WKUPJ Alumni Look Back on 9-11 and their Journey to Cover History

“It made me question if I was holding the right tool, but a camera is the tool of my trade,” – Michael Bunch

Twenty years ago WKU Photojournalism students decided to journey to NYC and Washington DC to document the biggest historical event in their lives, the September 11 attack.  Recently WKU President Gary Ransdell looked back on that day and remembered hearing that students from the Photojournalism program had decided to drive to NYC to cover the tragedy. He explained his first reaction was concern for their safety but quickly understood  we are training them to be journalist and that is what journalist do.

MARK ANDERSON

Under different circumstances, a weeklong trip to New York City for three college students would have been a lot of fun. But 852 miles away, history was happening.

Within a couple of hours of hearing of the devastation on September 11, 2001, I was in a car along with two other photojournalism students from Western Kentucky University.

In Bowling Green, Kentucky, I’d left behind a week’s worth of classes, four very understanding professors and two very frightened parents on the other end of a telephone.

“Be careful,” my dad said.

How fortunate that my mom had not answered the phone. I don’t think I could’ve told her where I was going.
On the road, we listened to radio reports of what was happening. We didn’t know what we would find when we got there, or if we’d even get there.
We were scared.


We arrived in New York in the early morning hours of September 12. Lights from the worksite at Ground Zero illuminated the smoke still drifting over the city.

I spent four days in New York, photographing the pain, the devastation, but mostly the indomitable human spirit that was alive everywhere around the magnificent city.

The feeling there was much different than we had expected. People were shocked and dazed, but friendly and polite — nothing like the rude New Yorkers you hear about or see in the movies. They had wanted to talk about what happened to them and the country and what was still happening.

During our third night, after walking around for a couple of hours, trying hard not to be noticed, it began to rain. We eventually found shelter beneath an awning only a couple of blocks from ground zero. The three of us huddled together because it was very cold.

I remember just how miserable I was and then began thinking of the people who were still trapped inside the remains of the smoldering towers and how cold and wet and alone they must have felt. That was the moment that it really felt personal.

Going to New York to photograph the attacks isn’t something I’m proud of; it’s just something I did. I didn’t have to think about going. I had the opportunity to see something that I knew would forever change our country, and I went.

JAMES BRANAMAN

There was a lot of self-doubt covering such a large-scale event as a student, especially not knowing exactly how, if ever, the images would be used.

There was discussion before we even left about whether it was responsible to go and possibly add further strain to a chaotic situation, but a few other students and myself felt very strongly a need to document this tragic moment in history.

So, when one of us secured a place to stay in the city we drove all night and arrived on the morning of September 12.

I went into the situation thinking I was covering an event that had already happened, but the truth was that the story was still unfolding, with repercussions that would be felt for many years to come.

The gravity of the situation washed over me after seeing hundreds of faces on “missing” posters plastered across the city as many people had not yet officially been declared deceased.

Our first night we photographed people gathered at makeshift memorials in parks near Ground Zero, with some of us finally putting away our cameras to help each other deal with the overwhelming feeling of sorrow and tragedy.

The next day, when F-16 fighter jets screamed overhead at low altitude, the thought crossed my mind, will they attack again?

YULI WU

The morning of September 11, I woke up to an ABC Special Report as Peter Jennings reported that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center North Tower.

In class with journalism professor Mrs. Albers, we watched the World Trade Center South Tower get demolished by a highjacked plane.  I remembered the class was silent as everyone was in disbelief.

Two of my classmates and I made the decision an hour later to drive 12 hours to New York City to document the event.

As we stood close to Ground Zero, we witnessed chaos and bravery from the people of New York.  We documented the event as best as we could.  I remembered the drive home was depressing.  Throughout the night, I was terrified, and what-ifs kept repeating in my mind.

What if they target a small town such as Bowling Green or my hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan?  What’s going to happen next?  The unknowns were uneased.

I remember September 11 as if it was yesterday.  My mental wellness was affected, and thousands of Americans suffered.

What we witnessed on TV and in person was a nightmare that became a reality that day.

May the heroes of New York City be remembered.

ANDREAS FUHRMANN

I was working on a photo story when I saw live news coverage of the 9/11 attack. Going up to New York was the talk among us. Some went right away. Others like myself waited a few days, and then decided to go.

For me, my hesitation came from not wanting to get in the way. I wasn’t a working journalist with an outlet (so I thought) so I didn’t feel I had a reason to be there. I changed my mind after a couple of days and four of us drove up. I decided that it was too big of an event to not go.


I was a nontraditional student in my early thirties. Another person I went up with was also older. The others were young college kids, and all of us handled ourselves wonderfully in such a raw situation.

