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.