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April 12, 2009

I recently applied for a scholarship & the essay question was “why are you a visual journalist?”  I did a little soul-searching, and this is what came out:


 I never intended to become a visual journalist. 

I never intended for photography to become my passion.

I thought I wanted to be a fashion photographer who would roll in money in the city. But, in my first photography class, we watched a multimedia piece about AIDS in Africa called “Bloodline,” by Kristen Ashburn. The compilation of photos and stories changed my life and direction. Not only was I crying by the end of the piece, but I had decided that I wanted my work to evoke a similar emotion and desire to change the world.

I am a visual journalist because I am surrounded by a world of hate, greed, war, love, relationships, culture, nature, destruction, hope, and faith. These topics inspire me. I’m sick of my own selfish ambition to become successful. Instead, I want to use my talents to inform society of the problems of the world, to persuade people to want to make a difference, and to tell stories of relationships that inspire others to enjoy life. 

Being a photojournalist has educated me about my community on a deeper level. I have learned about diversity, other cultures, traditions, and the people that struggle and thrive within it. People trust me with deep emotions, secrets, intimate moments, and personal experiences through the lens of my camera. Last semester I worked on a photo story about Barbara Ferguson, a 37-year-old breast cancer survivor, who is currently going through her third round of chemo. I went with her to doctor’s appointments, chemotherapy, church, and her home to spend time with her family. Her positive attitude and faith inspired me, but I knew I was making a difference in her life too. I felt this experience was therapuetic to her because she could tell me her story, her fears, her prayers, and her hopes, and she knew I would listen and share it with others. People’s lives keep me shooting.

The influx of technology has drawn a wall for visual journalists. The demand for creativity and flexibility has never been so apparent. Technology trampled decades of traditional story-telling and reporting, which set the challenge of rediscovering visual journalism and becoming an expert in more than one sector of the equation. The biggest question is, how can this be done? One can no longer solely be a photographer; instead, she must also become a graphic artist, a videographer, and a web designer. In order to appeal to the current generation, it is important to utilize new, creative ways of communicating. To survive, one must learn to expand beyond the traditional methods of story telling, whether this be defining an new outlet for visual journalists, or becoming flexible to fill multiple positions. With the evolution of the field, freelancing has replaced full-time jobs, the web has replaced newspapers, and computer imaging has replaced photographers. 

While this change is the cause for the collapse of many news organizations around the country, it is, to me, an inspiration. Now is the time to be creative and explore. Over the past four years, I have expanded my vision of the definition of visual journalism. No longer am I only a photographer. I am also incorporating interesting text, the web, audio, and other mediums to make the stories I tell visually interesting. Multimedia is only the beginning to making story telling more powerful and personal. This challenge has caused me to fall in love all over again with being a photographer because it is an inspiration to push myself creatively beyond the limits of the past.

No. I am just a photographer. Photography defines who I am and who I want to be. I am a visual journalist because I want to be a source for the public to understand each other and their world and to be a catalyst for change.



On a separate note, I went back to the Glisson’s this weekend to hang out with the kids (look back a few posts to see more photos). I have completely forgotten what it is like to be a kid.  I went up in a tree house where special potions were made out of rotting pumpkins, skeletons were kept from dead raccoons, “dishes” were being washed with a mix of conditioner, shampoo, and detergent.  I laughed because I remember making special concoctions when I was that age too.  Overall, it was a good time, although my shoes are muddy & I was hit in the face with a foam bullet.

The piece is finally put together, but I’m still improving it.  If you want to watch, click here.

I was challenged by my boyfriend to define what the meaning of the piece is, and I’ve been thinking about it.  Not only is it about how a family of 17 comes together and makes it work, or how faith inspires families to adopt and show kindness.  It is more about how important it is to have a family, and how adoption can save abandoned children.  The kids were playing with guns in the tree house, and it makes me think of how crime could have engulfed their lives had they not been removed from a dangerous home life.  I don’t know the details of their past, but I can tell that they are happy being part of this family of 17, and that the scars of their childhood have been replaced with a love.






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