The New Yorkers were extremely receptive and welcoming as well. I can’t recall anyone turning away from a camera. Everyone was on the same page when it came to documenting this horrific event.

Over the years, and more recently, I have found my thoughts drifting to the image I made on that trip of a woman looking at the Jasper Johns American flag painting in the Museum of Modern Art days after the attack. I wonder what she was thinking then, and now. I wonder what many of us are thinking about our country.

As for New York right after the attack, one typically doesn’t get to experience humanity on this level in a lifetime.

It is hard to believe that, until the other day, we’ve been at war ever since that day 20 years ago. In that time, I’ve again changed careers. I’ve seen my classmates go on to have families, their children never knowing us not at war.

Going up to New York and covering the tragedy of 9/11 was something we needed to do. I believe we are better for it.

NINA GREIPEL

I was young, and while very independent, I hadn’t been to a big city on my own since I was a kid with my parents.

I am glad Jenny Sevcik and MJ Mahon decided to tag along in my car. Along the drive we heard from others that they had either turned around, or decided to drive to Washington, D.C., instead. We kept heading towards New York and finally arrived late in the evening on 9/11 and checked into a hotel in New Jersey.

When we entered New York City on September 12, we made our way into Tribeca, where we could see a parade of vehicles delivering water and supplies to the nearby rescue crews.

We kept walking south. The sun was shining and there was a lot of noise from people hollering at the rescue vehicles, and just in general there was a lot of commotion. As we turned into a quieter side street, I saw a firefighter sitting on a stoop, his uniform dirty and his hands over his face, crying. I just remember that so vividly because I was wondering what we were about to experience.

When I was there with my family as a kid, I do remember one thing very vividly: it was a big and impersonal city. People would pass each other by, not speaking to each other, ignoring each other, keeping to themselves.

On September 12, 2001, it was a completely different feeling. Small groups had formed on the streets and in the parks. Strangers were randomly interacting with each other sharing stories and information. It felt more like a small village rather than a big city.

This was even more noticeable in areas where people had posted “missing” posters with pictures of their loved ones. Seeing those is what really made it real for me. So many posters and so many loved ones missing. It was gut wrenching.

I am glad I had the opportunity to experience one of the biggest news events in history with my camera and my classmates, though I wish I never would have had the reason to go.

I was 27 and not yet that experienced in photojournalism, but it was a valuable lesson. It was not only a lesson in how to approach people who were in anguish but also how to deal with my own anguish and emotions after returning from it all.

MICHAEL BUNCH

Twenty years after 9/11, l remember the human spirit much more than I remember the destruction and chaos.

I recall watching vehicles roll in from all over the country, sedans strapped with wheelbarrows and shovels, covered in makeshift signs stating they’d traveled to New York City to help in any way possible.

It made me question if I was holding the right tool, but a camera is the tool of my trade, so I focused on finding images that showed less the tears and rubble and more how remarkable people can be in the wake of immense tragedy.

DAVID COOPER

I’m not sure what I expected as we drove toward New York on the Thursday after September 11, 2001. As we got closer, we could see across the Hudson River. I saw the smoke still rising from Ground Zero. The tragedy became real with such sadness.

Twenty years later, I certainly remember that sadness as we documented those few days. But I mostly remember the resiliency of New Yorkers. They pulled together for the common good. The country did the same. I hope for that feeling of unity now.

AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS

When I think back this is what I remember:

  • Listening
  • Shock at the size of the hole in the earth.
  • Watching hope turn to despair and grief.
  • Not being able to focus my camera through tears, but still shooting. 
  • Feeling the importance of documenting the events of September 11, 2001, knowing that the future would be changed.

JAMES KENNEY

As my colleague, David Cooper, and former student, Amy Smotherman Burgess, and I drove into New York City in the wee hours of the Friday morning after 9/11, with smoke still rising from where the twin towers once stood on the city skyline, I remember thinking to myself, “This is not how I wanted to see New York City for the first time.”

I grew up in Los Angeles, but my father, who died when I was 17, grew up in New York. Perhaps because of this the city had always held a special, almost mystical place in my mind and heart. I had always dreamed of traveling to New York City to walk the streets that my father walked as a child. But instead, I was walking these same streets photographing destruction, disbelief, pain, tears, and the faint hope that those missing were still alive.

By the end of the weekend, hope had faded. The reality of what happened had fully set in.

I came in sadness and left in sadness. I brought home photographs and audio, stories that I hoped would make some sense of it all, or at least make some difference. Beyond my prayers, this was all I had to offer.

JED CONKLIN

It’s my first time in New York City.

