Journal

My Year: 2016.

With every new year approaching, I put time aside to reflect.

Yearly, I write a list of things I want to accomplish. The list for 2016was made up with 16 items of which I accomplished 15. (not too shabby.)  There were so many experiences and people who helped me grow this year and for that I am truly grateful.

This is a year I will remember for a very long time. So I decided to do my year in photos a touch differently. 2016 was a defining year for me, so take a look the mini galleries below to see the highlights.

1. Ireland, my first time across the sea.

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I fell in love with the chaotic stillness of Ireland. The smell of the salt in the air mixing with the rich soil. I am so glad my first experience abroad was in the tiny, charming town of Ballyvaughan. The strong relationship the people have with nature there is unlike anything else I have seen. I am so used to having relationships to people it was inspiring to capture the natural relationship one has with nature. There is magic there and I was so honored to have witnessed it.

2. Capstone/ What We Do.

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My senior capstone... well it was challenging to say the least. I had never worked on a story as long as I did while documenting Tyler and Jess.  The major lesson I learned while documenting them was just ask if I want to do something. I am still shocked by the intimate situations people allow me to witness to when I just ask them. 

With the end of the spring semester, we had our gallery show. I still had this pit feeling that I missed the mark on documenting this story. I didn't get close enough fast enough in some ways. I entered Tyler and Jess' story in the RIT NPPA What We Do Show and it placed first in the story category and then helped me win the Nikon Portfolio award. It helped validate the year of hard work I put into my portfolio.

In the end, it wasn't about the award But more so seeing that people who knew nothing about their story could understand it. That they felt something from it and were educated from it. There really isn't a word to summarize how good that feeling was.

3. I graduated college.

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My time at Rochester Institute of Technology molded me into the person I am today. I always believed that was what high school was for, but looking back on it, for me, it was my college experience.

I met some of the best people I have had the honor of meeting. I found my passion of storytelling. Professors grew into friends and mentors that helped guide me. I made some mistakes, I cried over assignments, I laughed and got squirreley with my photojournalism family, and I fell in love with a group of incredible women within my sorority. 

I devoted my time to my craft. I built strong relationships and was impacted by the stories I told. I figured out that my work has a purpose.

Lastly, I learned how to make myself happy, how to love myself. To pick myself up when things got tough and brush myself off and take the next step along the brick path.

4. Indy Star

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If you told me I would live in the mid-west at some point in my life, I would have laughed at you. In my heart of hearts I am a coastal person and when the IndyStar offered me a Pulliam Fellowship post graduation, I accepted with a little hesitancy.

For starters, I had never worked at a daily paper. I was terrified that I wasn't good enough, that I would mess it all up, or honestly that I would hate it. Throughout college I documented stories. I didn't know if my work could reflect a sense of intimacy in daily assignments.

The staff at the IndyStar threw me challenges. I documented sports, festivals, the Indy 500, parades, breaking news, portraits, I got a taste of it all. And I loved it. I loved waking up not knowing what assignments I would have that day. Everyday was different. Everyday I got to learn more about the people around me.

While I still don't think I am made for the midwest, I fell in love with parts of it. The IndyStar staff, my mentor Mykal McEldowney, two talented writers who became two of my best friends that I believe without a doubt will be in my life for a very long time, a smelly old wrestling gym, the smell of chlorine, and of course, the corn.

5. AARP

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1st grid: ©Elise Jacob 2nd grid: ©Libby March 3rd grid: ©Lauren Pond

There are people in the world that you dream of being able to work with. For me, working with Michael Wichita has been one of the best experiences I have been lucky to have so far. He is one of the most supportive, well respected people I have worked with. Constantly asking me to look through the world with a different perspective or as we put it, the upside down hand goggles-which took me a bit to perfect.

AARP has been a new chapter in my life. I have been doing photo research and editing for the print publications as well as helping to run the Instagram account. Looking at work all day very different from the work I produce. While doing this is different to say the least, I have seen in my recent work, how inspired I have been by these various styles of photography. It is so important to look at work outside of your element. It helps you see the world with a fresh eye, and sparks new creative ideas.

 

6. Lens Blog

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One of my reach goals of 2016 was to be published on NYT Lens blog again. This time with the hope that it would be one of my stories. Waking up on November 8, 2016 and opening up my computer to see my work as my own homepage, was a surreal feeling. The wonderful Jim Estrin gave my work a chance to stand out with his edit and writing of a story I have deep love for and for that I am truly greatful. 

