Through Our Eyes Week 1

Below are some of our favorite photos from this week’s Through Our Eyes. Each week the selections are chosen by WKUPJ students. Stay tuned for more to come!

First Place

Dixie Mahurin has worked at WKU for over three decades. She taught mathematics before transitioning to academic advising. Growing up in Hopkinsville, Ky., Mrs. Dixie, as her students call her, remembers classmates dropping out of school to go to Vietnam, being the only woman in her mathematics classes and witnessing the American political climate cleave. From fashion to politics, there isn’t much Mrs. Dixie doesn’t have an opinion on. Her colleagues say her eccentricity makes the office as fun as it is. Mrs. Dixie’s passion for her students’ success can be felt in her words and seen in her actions. One example is the names of straight A students scrawled in chalk on her office wall. “Maintenance had a fit,” Mrs. Dixie said. “It isn’t a chalkboard. It won’t come off, but I just couldn’t stand that black wall.” | Reed Mattison 

Second Place

Mamadi Diakite (25) of the Virginia Cavaliers dunks the ball against the Louisville Cardinals during the first half of the game at KFC YUM! Center on February 08, 2020 in Louisville, Kentucky. Louisville defeated Virginia 80-73 for the first time in since 2015. | Silas Walker

Third Place

Hoda Amira is originally from Palestine and is a Nursing major at WKU. Amira is pictured wearing Palestinian cultural wear, commonly worn for special occasions, with a pattern that represents Palestinian nationalism. Amira wears a headscarf every day and when asked about her experiences with discrimination explained, “On campus, I haven’t noticed a lot of instances other than the usual stares. Some people might have some misunderstandings or they might have misconceptions before speaking to me. That’s the only thing I wish people would open up about is to ask questions rather than assume.” Amira is a member of the Muslim Student Association and expressed an appreciation for the sense of community that the organization provides. “On campus, I feel like all of us have an understanding of each other, so we never have that miscommunication or misunderstanding,” Amira explained. “We just try to convey a message to everybody else that we are just normal people. The whole point of the MSA is to show people what Muslims are really about.” | Lydia Schweickart

Honorable Mention

When Keith or Everett gets sick, it’s just them, Keith said. The two in their rough shape laze on the couch as they try to recover from colds. “Whenever I have a bad day, he knows how to help,” Keith said. | Reed Mattison

We Can Do Hard Things – by Emma Steele

We Can Do Hard Things

by Emma Steele

To view the entire story visit: We Can Do Hard Things

“You’ll never get over it. You don’t want to,” Davidson said. “It changes you.”

Randall Davidson brings roses to his wife Megan’s grave every Sunday. “Roses symbolize love,” Davidson said.

“There’s a part of me that hasn’t accepted it,” Davidson said. Randy has been left to raise their 8-year-old son, Drew, while still living with the grief of losing the love of his life.

Megan died on July 27th, 2019 from a fatal car accident. Her death affected the lives of all 1,000 people who showed up to her funeral service. Megan was a wife, mother, nurse, church minister, and athlete, and was loved by everyone she met.

Randall Davidson lost his wife, Megan, on July 27th 2019 in a fatal car accident. Every Sunday Randall brings flowers to Megans grave in Tompkinsville. “You’ll never get over it”, Davidson said, “You don’t want to.”

Drew taking a break from his video game to look at pictures of him and his mom. “Every time Megan was on the couch trying to relax, Drew would always jump up on her and try to get her attention. He loves his mom,” Davidson said.

Every night, Randy reads bedtime stories and says prayers with Drew. “He’s the reason I’m still breathing,” Davidson said.

Family Values – A look at the roll of a midwife in Kentucky.

Family Values – A look at the roll of a midwife in Kentucky.

Story by Lily Thompson,

To view the entire story visit: Family Values

Tracey Moore is a midwife, and so much more.

With kind eyes and a mother’s touch, Tracey catches babies around the western and central regions of Kentucky. She is on call 24/7, 52 weeks a year. She’s a home birth midwife, one of few in the state. Tracey helps women of all kinds, she wants each and every woman to feel respected and loved through one of the most sacred moments of their life.

Tracey checks “baby noodle’s” heartbeat in Rosie Hunt’s belly. The couple didn’t pick a name for their baby until after the birth and lovingly referred to the baby as “baby noodle.”

June Hunt was born at 7:13 p.m. on Nov. 8, 2019 to Rosie and Alex Hunt. June was born on the same couch her older sister was born a couple of years before.