The buildings tower over the chaotic streets. An acrid haze diffuses the September sun and the endless lines of flashing emergency lights. Every road and sidewalk leading to Ground Zero is locked down. Every park has huddled masses. Many people are crying, wrapped by the consoling arms of strangers. Candles, teddy bears, flowers, and keepsakes are set up in impromptu memorials throughout the city. It appears every lamppost is hauntingly decorated with the faces of the missing – the phone numbers of their loved ones boldly printed, pleading for someone to call with good news.

It is quieter than I expected, as if we were all at a wake and being loud would be disrespectful. And so, it is with quiet and careful steps that we move about the city doing what we are trained to do.

We photograph what we see today so it is not forgotten tomorrow.

 

IMAGES CAPTURED BY OUR STUDENTS IN THE AFTERMATH OF 9-11

 

Call for submissions

 

Since early March, 2020, we have collectively witnessed an unprecedented time in history. From a worldwide pandemic, social and political movements that shook the world, to a political season like we have never witnessed before, the past year has given us no shortage of obstacles nor moments to document. 

The role of photojournalists have been more crucial than ever before. Many of us were among the first on the front lines documenting, capturing, experiencing the strifes with the rest of the world. 

The School of Media Gallery at Western Kentucky University will be re-opening to the public this fall and we are looking to our alumni to offer up still images and video stories to be considered for inclusion in our March to March exhibition.

And we need YOUR help. 

WKUPJ is now accepting submissions for any photo or video footage covering the months of March 2020 to March 2021. 

These images should consist of documentation surrounding the major themes of this past year: Covid-19, BLM Movement and the election.

 

INFORMATION

Who can submit:

  • WKU School of Media current students or alumni. 

 

Submission requirements: 

  • File naming convention: LASTNAME_FIRSTNAME_01, LASTNAME_FIRSTNAME_02, ETC.
  • You may submit up to 10 photos 
  • Please size your files accordingly: 2000px on the longest side, 300dpi, JPG Medium
  • Captions are required in the description field
  • The work must be made between March 11, 2020 – March 11, 2021 (approximately)

 

The deadline to submit is Monday, June 14, 2021

If your image(s) are selected, we will reach back out to you for full resolution files and clarifications on caption information.

Please contact [email protected] with any questions.

 

Submit here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeHdtl1LWxSoAKee6wy5YFQNVLhk3wlArVwW-9Dd_UFWmyYXg/viewform 

Looking Inwards

LOOKING INWARDS

As the global pandemic transitioned from novelty to reality, Western Kentucky University college students realized their lives would be altered forever

When students of the School of Media at Western Kentucky University beelined from their cramped dorm rooms and fluorescent lit classrooms in Jody Richards Hall to enjoy a week respite on March 6, 2020, they were blissfully ignorant of the storm that was about to shatter their perception of what college education would become, how their world would change and what their future may become.

The COVID-19 pandemic at first felt like this bump in the road that was merely an inconvenience but as WKU President Timothy Caboni, like other schools across the country and around the globe, announced classes were to move online for the rest of the semester, college life as it used to be quickly became a distant, hazy dream. Dimly lit basements or child-hood bedrooms became the new classroom as increasingly un-kept students clung to their red solo cups which were filled with a liquid of ambiguous content (at least to the professor) as they swayed to whatever heavy bass they could feel in their mind as they pretended to maintain attention in the new Zoom world. Instantly gone from their grasps the sensations of college life freedom.

View the complete project online at: http://lookinginwards.tilda.ws

Produced by Gabi Broekema

Content by Fatimah Alhamdin, Grace Bailey, Raaj Banga, Morgan Bass, Gabi Broekema, Alex Driehaus, Kennedy Gott, Morgan Hornsby, Missy Johnson, Cassady Lamb, Sam Mallon, Vonn Pillman, Rachel Taylor, Lily Estella Thompson

Photo and Journal entry by Sam Mallon

SELF PORTRAIT
MARCH, 2020
I find myself exhausted though my quarantine days are filled with very little movement. I long for places to go and people to see; I am grieving the could-have, would-have, should-have-beens. I am grateful that I am safe and it is my responsibility to keep others safe, so I have been staying inside and learning to spend time with myself. I have found solace in the fact that the trees are turning green — they remind me that we are all still growing —I am eager to see how much stronger we are on the other side of the current pandemic.


Video and Journal by Lily Estella Thompson

MAKING IT THROUGH
SUMMER, 2020
“Upon reflection of our relationship throughout the pandemic, Brandon and I try to make sense about what went wrong, and what went right during this time of isolation. In a video and thru images I took, we are both made to talk about what it has been like living together through one of the most historic times in our lives.”

 

Photo and Journal by Morgan Bass
SELF PORTRAIT
MAY, 2020
I used to be an extrovert, someone who would strike up conversations with strangers for fun. After half a year in social isolation, the mere thought of putting myself out there like that is suffocating. Since March of 2020, I have been on a downward spiral into a pit of panic attacks and depressive episodes. I have been trying to act like the person I was before, but there is a piece that is now missing from that person that I used to be, and I am not sure how to pretend that it isn’t.