*The gallery above is slightly different from the NYT edit. (see link to see lens blog post)

7. International Publishing

People around the world don't speak the same language. However, photography is an international language that everyone understands. Having my work published internationally after companies saw it on the NYT Lens Blog was honestly so cool!

I was in awe that publications around the world contacted me to publish a story of a family from Lima, New York. It was a special feeling to finally understand first hand how significant the power of a photo is.

8. Yunghi Kim Grant

For those who know me, I can talk a lot. However when I found out that I was on Yunghi Kim's list of grant winners, I was teary eyed and speechless. I am still in shock to be honest, but beyond thankful to be on the list with nine other talented photographers.

Making the decision to work on this story was easy. I knew Tanner and David's story was important. I knew with the relationship I already had with them it was a possibility, and I knew that something like this had never been documented.

With that said, this is the first story post-grad that I have worked on independently. There were so many things involved in logistically. How was I going to afford to travel, to take time off work, to be there and do their story justice? Luckily I have the best support system in the world with understanding parents, a terrific boss, as well as friends willing to let me borrow cars and put me up as I tell the story.

Winning this grant will help me travel back and forth to continue to tell their story. I am still in awe that I was chosen and truly grateful to Yunghi Kim and Jeffrey Smith for the opportunity.

This story in a lot of ways is a personal test. To see if I can do it. To document a body of work and put it out in the world for others to learn and see. I guess we will have to wait till 2017 to find out.

 

Stock Sites

Since the beginning of September i have been contracting full-time with AARP. It's been a much different experience than any other I have had previously.

At AARP I do a TON of photo research. This involves looking through sometimes hundreds of images till I find the best one for the magazine or bulletin. This has really allowed me to see all different types of photography and help train my eye to see the world differently.

Luckily I am fortunate to have access to over 70 stock sites. Stock sites are completely different than what I thought in college. I remember being in critiques and people saying, "That looks like a stock photo." There was such a bad perception of what a stock photo was. Now, I realize yes, there are the over saturated, cheesy stock images, but there are also so many stock sites out there with some of the most beautiful photography I have ever seen.

Without further ado here is a list of some of my favorite stock sites that you should see!

1. Trunk Archive

"Art Partner licensing provides content from the world's leaving image makers. Our robust archive delivers a collection of content that is featured across influential media platforms, magazines, international advertising outlets, commercial and retail spaces, films, exhibitons, and more."

"Art Partner licensing provides content from the world's leaving image makers. Our robust archive delivers a collection of content that is featured across influential media platforms, magazines, international advertising outlets, commercial and retail spaces, films, exhibitons, and more."

3. Alamy

 

"Alamy has the largest online collection of images and video clips. As a new player on the block, Alamy didn´t have a multimillion dollar legacy of non-digital images that it had to deal with. So from the outset the company was lean and agile and able to make the most of the advantages offered to it from new and emerging technology. Indeed, Alamy has used technology to great effect to drive the market forward.

"Alamy has the largest online collection of images and video clips. As a new player on the block, Alamy didn´t have a multimillion dollar legacy of non-digital images that it had to deal with. So from the outset the company was lean and agile and able to make the most of the advantages offered to it from new and emerging technology. Indeed, Alamy has used technology to great effect to drive the market forward.

"Getty Images is among the world’s leading creators and distributors of award-winning still imagery, video, music and multimedia products, as well as other forms of premium digital content, available through its trusted house of brands, including iStock© and Thinkstock©.

"Getty Images is among the world’s leading creators and distributors of award-winning still imagery, video, music and multimedia products, as well as other forms of premium digital content, available through its trusted house of brands, including iStock© and Thinkstock©.

"AUGUST is a unique agency model offering a boutique experience for clients worldwide. Beyond the unique creative caliber and exclusivity of our photography, our deep knowledge of our collection and focus on the highest-level of customer service make AUGUST an exceptional visual resource."

"AUGUST is a unique agency model offering a boutique experience for clients worldwide. Beyond the unique creative caliber and exclusivity of our photography, our deep knowledge of our collection and focus on the highest-level of customer service make AUGUST an exceptional visual resource."

"Stocksy is home to a highly curated collection of royalty-free stock photography and video footage that is beautiful, distinctive, and highly usable.

"Stocksy is home to a highly curated collection of royalty-free stock photography and video footage that is beautiful, distinctive, and highly usable.

Saying Goodbye

10 weeks. 95 assignments. 1 incredible internship.