Tracey leans on her husband for comfort after telling him about a complicated and upsetting birth she had attended hours before. She had to leave the house early in the morning to attend to the birth, and missed church and an outing with her family due to midwifery commitments. “For us, faith in christ has been the solid rock we’ve needed, because it’s not been always been easy,” David said. “That faith has helped us have grace. When couples have hard times, they can either break or build together. Midwifery has shown us in our hearts where we were at with each other and challenged us to be better in Christ.”

Congratulations to Hearst Photojournalism round one finishers!

Winners have been announced in the Photojournalism One: News and Features Competition of the 50th anniversary of the Hearst Journalism Awards Program. There were 138 photojournalists submitted into this competition from 75 schools nationwide. Michael Blackshire was awarded a 6th place certificate and Silas Walker was awarded 7th. The second, and final photo competition of the 19-20 school year will be held in February.

Michael’s 6th place winning entry:

Silas’ 7th place winning entry:

Brandon Lesniak jumps his mountain bike at the I street Bike Park in Salt Lake City on Thursday, April 18, 2019.


Olympus Titans Rylan Jones (15) celebrates scoring on the Timpanogos Timberwolves and drawing a foul during the 5A boys basketball championship tournament at the Dee Events Center in Ogden on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. Jones scored 22 points and had 5 rebounds to advance his team to the second round of the tournament.


Avery Hayes, 10, cries with her mother Arwen Fuller during a vigil for University of Utah student, MacKenzie Lueck, who was murdered in June 2019; the Vigil was organized by the Associated Students of the University of Utah on the Union lawn at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 1, 2019. Hayes was knew Lueck as a babysitter in the past.


Malik Staples #9 of the Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers sprays water while celebrating a victory against the University of Alabama Birmingham Blazers on September 28, 2019 in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Western Kentucky University defeated the University of Alabama Birmingham 20-13 to start a 4 game winning streak.


Bishop Karen Oliveto serves as guest preacher at First United Methodist Church in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019. In February, leaders of the United Methodist Church met to decide how to approach ordination and marriage for LGBT members. The professional and personal lives of people like Bishop Karen Oliveto, the church’s first openly lesbian bishop, hung in the balance. The meeting of the church in Febuary concluded with 53 percent of the clergy and lay leaders from around the world voting to keep banning same-sex marriages and noncelibate gay clergy, was meant to settle this question that has divided Methodists for years.


Michael Cousert, 67, poses for a portrait at the Georgia Apartments in Salt Lake City on Monday, Feb. 11, 2019. The Georgia Apartments where Cousert lives have been deemed as unsafe to occupy by the Salt Lake City Fire Marshal and the residents were given two weeks to find other living arrangements and move out. “What am I going to do, throw myself out?” Coursert asked.


Spanish Fork Dons outfielder Marae Condie (3) dives but falls short for a fly ball hit by the Tooele Buffaloes during the 4A state championship at the Spanish Fork Sports Park in Spanish Fork on Saturday, May 18, 2019. Tooele Buffaloes defeated the Spanish Fork Dons 3-1 to claim the championship.


Atlanta Photojournalism Student Portfolio of the Year – Michael Blackshire

WKUPJ senior, Michael Blackshire, won the 2019 Rich Mahan Best Student Portfolio recently at the Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar. You can view his winning entry here.

In 2018 and again in 2019, Michael has placed in the annual William Randolph Hearst competition and he interned for the Las Vegas Review-Journal this past summer.  His portfolio contained work from his summer internship and a class project about the conflict unfolding over the wall on the Mexico/USA border.

Winter Bainbridge, 4, left, holds her cousin Avery Acosta, 1, as Amber Acosta, 4, center, plays in a washing machine outside of the Acosta family home on Aug. 16, 2019. Barefoot with a front yard of half green grass, the children play with other friends in the small mining town of Ely, NV, with a population of less than 5,000. “I’m going to be clean in the washing machine,” Amber said. Acosta’s father would soon tell Amber to remove herself.

WKUPJ Winners, College Photographer of the Year 2019

For a complete list of this year’s winning images, visit: CPOY Winning Images


Photography – Sports Feature    |    GOLD: Morgan Hornsby

Diana Loe, Jonica Louis, and Calouna Zamor rest together in the shade between events at the Collier County Athletic Conference track and field meet at Naples High School on April 6, 2019.