 

Photo of her family by Rachel Taylor
FAMILY CHURCH SERVICE
APRIL, 2020
“The first thing I’m doing when quarantine is over is going to church,” Catherine Taylor said on Sunday. Much like her husband, she has missed very few Sundays and longs to be back in the church building she grew up in, rather than praying virtually on her front porch. “I know that church isn’t just a building, but I can’t wait to be worshiping with my church family again.” she added.

Write-In by Alex Maxwell

Senior Photojournalism major Alex Maxwell follows the unlikely campaign of Tom Morris who was running as a write-in candidate for Mayor of Bowling Green, Ky.

Longtime Bowling Green resident Tom Morris launched his campaign for the office of Mayor in July of 2020, falling just behind the deadline to get his name on the ballot. With no time to waste, he began vigorously campaigning as a write-in candidate.

What are the chances of winning a write-in campaign? If the United States Senate is taken as an example, the odds are slim.

To see the complete story visit: https://spark.adobe.com/page/U21WHS5ndUFkL/

 

 

Delayed: Resilience in the Face of a Life-Altering Pandemic

WKU Photojournalism major, Sam Mallon, a Junior from Silver Springs, Maryland, documents college student Maggie Smith as she learns to navigate a pandemic as a student in a field that requires hands on connections, in the Interdisciplinary Early Childhood Education program. The limitations of virtual learning was recently balanced out as Smith began caring for Rush Renshaw, a 17-year-old boy with low-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder. You can view the entire project here.

“I think that my education wasn’t individualized the way education should be. I was expected to work at the same pace as everyone around me and I constantly felt stupid,” Maggie Smith said. “I’m not stupid. I’m pretty smart. I’m not able to learn the same way as everyone else, and that’s okay, but I was never told that that was okay. I was always just seen as slower.” Smith has ADHD and spent most of her life trying to figure out how it affected her learning. She now understands it better, but her ADHD can leave her to cram during finals week and end her days exhausted, in the middle of the morning. As an aspiring teacher, she wants to help neurodivergent students understand their diagnoses earlier, so they don’t have to go through standardized education the way she did.

“As Donna, [Rush’s] mom, was walking me through his routine, I just fell into place and I was just doing it like second nature like I’m working at Sproutlings again, and then I spent a night with him an entire day and an entire night and it was totally fine,” Smith said, “When I got there, I just realized I’m completely qualified for this. This is literally what I’m meant to do.” Although respite work on top of school and a part-time job making pizza is a lot for Smith to juggle, she is grateful for the opportunity to learn from and with Rush.

“I talk to [Rush], like I talk to anyone else,” Smith said. “I interact with him the same way. He still talks to me, without using words, but I mean, it’s the same as a toddler not being able to talk to me with words, they can still communicate what they need and want.” Smith and Rush communicate very smoothly, though Rush is non-verbal. Smith recognizes cues about how Rush is feeling or what he need through body language. She knows he feels safe when holding her hand.

A Relative, A Revelation | by Chris Kohley

Senior WKU Photojournalism major Chris Kohley depicts in this multimedia project how history lives on for local historian Tommy Hines as he uncovers facts about his ancestor with the same name. “They called him the most dangerous man in the Confederacy,” Tommy Hines said of Thomas Henry Hines, a soldier that fought for the south during the Civil War.

As Executive Director of the South Union Shaker Village, Tommy has uncovered revelations about his ancestor and grappled with his role in the Civil War.

You can view the entire project here.

 

Driving Change | by Sam Mallon

Sam Mallon, a junior WKU Photojournalism major, documents Bowling Green’s Mobile Grocery Bus, that was established by the Housing Authority of Bowling Green to address the growing problems of food insecurity in the region. Bus driver Danny Carothers takes us on the tour of the outreach program that has recently gotten national attention from HUD Secretary Ben Carson.

You can view the entire project here.


“I want to serve people in any way, form or fashion… I think it was just what I was raised to do,” Carothers said. He may have given up on his dream of teaching, but his giving spirit lives in all of his work, especially in regard to the Mobile Grocery Bus.

Chris Kohley: Experience comes in the field

Internships and on-campus staff positions has provided  WKU Photojournalism Senior Chris Kohley experience and opportunities to advance his skills beyond the classroom. Interning for the the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, USA Today-Network Wisconsin, and this summer’s internship at the St. outs Post-Dispatch has helped propel him towards graduation. Chris as also been on staff at the College Heights Herald and currently photographs for the Western Kentucky University’s Athletics program.  Here are a few of his images from the past year.