August 5, 2016 was my last day at the IndyStar. Going into the internship I wasn't sure I was capable of producing daily work. I had never worked for a daily newspaper and if I'm being completely honest, I wasn't even sure I would even like it. As someone who documented stories throughout most of college, I was used to really getting into peoples' stories. I wasn't sure how shooting sports, news, and daily events would be. 

The IndyStar was an important chapter in my life. It allowed me to prove to myself that I was capable of shooting and producing various types of work. I found intimacy in places I never thought I would. I fell in love with shooting daily assignments, working with a reporter and team. It allowed me to act as my own editor, to think of things for print and online additions for the first time. Things I had learned about throughout college but never personally experienced. 

The summer had it's ups and downs. I was for the most part alone.

I had moved to  place I had never been to. Very different from anywhere I had every been before. This allowed me to focus on me, what I wanted and needed. It was a truly incredible growing experience. Something I think everyone should do for at least a short part of their lives. I learned so much about myself this summer. What I want to be in life, somethings that I don't, what is important to me, what I need verses things I want. 

I am thankful from the bottom of my heart for the Pulliam Family as well as the staff at the IndyStar for helping me grow. I was lucky to work under a fantastic editor that made sure I had diverse assignments. To a mentor who looked out for me from day one to even now when I don't work there. To a team who helped with edits, gave pep talks, and endless advice to push me to succeed. And lastly, to a group of interns who made Indy feel like home for just a little while. 

A Silent Battle

Flickering, colored lights dance across the faces of the crowd as they scream, “Fiji, Fiji, Fiji." He walks out and lets out a roar. The crowd goes wild, the cheers echoing off the small gym walls.

But he hears none of it.

Not that it matters. Fiji runs through the crowd like a rock star right before the encore. His long dreadlocks bouncing off his wide shoulders as he screams with excitement.

In the ring, Fiji Widman is an independent wrestler. When he steps out, he is Andrew Meade, a Lancaster, Ky., resident who grew up with only 12 percent of his hearing.

After years of struggling to fit in, Meade found a home and the acceptance he had yearned for in a wrestling gym in Downtown Indianapolis. Now 27, Meade never lets his hearing impairment get in his way.

Meade wrestles two or three times a month. He never worried at the gym about his inability to hear. Rather, he worried about the men he would be working with worrying about it.

Tom VanZant, a fellow wrestler, wondered how he was going to work with Meade. VanZant was unsure how he would  communicate with and teach Meade without Meade being able to hear.

“I found out he read lips,” VanZant said. “And now we work together all the time with no problem.”

Meade grew up as an only child in a small family. He didn’t know brotherhood until he found the men at this gym. While they often are his opponents, their passion for wrestling and determination to learn from one another helped the men to form deep bonds.

The men at the gym took Fiji in as one of their brothers. He is welcomed by hugs, butt slaps and arm punches.

 

Overcoming the loss

Meade, who lost his hearing at age 2 aftera high fever, first became interested in wrestling while watching WWE matches with his Uncle Curt.

When Meade was 3, he dreamed of being part of a tag-team duo with his uncle. His mom chuckled at the idea. The uncle would be too old by the time the toddler would turn 18. Three-year-old Meade didn’t care.

“He’s 6 foot 9, almost 300 pounds,” his mother recalled her son saying. “That would be the best wrestling team. Come on!”

As he grew up and got involved in other sports, his dreams of becoming a wrestler faded away. But when his uncle was diagnosed with cancer and later died in 2008, Meade realized how much he missed it.

Making a childhood dream a reality

In 2011,  Meade attended a WWE event where someone handed him a flyer for a professional wrestling ring in Downtown Indianapolis. Soon after he took up training at the Wild Championship Wrestling Outlaws gym.

“That building is where, where I feel I was born again,” Meade said. “It made me feel whole.”

He now lives in Kentucky with his wife, Ashley, and 5-year-old daughter, Riley. Every other Friday, Meade takes the three-hour drive to the small, green gym Kentucky Avenue.

On stage, all eyes are on him. No one cares that he is hearing impaired. They just see him as a wrestler.

“I’m not in the dark. I’m not behind the curtains. I’m not behind someone else. I am upfront, doing a show,” Meade said. “Everybody is watching, cheering, dreaming.”

That's what inspires him most.

Meade often feels as though hearing people are afraid to approach him because they don’t know how to communicate with him. When he is wrestling, people aren’t afraid to come up to him and say hello. Fans line up to have Meade sign their hands.

“It’s not hard to say hi,” Meade said.” If you really want to learn, just come over and get a piece of paper and a pen. Write it down, just, ‘Hello, my name is.’”

He comes back for the love of the sport, the brotherhood, but mostly for the fans.