Photography – International Picture Story    |    BRONZE: Gabriel Scarlett

Dr. Bob Ballard watches from the top deck as the crew of the E/V Nautilus retrieves the ROV Hercules from the waters off Nikumaroro Island on August 12, 2019. Hercules can search the slope of the island down to the sea floor several miles below.


Photography – Feature    |    AWARD OF EXCELLENCE: Kendall Warner

Karen Vela Lim cries while her father Roman plays the guitar and sings her a traditional hispanic song during the church service portion of her quinceneara in Bowling Green, Ky. on March 23, 2019.


Multimedia: Group Story or Essay – Standalone   |    GOLD: Michelle Hanks (WKU) & Deepti Asthana (Danish School of Journalism)




Multimedia: Individual Story or Essay – Standalone    |    SILVER: Michelle Hanks


Multimedia: Online Storytelling    |    BRONZE: Morgan Hornsby & Gabriel Scarlett

View here:  The Pain We Cause


WKU Alum J. Scott Applewhite Inducted into Hall of Distinguished Alumni

Two-time Pulitzer Prize winning Photojournalist J. Scott Applewhite has lived a life being in the middle of the major news stories around the world. He was recently honored as the newest inductee in the Western Kentucky University’s Hall of Distinguished Alumni.

WKU Photojournalism is honored to call him our own, and Photojournalism is lucky to have such a kind person as an ambassador for our industry.

If you want to see more about J. Scott Applewhite you can follow a  mysterious instagram accounts that shows him behind the scenes. @scottyshots1

Video by: WKYU-PBS

Beyond Graduation: Abigail Dollins


In an October 12, 2019 email interview, Abigail Dollins, a 2019 WKUPJ graduate shares some of her experiences while attending WKU and also the path that lead her to her current job as a staff multimedia journalist for the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls, SD.

Abigail Dollins graduated in the spring of 2019 and three months later found herself working full-time for the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls, SD. This southerner will soon be learning about the warmth of Sorel boots and hand warmers.

Where were you born?

I was born and raised in Paducah, Ky.

What High School did you attend?

I graduated from Lone Oak High School in Paducah, Ky., in May 2013. I was the last graduating class, they then consolidated to make McCracken County High School.

Is there an interesting story that brought you to WKUPJ or photojournalism in general?

I have to credit my dad for this one. I started out as a nursing major because of two things: I wanted to help people and I wanted the ability to work anywhere. Long story short, becoming a nurse wasn’t for me.

I’ve always enjoyed photography and had spent most of my early years as a photographer wandering around Kentucky Lake and shooting what I saw. My dad did the research and pointed me to WKU, noting that it was one of the top schools for photojournalism. To be honest, when I started out as a freshman, I didn’t fully know what photojournalism was. I soon fell in love with it though and never turned back.

When did you start attending WKU and what year did you graduate?

I started at WKU in the fall of 2015. As a transfer student with already two years under my belt, I did not know I would be adding a few extra years of school. I graduated in the spring of 2019.

I’m sure that starting a four-year major after two years in college was a difficult choice to make. What impact did these two extra years of visual education make in defining your current career?

The two extra years of education did so much for me as a visual storyteller. Coming into the program, I was just learning the basics of what photojournalism was. I think everyone has a point in their college career that they would consider a “light bulb moment”— where everything just clicks. That moment for me happened in picture stories during my junior year. What I had learned in my previous years, about composition, light, audio, etc. came together in that class. I truly began to define who I am as a visual storyteller and took that opportunity to highlight issues that matter to me in my storytelling.

Immediately after graduation I …

I went stir crazy! I had graduated and been a finalist for several internships (even had an important email go to my junk mail) but had nothing lined up yet. I began applying to full-time positions.

Who do you currently work for?

I currently work for the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls, SD, part of the USA Today Network as a staff multimedia journalist.

What does “staff multimedia journalist” mean? Do you just take still photos for the print and online publications or are there other duties?

Part of my duties as a multimedia journalist include photographing daily and long-term assignments for print and online publication, putting together online galleries and producing videos. We try to be very intentional with our use of video and think about what assignments could benefit from that form of storytelling. Another fun duty that comes along with my job is sharing content to Instagram and Twitter real time. Sometimes these are photos from an assignment that day or a feature I found on my way home.

Dollins on assignment in Sioux Falls, SD.

Since graduation, tell us about some of the more interesting places or events you may have visited/photographed as part of your work being a visual storyteller?

