Posted on Aug 31, 2006

A photographer for the Times Union in Albany who documented the trip to New Orleans by 29 Union College students and two staff members to help victims of Hurricane Katrina has won first place in a statewide photography contest.

Michael P. Farrell took top honors in the New York State Associated Press Association's annual contest in the category of “Photo Essay or Series.” Farrell and Times Union writer Tom Keyser went to the devastated city with the group from Union last year.

Students rebuilt schools in a district where families had moved back yet buildings were uninhabitable because of damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. The group, which included Todd Clark, director of residential life, and Viki Brooks-McDonald, campus Protestant minister and interfaith chaplain, volunteered as part of an alternative winter break.

As one New Orleans school administrator wrote in a letter praising the group, “[Union students] uplifted our spirits with their youthful joy and exuberance… we know that there is a lot wrong with our country and its educational system, but the students of Union give us hope.”

The photos that accompanied a story of the trip appeared in the Times Union Dec. 11, 2005. To view a gallery of the pictures, go to and then to “Lessons in the Ruins.”

Farrell will be honored at the NYSAPA annual meeting Sept. 21 in Albany.