Advocacy Through Art: Why I Will Become a Photojournalist

I originally came to college to become a writer and designer. (I got away from the designing stuff pretty quickly as I realized that I was not meant to do it.) I never thought that I would be leaving university with the dream to become a photojournalist.

The first class I took in photojournalism was in fall 2018, right after I took a difficult reporting class that pushed me to my limits. I loved writing and I still do, but I felt that I wasn’t able to express myself as artistically as I would have liked to. I worked full-time during the summer with additional freelance jobs that sometimes resulted in 60-hour workweeks, I only ate ramen and bagels, and I saved up to purchase my first real camera: the Fujifilm X-T20. It is my baby and I love it to death. 

I actually destroyed the kit lens that came with it, which I figured would happen because the seller I bought it from secondhand mentioned that the lens didn’t function correctly anymore. I soon bought the 27mm f/2.8 prime lens, and I love it because it makes my camera super portable!

The intro photojournalism class made me realize that the camera and photography, in general, is not easy. In theory, anyone can do it, but putting myself in uncomfortable situations to take photos of strangers and leaving the classroom in tears after difficult critique sessions made me see the art of photojournalism in a new and appreciative way. You are a reporter, and the camera is simply a tool used to communicate.

I spent spring and summer of 2019 continuing to learn the technical aspects of my camera. My camera was with me nearly everywhere I went. I even started to incorporate more photography and videography in my job at ISU Admissions outreach. I also got to explore more of my creative side, which made me really excited because I still loved art but had given up on designing. I’ve always loved to take photos of flowers on my phone, but I had the opportunity to be more creative with my pictures now that I had the camera for it. I also purchased the Konica MF C35 and started exploring film photography.

I got particularly interested in photographing native biodiversity in Ames. I went on a lot of walks alone and did “solo photography adventures” using various props to try to create dreamier photos. I want everyone to see the beauty in nature, even in lesser known species and plants.

My fall 2019 semester was what really made me realize that I want to become a photojournalist. I took a 6-credit political reporting class covering the Iowa caucuses, and I personally focused on the photojournalism aspect of it. This was my first time getting hands-on experience at political events as a press photographer, and even though there were many times when I grew frustrated, I also fell in love with the profession. I got to practice using all different sorts of cameras and lenses, and I eventually purchased a 50mm f/2 lens for my camera.

This is one of my first real experiences as a press photographer at a large political event. This was taken at the Polk County Steak Fry, and I got pushed by photojournalists from the New York Times and Fox News all day. I nearly burnt my hair and fell to the ground trying to take this photo of Joe Biden, and after 8 hours of shooting and interviewing people, I really got a feel for what the job is like.

I became really close with my professor Deni Chamberlin, and I started talking to them more about photojournalism and photography. They gave me a lot of helpful tips and encouraged me to keep pushing myself. While the critiques were harsh at times, they also believed in me and gave me a lot of praise.

Deni took me and my friend Ariana around Ames at night to cover the October 15, 2019 Democratic Debate watch parties, which is an experience I won’t ever forget. This is still one of my favorite photographs and one of my favorite memories from college in general.

I love writing. I always have and I always will. But I’ve discovered that I get such a thrill from getting to be a part of events and using my camera to document history along the way. Visuals and pictures are such a powerful way to document and communicate to others. They allow others to be a part of something you got to experience. Photos can reach people in way that words can’t.

It might not be right away, but in the near future, you will see my name and my pictures in media publications as I strive to be document and be part of history as a photojournalist. I never thought I would discover this side of myself, but I am so grateful that I did and I am so blessed to have the support that I have.

Until then, catch me around in Ames taking pictures at Ada Hayden park or around the downtown area.

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