 

Dolly Jo Heath takes a moment to visit her nephew Cpl. James E. Carter who served in the Persian Gulf at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis on Friday, May 22, 2020.

WKU forward Ansley Cate (20) falls on top of Southern Miss forward Ariel Diaz (3) while fighting for the ball at the WKU soccer complex on Sept. 21, 2019.

WKU’s Sophia Cerino (23) celebrates a point with Lauren Matthews (5) in a match against the UTSA Roadrunners at WKU Hilltoppers, October 20, 2019 in Diddle Arena.

WKU center Seth Joest (67) readies himself in the locker room before taking on the Southern Miss Golden Eagles on November 23, 2019 in Hattiesburg, Miss.

Mountain Workshops announces a day of visual celebration

Mountain Sessions

Saturday, September 12, nine amazing visual journalists, free and open to the public – and a chance to win camera gear. What more could you ask for?

For 44 years, the Mountain Workshops have educated hundreds of participants to become better storytellers by working in small groups with some of the best visual journalists in the country. The rich tradition of the Mountain has produced photographers and videographers that have gone on to win Pulitzer Prizes, publish books and land jobs as visual storytellers nation wide.

This year has given the Workshops a chance to offer a different program for a wider audience, no experience necessary. On September 12, the Mountain Workshops are proud to present Mountain Sessions, a one-day line up of speakers that will inform, inspire and ignite passions for visual storytelling during these challenging times.

Photojournalism and video will be represented in three different forums moderated by leaders in their industries. Learn how some of the top professionals in photojournalism and documentary film are covering the significant stories of this year. Hear from experts and the masters on how to continue to hone your craft during this intensive one-day educational webinar. You can RSVP for just one or all three of these sessions, select the RSVP button from our web site and choose your session(s).

Since its beginnings, the Mountain Workshops has been at the heart of the WKU Photojournalism program’s educational mission. It remains the program’s best example of what can be achieved in journalism education outside of the classroom with the support of journalism professionals donating thousands of hours of their time and expertise, generous sponsors, and a dedicated staff of WKU Photojournalism teachers and students. This experience will be no exception to our educational standard.

To see detailed information on each guest and to register for the sessions, please visit our website.

Hope you can join us on the virtual Mountain.

Our 2020 Senior Single Photo Exhibition

At the end of each school year, we ask our capstone PJ436 students to select one photo that means the most to them from their time here at WKUPJ and to tell us something about the image. Obviously, it is a powerful thing to graduate from our program, even in this era of social distancing and COVID-19 – we could not be more proud of this year’s seniors.


Madihah Abri

Louisville, Kentucky | Photojournalism major; Spanish minor

Shante Parker & LA Rogers

ABOUT THESE PHOTOS
Both of these images were taken a few weeks apart from each other, and looking back on them I realize how important they are to me. This was the moment everything “clicked” after going through various obstacles, including having to leave WKU and then finding a way to come back. I felt my confidence starting to fade.

I have always had a passion for storytelling and was in my opinion becoming a decent editorial photographer prior to having to leave WKU. When I came back I felt lost and “not good enough.” That is until I was able to take PJ 439, Advanced Studio Lighting.

While taking these images, I not only realized my self-worth as a photographer but also my hidden desire to own my own studio. I stepped out of the world of editorial photography and into a world of fashion and portraiture. I developed a love for blending colors and shaping the light around different skin tones to make the desired feature pop.

In the studio I’m still able to be a storyteller and give representation to those who do not have that power; but now I can do it in a more creative and “Me” style. The portraits of Shante and LA allowed me to grow as a person and a photographer by guiding my way back to what I lost – my personal drive.


Phoebe Alcala

Sacramento, California | Photojournalism major, Sociology minor

The advanced dancers of the San Diego Academy of Ballet prepare backstage for their yearly performance of The Nutcracker on Nov. 23, 2018.

ABOUT THIS PHOTO
Reflecting back on my years at Western, I can’t think of a shoot that was more physically and mentally exhausting than this one. I was on my feet for hours on end making sure that I captured every moment possible, foregoing water breaks in favor of shooting the countless tutus and elaborate stretching routines that seemed to be around every corner. Here, I discovered that there is something magical about being behind the scenes of a ballet performance. Elegance and chaos collide as dancers hurry to apply makeup and search for costumes while surrounded by blur of tulle, glitter and dance moms. All goes quiet as soon as the curtain rises, and the dancers look perfectly polished. The audience members know nothing of the mayhem that’s going on behind the scenes; all eyes are on the seemingly effortless movements of the dancers.