Curiosity is one of the best traits you can have as a photojournalist. It is curiosity and wanting to know more about a person’s story that has led me to the more interesting places I’ve been as a storyteller. For example, I am currently working on a story about a person’s journey with cancer. I met them on a daily assignment for the Argus and struck up conversation. Being a fly on the wall in someone’s daily life, learning the details of their everyday, is one of the most interesting places I’ve been for visual storytelling.

Sioux Falls recently experienced a historic flood followed by three destructive tornadoes and you were in your first month of working there. What was that experience like? Was there any particular moment or image that will stick with you forever?

I was taking cover in my apartment during the storm when I got a call from my editor. A woman was trapped inside her house and couldn’t get out. I hopped in my car while it was still raining sideways and started to drive to the scene. It wasn’t until I was stopped by flash flooding and downed power lines that I realized what had actually happened. Three tornadoes had hit Sioux Falls.

I spent that night and early morning driving around to businesses and homes surveying the initial damage caused by three tornadoes. Around 4 a.m., I went home and got an hour of sleep and was told to report back by 6 a.m. The sun started to rise and we got a better idea of what actually happened. (I think I was running on pure adrenaline.)

Although, I witnessed a lot of destruction during the course of covering the tornadoes, one man’s experience stuck out the most to me. Matt Ditmanson had just woken up and was running with his dog Teddy to his basement when his roof was torn off. I took a photo of him standing in what was his living room and watched him salvage family photos and other personal belongings. That moment will stay with me forever.

Sioux Falls, SD resident Matt Ditmanson surveys the damage to his home after it was hit by a tornado. Photo by Abigail Dollins

In hindsight, is there anything you learned while in a PJ class at Western that has resonated with you now?

One thing I learned as a WKUPJ that has stuck with me is pretty simple—JUST GO SHOOT. Having a camera in your hands everyday will make you better, whether you realize it or not. Oh, and along those lines, always keep a camera on you. You never know what kind of situation you may roll up on.

What has changed in your professional plans from the time you enrolled at WKU until know? Did you ever expect to be where you are today?

I came into the PJ program knowing that if I spent my first years out of college working for a daily paper, it would be a huge benefit to my career in the long run. However, I never expected to be where I am as quickly as I got here. As a student, I always assumed that you needed 10 internships before you were ready for something full-time. I’ve learned that everyone’s path looks different.

Do you have any immediate future work plans that you can disclose? What awaits you in 2020?

Wow! 2020 is really that close, huh? In 2020 I plan to stay with the Argus Leader, assuming I survive the winter. (kidding) I feel that I’ve started to discover my voice as a visual storyteller and I’m enjoying exploring it through my photos. I’m excited to see how I continue to grow and have plenty to learn from this amazing newsroom.

If you could have any “dream” freelance assignment what would that be?

As a southerner who moved out of the south, I have to say there’s so many things I miss about it. I would love to work on a broader photo essay about the American South and document the region and people who drew me into visual storytelling in the first place.

What is your favorite memory from WKUPJ?

Some of my favorite memories were made creating in the studio with my roommate Kendall Warner. Since I was the studio manager, there were some nights we would go in there late at night and just try out new lighting techniques.

Another favorite memory that sticks out is my first all-nighter I pulled for a WKUPJ class. It was finals week of my Intermediate Photojournalism class and I somehow managed to pull together a picture story in a day (I would not recommend this). A few of my classmates and I decided to stay the night in the lab and kept ourselves awake by having mini dance parties.

Provide for us a link to your current online portfolio and/or social media accounts:

Instagram: @abigaildollins

Twitter: @abigaildollins

Beyond Graduation: Thomas Simonetti


In an August 26, 2019 email interview, Thomas Simonetti, a 2009 WKUPJ graduate, took a break from his busy schedule as the sport picture editor for The Washington Post and reminisced on his past and how WKUPJ set him up for his career in the photojournalism business.

Photo editor Thomas Simonetti in the headquarters of The Washington Post. (Photo by Marlena Sloss)


Where were you born?

Well, I was  born in Long Island, N.Y., where I lived until Age 7. That’s when my family moved to sunny Tampa, Fla.


What High School did you attend?

I went to Brandon High School in a suburb of Tampa. Go Eagles.


How did you end up at WKU?

It was my last semester at The University of South Florida. I was getting a degree in mass communications, was the Sports Editor of the college newspaper, and was working as a freelance reporter for the (then) St. Petersburg Times (now Tampa Bay Times) and

One of my final classes, an elective, was Intro to Photojournalism. I got hooked! With enthusiasm, I took a (terrible) collection of photos to a photojournalist on staff at the St. Pete Times named Daniel Wallace for a critique. His advice: consider more school. He suggested WKU, where he has gone, and the rest is history.


