New Castle man wins reality show photo competition

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Contributed photoPhotographer John Maznio, posing humbly for a self-portrait, was the winner of the first season of a reality television series that aired on Colorado Public Television earlier this fall.

RIFLE, Colo. – John Maznio’s affinity with photography began before the age of 10.

It started when his mother, Maureen Maznio, purchased an old Nikon 35mm film camera with two lenses for her son at an estate sale.

“He has had a passion for photography since he was a little boy,” Maureen said.

Soon after, Maznio was off shooting photos.

“The pictures were horrible,” John confessed. “But I was having fun doing it.”

Fast forward to 2010 – Maureen was surprised when she found out that John had won a photo competition reality series, which aired on Colorado Public Television earlier this fall.

“It was pretty exciting,” she said. “We are ecstatic about it.”

John entered the photography competition “Shoot, A Colorado Photographer’s Reality” after discovering the series on an online social network. He thought that it sounded like a fun thing to do.

“I found out, literally, two weeks before the casting call,” Maznio said. He applied for the show and got a call back a couple of days later asking him to come in for a casting call.

“It was kind of interesting seeing how it was all going to work,” he said.

It was the first season for the Colorado reality show. The show consisted of six contestants, chosen from an application and casting process, who were to appear in six half-hour episodes. Each episode is available to watch online at According to the show’s website, each contestant was paired with a mentor to assist the contestants with each challenge.

The contestants were then challenged with a series of photo assignments, ranging from shooting a piece of furniture for a Denver-based custom furniture maker to shooting a portrait of Denver Mayor and Governor-elect John Hickenlooper.

“We never knew what the competition was until the day of,” Maznio said. “We were walking blind.”

Each of the competitions took between 10 minutes and one hour, according to Maznio, which isn’t a lot of time in some cases.

“We literally only had 10 minutes to set up lights, pose the mayor and shoot the picture,” he said. “That was an intense one.”

Professional photographers typically may take only 10 minutes to shoot in that type of situation, he added, but they usually have hours to set up lighting and take test shots beforehand.

Shooting Mayor Hickenlooper was the highlight of the contest for John.

“It was really a very cool deal to meet Mayor Hickenlooper and have a one on one with him,” John said. “And myself, being a young guy, and trying to become a photographer, that is the type of thing that you don’t get to do until 10 or 12 years into your career. Being able to have that experience this early, and getting the shots that I did out of it, was really awesome.”

A panel of judges selected the best photographs at the end of each episode, eliminating photographers from the contest.

In the end, Maznio, of New Castle, was left in focus.

He found out at the taping of the final episode, and had to keep the secret for more than a week until the final episode aired Oct. 26.

“The family was trying to get it out of me, but I held strong,” he said.

He watched the final episode with his family, and up to that point, winning the competition hadn’t “really set in,” he said. “I got into this thing pretty light-hearted, not super-serious. I just thought that it would be something fun to do.”

As he went through the different challenges and advanced, week after week, he realized that he could actually have a shot at winning.

“Even then, it took me watching the episode and having my whole family there and watching their expressions – that is when it really set in for me that this was kind of a big deal.”

Maznio, a professional photographer, graduated from Rifle High School in 2007 and attended the Art Institute of Colorado in Denver, where he graduated in December 2009. His website is

Winning the competition was the perfect thing for a budding photographer. He’s said that he’s already received some job offers since the final episode aired.

“I’m really hoping that it will advance my career,” he said. “It’s definitely a big deal.”


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