To me, the fine line between elegance and chaos reflected in this image mirrors the job of a photojournalist so perfectly. Blood, sweat and a whole lot of tears serve as the foundation for success. This was one of the most challenging and rewarding shoots of my PJ career thus far. Nothing is effortless, whether it be ballet or photography – you must be pushed to your limits to be able to see what you can truly accomplish.


Michelle Hanks

Chattanooga, Tennessee | Photojournalism major, Sociology minor

INTERNSHIPS

  • The Washington Post, Washington, D.C.
  • Louisville Public Media, Louisville, Ky.
  • Interlochen Center for the Arts, Interlochen, Mich.

Natasha, 24, frantically gets ready to leave her home to see her daughter for her weekly foster care visit in Bowling Green, Kentucky. She arrived with only minutes to spare before the visitation would have been canceled. She had missed the last three visits.

ABOUT THIS PHOTO
This image is part of a photo story that documents Natasha as she attempts to gain custody of her infant child due to a drug charge. Despite her good intentions, Natasha continued to use meth while she waited for her court sentencing.

This was the most ethically challenging and sensitive story I’ve worked on during my time in the program. Natasha gave me a lot of trust to let me photograph her while she was in a very vulnerable state of her life. I felt a huge weight of responsibility to tell her story with empathy, yet also with accuracy and fairness. I’ve lost touch with Natasha, but I still often think about how she is doing since we last saw each other.

Bowling Green, Kentucky’s Greyhound bus station has stayed the same for the last 29 years, yet new people come and go every day.

ABOUT THIS VIDEO
I made this video during the fall semester of my senior year. At the time I lacked a lot of confidence in myself to tell a compelling story about this bus station, a place that looked so mundane from the surface level. But with the guidance and encouragement of my professor, Tim Broekema, I surprised myself and made one of my most cherished short docs to date.

I took away two lessons from making this short doc. I learned how important it is to share your work with others while it’s in the “in progress” phase. I am one who tends to avoid sharing work when it’s still messy and unpolished, but if I had not come to my professor before the short doc deadline the video would not have turned out as strong as it did. The second lesson I learned is that it’s possible as a filmmaker to create something interesting without having the most interesting footage. As visual journalist Eric Maierson once wisely said, it’s not about the cards you are dealt with but how you play them.


Morgan Hornsby

McKee, Kentucky | Photojournalism major, History minor

INTERNSHIPS

  • The Gallup Independent, Gallup, N.M.
  • Tulsa World, Tulsa, Okla.
  • Naples Daily News, Naples, Fla.
  • The Marshall Project, New York, N.Y.

Carolyn Williams and her great-granddaughter, Adalynn, stand in an embrace at Carolyn’s home in Claremore, Okla. on August 10, 2018. Twenty-one years after her daughter, Angelina, was removed from her care, Shaunte Gordon received a Facebook message from her daughter asking to meet again. When they were reunited, Shaunte brought her mother, Carolyn, and Angelina brought her daughter, Adalynn. For the first time, Carolyn saw her granddaughter and great-granddaughter. “Four generations restored,” Carolyn said.

ABOUT THIS PHOTO
I made this photo of Carolyn and Adalynn while we were taking photos of them with the rest of their family. When I noted the similarity of their hairstyles, the two of them happily excused the others from the frame to get one by themselves. Their bond was special — deeply ingrained and apparent despite not knowing each other for much of their lives.

When I received the internship at the Tulsa World, I did not know I would spend most of my free time that summer working on a story about incarceration. Before that, criminal justice wasn’t something I thought about very often. My first assignment was to photograph a prison graduation ceremony. After that, I wanted to learn more about the criminal justice system and its impact, so I started working on a project about the effect of incarceration on families in Oklahoma.

The people who let me into their lives and shared their stories with me that summer changed my life forever. When my subjects put photos in frames, or when the stories ran in the paper, I felt more purposeful than I had in my life. Since then, telling stories of incarceration has been my primary focus as a photographer. Working on these stories, I feel a greater purpose for all the skills I’ve learned over my time at Western.


Nic Huey

Atlanta, Georgia | Photojournalism major, Folklore minor

INTERNSHIPS

  • Beam Imagination, Atlanta, Ga. (two summers)

Mason Ashby, 9, and his great uncle, Earl Ashby, spend time together at Cedar Ridge Speedway in Morgantown, Ky. The Ashby family has operated the half-mile dirt racetrack for decades, but they do more than sell tickets. The Ashby’s are one of the fastest families in Kentucky, with Mason regularly beating drivers twice his age.

ABOUT THESE PHOTOS
Cameras have always given me an excuse to visit unfamiliar places. For these images, I brought out a large format camera and set up a white seamless to make portraits of characters at the track. It is pretty special to have a total stranger sit for a portrait; it gives you a reason to be curious, ask questions and learn about their life.