Immediately after graduation I …

I started a six-month internship at the Dubois County (Jasper) Herald. It’s a special place. The small newspaper has a decades-long tradition of running a Saturday weekly feature, ad-free, across the first several pages. The vibe in this small town is midwestern and polite and the people really appreciate the way the paper tells the community’s stories. Getting that internship should be a priority for every photojournalism student.

Later I was hired as a staff photographer at the Midland Daily News in Michigan – a small-but-talented photo staff of three.


Who do you currently work for?

I am a staff photo editor at The Washington Post. My first three years here I embedded with the financial and politics teams, working with a small team of photo editors. Now I am the lone Sports photo editor. Before The Post, I worked at the New York Times on the Metro desk for a short stint.

Thomas Simonetti, left, with the photo crew from The Washington Post at the 2017 White House News Photographers Association annual awards at The Ritz Carlton in Washington D.C. in 2017. WKUPJ 2014 graduate Jabin Botsford, back right, can also be seen here.

What is it like editing and working with other WKUPJ’ers?

There are three dedicated sports photographers at the Post, and two of them are WKU grads: Toni Sandys and Jonathan Newton. I’ve worked with WKU alumni in almost every job and internship I’ve done. When I worked on the politics desk, I interfaced daily with photographer Jabin Botsford. There are multiple WKU grads at the New York Times. Former Midland Daily News photo editor Nathan Morgan (2.0) hired me on the staff there. I worked with WKU grad Krista Schinagl while interning at the Jasper Herald. We are everywhere.


Since graduation, tell us about some of the more interesting places you may have visited as part of your work being a visual story teller?

For me, the most interesting places were always behind the scenes of regular people’s lives. For instance, while at Western, I spent countless hours documenting the lives of a single mother of three named Dawn and her young family. I was with them in the evenings when they ate dinner and mornings getting ready for school. Literally, hours and hours of time was spent with them. Recently the mother reached out to me on Facebook. She told me that she was glad I was doing well and wanted to inform me that she was now married and happy and that all the kids were growing up.

Doing what we do, you become a part of people’s lives, and it’s really special.


In hindsight, is there anything you learned while in a PJ class at Western that has resonated with you now?

Another story I worked on at WKU, a man had both his legs amputated and wasn’t sure how long he had left to live. The assignment was to do a semester-long story on someone who was imminently facing death. Heavy stuff. A year or so later, he passed away and his family reached out to me for photos they could display of him at his funeral. It was the least I could do.

The work we do is important in ways we don’t realize when we are thinking about exposure, cleaning up backgrounds and looking for light. That’s something I never forget.


What has changed in your professional plans from the time you enrolled at WKU until know? Did you ever expect to be where you are today?

You learn pretty quickly there is no “normal path” in photojournalism, at least anymore.

On the first day of my first class at WKU, we were asked to write down a goal on an index card. The class was taught by James Kenney. I wrote “Work for The St. Petersburg Times.” Though I would have loved to be on staff at my home town paper, I’d say I landed at a pretty nice spot.

It would be way too long of a story to explain the winding path often filled with self-doubt that led me to the New York Times and now The Washington Post. The bottom line is you have to strive to be your true self in job interviews and with relationships you cultivate in your career.

Oh, and you also have to be extremely lucky.


Do you have any immediate future work plans that you can disclose? What awaits you in 2019?

Next up for me, a season of NFL live-editing at Washington Redskins games this fall. And perhaps Washington Nationals baseball playoffs (if they can continue on pace the rest of this season).


If you could have any “dream” freelance assignment what would that be?

More than anything, I look forward to a lifetime of documenting my son Gabriel’s life. He’s 17 months old and keeps me on my toes.


What is your favorite memory from WKUPJ?

Every morning, when possible, I’d wake up and meet my best friend Daniel Johnson at the Starbucks on Campbell Ln. We alternated who bought the New York Times. We’d sit there and drink coffee and read it cover to cover.


What advice might you give for anyone considering to pursue a career in the journalism industry?

Something that’s been on my mind lately, and something I tell emerging photojournalists, is that if you want to work in news it’s important to not post online anything that could be perceived as a bias. The New York Times recently published a story detailing efforts to comb the social media accounts of working journalists in a campaign to discredit the media.

Oh, and when you get a job, put money into available retirement accounts early. I am a dad now, so I’m obligated to say that.