Meade hopes that he can be an inspiration for those who are disabled in anyway — a reminder that they can follow their dreams and accomplish anything they set their minds to.

Even if he can’t hear his fans, Meade knows that if they are really into his match, they will find a way to show him.

See the multimedia piece here: http://www.indystar.com/story/life/2016/08/14/wrestler-wins-silent-battle-everybody-watching-cheering-dreaming/88069388/

 

Photos of the Month: July

July was filled with concerts, children with animals, and getting to know the people and places of Indy. I cannot believe this week is my last week here with the IndyStar. I have been working on story on a hard of hearing wrestler named Andrew Meade, otherwise known as "Fiji Wildman." To see those photos and video though, you'll have to stay tuned for my next blog post. 

Warped Tour

This week I got to live out my early high school dream of attending Warped Tour. I used to beg my mom to let me go with friends and always the answer was no. I fully understand now why my mom didn't let me go. 

Home Sweet Home

Last weekend I visited home for the first time in months. I saw family, friends, went to NYC, laid on my couch, smelled salt water in the air at the ocean, and ate pizza- It was everything. When you live far from home you really appreciate what you have. 

Making pictures that weren't for anyone but myself was also a comforting feeling. As much as I love daily work now, I miss stories and feel like that little piece of myself is missing. Shooting something for me, with no creative boundaries or direction felt incredible. 

Photos of the Month: June

June was the month of firsts for me. Once the Indy 500 ended, I was thrown into daily assignment work, something that was both new and exciting for me. I learned new lessons with the help of trial and error. I had to mess up on my own to learn from it. I found myself second guessing myself in the beginning, "over-shooting" as I used to call it in college.

I was thrown into a lot of sports. Throughout college I found that sports lacked intimacy to me personally. I would always see it in professionals work such as Al Bello, but I never found my eye could capture the sports in a way that made me felt how I did while working on a story. 

Lesson One: Get out of your comfort zone.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, this is the part where I admit my college professor was right (shoutout to William Snyder!) I always thought I sucked at sports and he used to say," Of course you do, you never shoot them!." Now, I see the intimacy, and I see how something as simple as a sporting event means everything to the athletes and their families. 

Lesson Two: Intimacy is all around us. 

As the month progressed, I found myself more comfortable out shooting. The IndyStar is the first daily paper I have had the pleasuring of working with. The photography staff has been really supportive and helpful to me, which I truly appreciate. 

I found myself a little lost in the daily work and was dying to begin a story. I didn't want to work on something that I wasn't passionate about. Through much waiting, I met a hard of hearing amateur professional wrestler named Drew Meade or his wrestling name, Fiji Wildman. I will share that story once I am done working on it! 

Lesson Three: Patience, Patience, Patience. 

 

 

Indy 500

Things have been busy since I started but I figure it’s about time I upload some images from the weekend of the Indy500. Getting thrown into the 100th year of the Indy500 was both a scary and exhilarating experience. 

First of all, there were so.many.people. When they said 400,000 people, they weren’t kidding. 

I started at the IndyStar the Thursday before and was there everyday until the end of race day. It was probably the best introduction to Indianapolis I could have ever asked for. 

Reflection

This past month has been crazy. Yesterday was the first day I had off in quite some time. It gave me a chance to really reflect on this past month. Within a week, I finished finals, graduated from RIT, packed up my life in Rochester, moved to Indiana and started working at the Indy Star. 

To say I wasn’t scared of this next chapter would be a lie. There is something terrifying about knowing no one, going to a new place, and starting a new experience. However, there was something exciting about it as well.

Being thrown into work right away was a little overwhelming, something I think many people relate to who start something new. This past week I have learned so much already. As someone who never worked in a newsroom like this, it was a huge eye-opener. 

I learned nothing could have really prepared me for how a newsroom really operates. There is nothing more RIT could have taught me to really explain what it would be like. It’s something you need to dive head first into and just pray you learn to swim fast once you hit that water. It’s all an experience, learning on the spot, problem solving, asking questions, and making mistakes. 

With all of this said, many keep asking how I am, how I like it here, how’s the fellowship?

Right now, I’m good,  work is great- I am thrilled to make pictures everyday.  It’s a little lonely not knowing anyone just yet. I talk and am surrounded by people all day capturing their moments, but I haven’t had the chance to make many of my own just yet. Something I think I will do once I’m a little more settled. Indianapolis reminds me a lot of Rochester, something I find very comforting. I think this summer overall is one I will never forget and I’m excited to see what’s in store for me.