This is one of the many instances that solidified my love for the intersection of journalism and photography. The idea of creating images that can live on and become a part of visual history is a constant source of inspiration for me, and days like this day out at the racetrack constantly remind me of the joy of documentary photography.

Larry Duncan leaves the house every night after sundown and doesn’t return until the early morning. His goal? Getting students home safe.

ABOUT THIS VIDEO
Ever since the first ride-share companies started popping up, I was fascinated with idea of two strangers coming together in a car for a trip. It is a temporary and random intersection of two lives, one that ends as quick as it begins. What conversations take place? What ideas are shared? When I came across Larry’s Instagram page, I knew it was my chance to find out. For several nights I rode along with Larry and his passengers documenting the strange reality of ride-share.

With documentary video, I love to be a fly on the wall. This project allowed me to do just that, even getting in-car footage from Larry’s dash cam. It was awesome to document the seemingly innocuous occurrences of Larry’s ride-share routine through the early hours of each morning, and to see the bonds he forms with his passengers as their lives temporarily cross paths.


BreAnna Luker

Fenton, Missouri | Photojournalism major, Marketing minor

Amanda Young, 30, hugs her niece during the “baby” ballet class at Dance Images in Bowling Green, Ky. Young has been dancing since she was 5 and teaches kids and adults of all ages in dance and fitness. The girls got to play dress up with the ‘”big girl” costumes at the end of practice.

ABOUT THIS PHOTO
After 18 years of spending my days and nights in a dance studio, I walked in with a camera bag on my shoulder instead of my dance bag. I picked up my camera and found myself lost in combining my two passions – dance and photography.

For me, this image is more than just a young girl hugging her dance teacher. This image embodies everything that dance means to me. When I captured this moment, I saw myself in each of the young girls. The little girl in the red dress is admiring the beautiful tutu she hopes to wear one day. The little girl in purple watches herself dance, not caring what anyone else thinks. The little girl in yellow just soaks in every moment around her. The little girl in green hugs her teacher, someone who she admires and looks up to. Dance taught me so many incredible qualities, and I find myself integrating them in my photographic work; looking to future possibilities; not getting wrapped up in what others think of my work; soaking in every moment that I carry my camera; and continuing to be inspired by my peers.

I think that’s why I love this image so much. It took me me back to so many unforgettable memories of mine. This image showed me that as photojournalists, that’s what we do. We capture moments. We capture memories.


Emily Moses

Nolensville, Tennessee | Photojournalism major, Geography minor

INTERNSHIPS

  • Interlochen Center for the Arts, Interlochen, Mich.
  • Friends of Acadia, Bar Harbor, Maine

Avery Rolett, 5, waits to be buckled up in the passenger seat of his dad’s pickup truck outside their farm in Scottsville, Ky. His parents, Jackson and Jordan Rolett, are first- generation farmers who started StoneHouse Market Farm less than a year ago. Jackson helped start the Double Dollars program at the Bowling Green Community Farmers Market, an initiative to make local food an affordable option for the entire community. The Rolett’s receive SNAP benefits to feed their children because the farm does not provide them with a living wage.

ABOUT THIS PHOTO
I took this photo right before leaving my subject’s house in the fall of my junior year. That semester, I was enrolled in PJ 334, Picture Stories, a class that gave me clarity that photojournalism was far more than a hobby for me. The class gave me the opportunity to get to know families that I might not have met otherwise.

During this class, I pursued many environmental stories that involve farming and food insecurity, an interest that is rooted in me from being raised on a farm. The Rolett family not only allowed me into their home, they shared their passion for farming sustainably to create a better world for their children to grow up in. The images I created in this story of the Rolett boys running around barefoot on their farm made me nostalgic for stomping in the creek on my family farm with my little brother. Although I was telling the story of the Rolett family, I found glimpses of my own story in theirs.


Grace Pritchett

Evansville, Indiana | Photojournalism major, Advertising minor

INTERNSHIPS

  • The Cincinnati Enquirer, Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Interlochen Center for the Arts, Interlochen, Mich.

Left to right, Daeanna Kidd, Lanae Matthews and Takoryah Green play at the Parker Bennett Community Center, which offers free after-school care to children in Bowling Green, Ky. Located in the housing authority district, most of the children who attend come from low-income families. Jkeyah Patterson, a recreation assistant for the community center, says, “Over here, it’s low income, so they are going to appreciate more.”

ABOUT THIS PHOTO
As a photojournalism student, I eventually realized that despite my shy nature I could talk to anyone as long as I had my camera in hand. It was like my super power, and I loved it. Not only did I get to meet new people on a daily basis for my assignments, but I also got to capture the raw emotion of moments in their lives.

