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Two Newsday photojournalists win prestigious international award 

One of the Long Island mermaid pod members,

One of the Long Island mermaid pod members, Kai Wagner (aka Mermaid Pearl), swims in an exhibit at the Long Island Aquarium as part of their "Mermaid Mondays" program.   Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

Two veteran Newsday photojournalists have won a prestigious international award for their "fintastic" visual spread on the culture of Long Island's "mermaids."

Assistant Managing Editor John Keating and photographer Thomas A. Ferrara earned an Award of Excellence in the print newspaper visual editing category in the Pictures of the Year International competition for their Aug. 12 spread, “A Real Splash — A Glimpse into the World of Long Island’s Mermaid Culture."

The pair dove into the magical world of Long Islanders who wear costumes complete with mermaid tails, speak in mermaid jargon and delight children in underwater shows at the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead.

“John and Tom bring passion and professionalism to creating great visual stories," Newsday editor Deborah Henley said. "We congratulate them.”

The judges considered the entry unique and said the fun came across, from the photo side and the mermaid lifestyle.

"It made me laugh," one judge said.

"You can see the effort behind the project," another said.

Keating, a 31-year Newsday veteran who leads the photo department, said he was honored, and he lauded Ferrara's talent at being a "fly on the wall" for months to capture hundreds of images, which they edited down to 16. 

"The great photos just kind of jumped out at us," Keating said, "and it was just a matter of which ones to pull out." 

The contest, in its 76th year, is sponsored by the Missouri School of Journalism. It draws tens of thousands of entries each year.

Ferrara, who has worked as a freelancer and staff photographer for Newsday since 1995, said he found out about the mermaid lifestyle from the Facebook photos of a cosplay enthusiast he photographed for the newspaper years ago. She began displaying her mermaid photos, and Ferrara learned there was a Long Island "mermaid pod."

"I love interesting people," he said. "I wanted to show their lifestyle, their hobby and I wanted to show it properly. I wanted to do it with dignity."

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