

Mr Choo said: "I wouldn't say that it was not dangerous, but I sensed it was not as dangerous as when I was in Indonesia and Fiji, where they were using guns and metal rods."

But after he snapped his award-winning shot, the rioters in his picture spotted him. One of them grabbed his camera, but Mr Choo managed to wrest it back and ran for his life as they pelted him with rocks.

But his brush with danger was worth it because he had got his "money shot".

The night editor came to congratulate me after the results were announced. I had no idea what it was about, but when he said I had won a Sopa award, it was a great feeling.

- Senior executive photojournalist Jonathan Choo

This article was first published on June 13, 2014.
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