Santa Monica College (SMC) student Brandon Wise has won the College Photographer of the Year competition by the Press Photographers Association of Greater Los Angeles.

The honor came with a $1,000 award and a brand-new Nikon digital camera with lens.

Wise, photographer and managing editor of the student newspaper Corsair, beat out competitors from four- and two-year schools throughout the Los Angeles area. It was the first time an SMC student has won the contest, though SMC students have been named runners-up in the past, said Bruce Smith, SMC spokesman.

Wise, 24, of Santa Monica, who said he never owned a camera until two years ago, started taking photography classes at SMC in 2006 after a friend of his died and left him his Nikon FG, a film camera. Wise said he enjoyed portrait and landscape photography his first year, but in the spring last year he took his first photojournalism class.

“It was just a hobby until I found photojournalism, which became a passion,” Wise said.

Entry into the competition required Wise to submit a wide range of photos in categories such as sports, spot news, feature photo and photo essay. All but one of the images he submitted were printed in the Corsair.

“Brandon exhibits a lot of talent and the kind of drive that makes a photographer succeed,” said Gerard Burkhart, Wise’s photojournalism professor.

While at SMC, Wise said he has also discovered another passion, anthropology, and he hopes to combine the two interests with his ultimate goal of shooting pictures for National Geographic.

Wise said he plans to transfer to a four-year university next year, eventually earning a doctorate in anthropology while continuing to be a photojournalist.