Showcasing the Arts

YouTube video - National Award, jahi chikwendiu
Watch Video



2017 Governor's Awards in the Arts:
National Award


jahi chikwendiu

Native of Lexington



Jahi Chikwendiu jahi chikwendiu

Lexington native jahi chikwendiu wanted to be practical, but in the end his passion for photojournalism won out. After earning his undergraduate degree in mathematics and a master’s degree in math education from the University of Kentucky, chikwendiu began his career as a high school math instructor, teaching for a year and enjoying the everyday challenges of being an educator. During that first year of teaching, chikwendiu’s first spring break included a visit to The Washington Post where multiple-Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer and editor Michel du Cille became the first professional editor to ever see chikwendiu’s portfolio.

Inspired by a suggestion from du Cille, chikwendiu spent his first summer break working as a freelance photographer for his hometown newspaper, the Lexington Herald-Leader. At the end of that summer, his career took a turn when Ron Garrison, Herald-Leader director of photography, offered chikwendiu a full-time staff photojournalism position. It was an offer he couldn’t refuse. Three months later, the Kentucky News Photographer’s Association named chikwendiu the 1998 Photographer of the Year. After two years of covering the rich cultural landscape of Kentucky, chikwendiu joined the staff of The Washington Post, where he’s been a staff photographer since January 2001.

At the Washington Post, chikwendiu’s main base of coverage has been the D.C. area, but he has covered a wide range of stories that include D.C.’s broken school system and the 2003 invasion of Iraq, AIDS and poverty in Kenya, genocide in Darfur, cluster bomb victims in South Lebanon and the 2011 formation of the world’s newest country, South Sudan.

Chikwendiu spent the first three months of 2009 in Africa covering President Barack Obama’s inauguration from the Kenyan home village of Obama’s father and other stories in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Kenya and South Sudan. In 2014, chikwendiu spent more than a month in Missouri covering issues surrounding the fatal shooting of unarmed, black teenager Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Mo. police officer.

The Lexington native’s work has been recognized by various local, national and international organizations including the Kentucky Newspaper Photographers Association, Atlanta Photojournalism Seminars, World Press Photo, Days Japan International Photojournalism Awards, National Association of Black Journalists, White House News Photo Association, National Press Photographers Association, Virginia News Photographer Association, Overseas Press Club, Harry Chapman Media Awards, Pictures of the Year International, Northern Short Course and Southern Short Course.

Although his work has earned those multiple accolades, chikwendiu’s heart always comes back to the question of how to best evolve as a storyteller and how to best raise the next generation of visionaries.




Page last updated: January 19, 2018
Report a broken link.