Sunday, April 29, 2012

You have the tools, so get out there and tell photo stories!

      Dear PHO245 students:
      The end is here.
      You've spent 4 months learning the basics of a photojournalism career. I'm confident you will walk out of the classroom tomorrow thinking photojournalism is harder than you first imagined. There is more to photojournalism than just capturing a moment.
      I threw a lot of stuff at you in 16 weeks. You learned about the definition of news, law and ethics, caption writing, social media and editing audio. And, of course, you took pictures. You learned how to shoot feature, portrait, sports and photo stories. We also looked at the work of a lot of NPPA and ONPA award-winning photojournalists online.
     In a nutshell, you learned that photojournalism is about capturing a moment and sharing it with the community. It takes being aware of the environment you're in. It takes being able to deal with all kinds of people. It takes being patient and knowing when to push the shutter button. It takes getting over your panic attacks. It takes understanding that photojournalists have a First Amendment right to be most places because you have an obligation to document life around you.
     I hope some of the training in this class will help you in whatever career you pursue. You might not end up being a photojournalist, but you will always be an educated citizen communicator - with a camera.
     Don't underestimate the power of the citizen journalist.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

PJ student turns a portrait assignment into real news value

This photo might not be a Pulitzer Prize winner, but it earned Shalisha Russell the Student of the Week title!
The following is a portion of a blog post essay written by Intro to PJ student Shalisha Russell:
"Toledoan Bonnie Burnside purchased a vehicle at Toledo Auto Finance. After having the vehicle for only five days, the transmission went out. She claims the dealership is being uncooperative and refuses to fix the vehicle. The only offer the dealership made to Burnside was finding a transmission and a mechanic.
She is protesting the auto dealer’s actions by showing up every day with her signs to inform the public about her bad deal, and to show the dealership she’s serious. Burnside says she'll be out there 'come rain, sleet or snow.' 
Burnside made this assignment easier to complete because she was so open to being photographed. I am grateful that I saw her. I couldn’t have chosen a better subject to be a part of my assignment."
 Russell wrote that essay and took the above photo for her portrait homework assignment last month. 
I can't tell you how excited I was to see a commercial art photography major in an introductory photojournalism class actually cover a real news story. In the two years I've taught this class, this is one of the first times an assignment had real news value. Sure, my students shoot real sports and features, but this story had an element of controversy that could make even a senior PJ major think twice about getting involved. 
This is what Russell tweeted verbatim the day she discovered her lemon story:
 "just saw the perfect subject for portrait excited. lori would've been a proud pj instructor for the way I hopped out of the car & interviewed a lady at a car lot who bought a lemon." 
Darn right I'm a proud PJ instructor! I'm also happy to announce she was recently hired as a part-time reporter/photographer at the Toledo Journal. For these reasons, I've chosen Russell as my Student of the Week.
To read the rest of Russell's blog, and those of the other PJ students, click on the student blog roll in the menu bar above.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Assertiveness is just one of many attributes of a photojournalist

PHO245 student Paul Murray works the room in the Sunshine Home. (Photos by Lori King)
Be assertive, yet respectful.
   While watching the students work during their team community project at Sunshine Home this week, I was struck by a single observation: BE ASSERTIVE PEOPLE!
   Being timid is a natural instinct in the beginning for most scholastic photojournalists. It seemed the students felt uncomfortable disrupting the working environment of the nurses and therapists working with the residents of the Sunshine Home, which serves people with developmental disabilities. There were several times I had to push and prod them to see and capture what was happening right in front of them, like when a resident was wheeling a laundry cart down the hall piled with folded clothes. Or when a therapist was holding hands with an energetic and social bed-ridden man in his 70s.
   “Shoot a close-up of their hands! Get in there!” I energetically instructed.
    There is no doubt photojournalists sometimes walk a fine line between shooting the need to know (news) and sensationalism (paparazzi). That’s a big reason why  photographer's rights, the First Amendment and the definition of news are covered during the first month, before they shoot a single photo.
   If you are there to tell a story, then you need to tell that story in the most truthful and thorough way. Sometimes that means getting close to your subjects. And sometimes that means being noticed.
    Learning to see everything around you and only shooting what is relevant is a learned skill that takes training (school) and experience (on-the-job). This team project satisfied both of those requirements.
   I’ve come up with a list of attributes I think the average photojournalist should possess:
  • Be assertive, yet respectful
  • Be curious
  • Pay attention to detail
  • Be ethical to a fault
  • Be cautious of being manipulated
  • Don’t be shy, yet don’t be disruptive, either
  • Develop a keen sense of news and what makes a good photo
  • Be well aware that there is always room to learn and grow
  • Have an attribute you think I’ve left out? Please comment!
   Obviously, I can’t follow around students during most of their assignments, though sometimes I wish I could. Heck, even I, an experienced photojournalist, would benefit from following around another experienced photojournalist because there is always room to learn and grow.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

PhotoJ students get out of the classroom to document real life

Christian climbs a fence for that perfect shot of a horse grazing at the Sunshine Home barn! (Photos by Jolee Hatfield-King)

Aaron and Shalisha coordinate caption information before the shoot.

   I'm happy to report that this morning my students have successfully accomplished the 3rd annual Intro to PJ community service team project.  
   The team project gives the students a real-life shooting experience, and I am there to help them with things, like capturing live audio for a one-on-one interview, how to handle difficult light, and how to SEE photo ops all around them.
   Each semester I pick a different organization that fits these requirements:
  •  It needs to be big enough for all students to shoot without duplicating photos.
  • The workers and those they serve need to be welcoming to our cameras.
  • The organization could use our photos. We reciprocate by handing over our best work, as long as the photos are credited to the students.
    This semester I chose the Sunshine Home in Maumee. For 61 years the Sunshine Home has been
"creating community among people with developmental disabilities in northwest Ohio." 
   We first met for breakfast at Georgette's Grounds & Gifts coffee shop in the heart of Maumee. Georgette's is a fair trade cafe and gift shop owned and operated by Sunshine Inc. of Northwest Ohio, so it was a logical choice to converge and discuss our game plan. Carolyn Miller, Sunshine's enthusiastic communications coordinator, was kind enough to join us there. Then we headed over to Sunshine and spent two hours documenting life there.
   The first two team projects were at Bittersweet Farms and Cherry St. Mission. Carolyn has already put bids on the class coming out next Fall. As long as the welcome mat is spread out before us, that is certainly an option!
The team from left: Carolyn Miller (Sunshine Home), Sydney, Aaron, Mariah, Lori (me), Christian, Shalisha and Paul.