In spring 2020, as part of his video journalism class, Shafkat Samin Anowar made a two-minute video of a homeless man living on Harding Avenue in Kaimukī with his seven dogs. Anowar also posted the video online, showcasing his keen photojournalist’s eye and astute nose for news. The public response was unexpected.
“That video drew over 500 views from all over the country, and his long-lost cousin and brother reached out to me, asking if they could reestablish their relationship with him,” said the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa student. “If utilized correctly, this is the power of photojournalism.”
It is also the power of Anowar’s flair for communication, which won the 24-year-old College of Social Sciences senior two 2021 honors—a $2,000 Reid Blackburn Scholarship from the National Press Photographers Foundation and first-runner-up as Student Photographer of the Year in the White House News Photographers Association’s annual contest. He is also spending the spring 2021 semester as an intern at the Associated Press office in Chicago.
“My ultimate career goal is to work as a photojournalist in the White House Press Pool,” he said. “I don’t know if that dream will come true one day, but I’ve had my heart set on it since high school.”
Anowar grew up in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and—as the eldest son—there were family expectations for him to become a doctor or engineer. “I have the utmost respect for both professions, but I could not see a future for myself as either,” he said. “I don’t know what my life would have been like if I had stayed in my country.”
Instead, he moved to Honolulu in 2016 to enroll at Kapiʻolani Community College, then transferred to UH Mānoa in 2018. He joined the student newspaper, Ka Leo O Hawaiʻi, to learn more about photojournalism and how to work in a newsroom. His classes taught him the crafts of storytelling with a camera and effective interaction with the public, which was a challenge since he grew up speaking Bengali.
“As English is my second language, I have always faced basic communication issues with word selection, breaking the ice, etc.,” said Anowar. “I did not have culture shock, but the classes helped to create my new self.”
Success at UH
He added that his university experience magnified his focus. “You might think that you don’t necessarily need book knowledge to nurture your communication skills but, for some people like me, there is no better alternative,” said Anowar. “Research and education are the most important things. For example, since I am choosing to be in the media industry, it is important to learn about media ethics. No matter how many articles there are about it online, there is nothing better than learning about that from the professor.”
Anowar credits faculty members such as Professor Jenifer Sunrise Winter for inspiration and guidance, and values his on-the-job training as photographer and photo editor at Ka Leo, as he heads toward anticipated graduation in December 2021.
“I have always had a strong desire to work as a staff photojournalist for a wire service like the Associated Press or Reuters,” he said. “Since I am interning right now with AP Chicago, I am kind of living my dream.”