Cathaleen Curtiss, News director of photography and Vince Chiaramonte, design director go over photo selection and page design for the front page. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

Cathaleen Curtiss, director of photography at The Buffalo News, spent more than a decade working for America Online back when it was a hot internet site. In 2008, Curtiss led AOL to a remarkable accomplishment: 12 billion photo views.

People like pictures.

Great photos freeze unforgettable moments. Smartphone video records horrifying and amazing events, but great pictures let us linger and savor.

And great design draws us to stories and photos we might otherwise miss.

That is visual journalism. At The News, we are lucky to have great visual journalists. In the past few weeks, News designers and photographers have won national and international recognition. The Society of News Design, an organization that stretches across six continents, gave The News 55 awards in its 2016 judging – the eighth largest total in the world. A similar organization for photos, the National Press Photographers Association, gave The News special recognition for best use of pictures, one of only three newspapers in the country to win such recognition.

Leading our visual journalism is Curtiss, who joined The News a year ago, and Design Director Vince Chiaramonte, who has led The News design team for five years. Chiaramonte is a Long Island native who came to Buffalo for college and, thankfully, stayed. Curtiss is a longtime Washington photographer who has shot everything from White House photo ops to Super Bowls. (She tells great stories about covering President Ronald Reagan while she was nine months pregnant.)

Chiaramonte and Curtiss lead a talented group of designers and photographers. They know the ins and outs of Western New York, and they bring a special eye for our stories.

Their work is a treat. The award-winning design and photos are collected in two galleries online.

Society of News Design: Winning work

2017 Best of Photojournalism: Best Use of Photography

For even more, check out a new feature that Curtiss and the photographers started this year: a daily photo celebrating the beauty of Western New York.

As news organizations transition from print to digital, visual journalism is more important than ever. In a cluttered landscape filled with alerts and tweets and Facebook posts, great photography and design pop out of the clutter.

Most important, they are a great way to report the news.

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