On the day I took this photo outside the Parker Bennett Community Center, I had been tasked with finding a story for my Picture Stories class. I was photographing these kids all hanging out on the jungle gym, not feeling like I was making much progress, and then all of a sudden they turned. A sea of faces glanced in unison at something happening behind me. I am still not sure what they were looking at because I was jumping into action. I started pressing down on the shutter and adjusting the composition as much as I could before the moment was over.

Although it did not turn out to be a perfect picture by any means, this photo represents a turning point in my relationship with photojournalism. I realized that not every moment had to be “loud” to have impact. The little in-between moments could be just as engaging, just as storytelling. More important, this photo reminded me that I could give people a voice by telling their story; that is what matters most.


Dalton Puckett

Buffalo, Kentucky | Photojournalism major, Citizenship and Social Justice minor

INTERNSHIPS

  • Philmont Scout Ranch, Cimarron, N.M.

Terry Key, right, is the founder of the Edgehill Bike Club in Nashville, Tennessee. After being forced to move to Edgehill by the East Nashville Flood of 2010, he quickly realized that the community needed change.

“When I first moved here, I took a kid a mile away to a park (he’d never been there before). He was 13 years old. I was like ‘Man! You ain’t never been out the neighborhood?'” Key knew what the kid was talking about though. “I was that kid that could never get out of that damn neighborhood. Until I got me a bicycle.”

Key wants to do more than just give kids bikes. He wants to give them something to feel good about. “If you can make a kid smile, you can make a kid to be a friend,” Key said. He is making the kind of difference in the community that he knew he could.


ABOUT THIS PHOTO
This image was a part of my very first story in my PJ 334 Picture Stories class. Our first assignment was particularly challenging because we only had a week to complete it. This image is important to me not only because I was able to spend time with Terry and Abde, but it also showed me that I could rally under an unexpected crunch for time and capture a story that was meaningful.


Lydia Schweickart

Louisville, Kentucky | Photojournalism major, Sociology minor

Rachael practices her pole dancing routine at home in preparation for an upcoming competition in Myrtle Beach, Fla. On Rachael’s nights off from work, she stays home and takes care of her son Gabriel. Her shifts at Tattle Tale’s Gentleman’s Club start at 6:00 p.m. and end at 2:00 a.m. Rachael’s fiancee has expressed his disapproval of Rachael working at a club, and he is expecting her to quit soon after her pole dancing competition. Rachael explained that even though she will be quitting at the club, she will never stop pole dancing because she enjoys it too much.

ABOUT THIS PHOTO
This photo was made up of a lot of firsts for me. It was part of my first ever photo story. It was the first time I went to a subject’s house. And it was the first time I had a subject truly allow me in to her life and trust me. It was this photo story that made me realize I never wanted to take that trust for granted. It was this photo story that helped shape my outlook on photojournalism for my next three years at WKU.

Having Rachael be so open with me made me realize the importance of being a human being first and a photographer second. All of my successes at WKU have been because of the people around me: my subjects, my professors and my peers. The most important thing I’ve learned in the photojournalism program is that talent in this profession means nothing If you aren’t a good person, a compassionate person and an empathetic person.


Chase Sheehan

Lexington, South Carolina | Photojournalism major, Communication Studies minor

Jimmy Thomas watches as his cousin and caretaker, Dana Thomas, scoops rocks into a small sinkhole on his farm. Jimmy Thomas has cerebral palsy and needs help doing daily maintenance on his property, where he has about 40-head of cattle.

ABOUT THIS PHOTO
This image represents the moment that journalism came together for me. I met the Thomas’s before my last semester of college and was drawn to their story. After spending several weeks with them, I started to understand what it meant to dig deeper.

The moment seen in this photo made me realize that I was capable of showing the magnitude of relationships between people. When I saw the image on my computer later that day, I felt like I had really captured the essence of their story, a family that was willing to do anything for each other.


Megan Strassweg

Louisville, Kentucky | Photojournalism major, Entrepreneurship minor

John Raleigh, 37, has been a bartender for 15 years. He found his home at Mo’s House in Evansville, Ind., after 12 years at the same college dive bar. He needed a change and has been at Mo’s since its opening in 2017.

“The older I got, the more I learned about the creativity and craftsmanship,” Raleigh said. “I’m able to use my college degree in art behind the bar, not only in the preparation of cocktails but by having a direct effect on an entire experience. Music, lighting and presentation are all important to me.”

ABOUT THIS PHOTO
After a few semesters of going through the Photojournalism program, I was having trouble finding my niche. Then I started PJ 333, our studio lighting class, and within a few weeks I figured out what I really wanted to do with my photography. Portraits came easy to me, and I loved working with different subjects and being able to show them the finished product.

The way John spoke about his bartending career and how he felt about it inspired me to continue my ventures in photography. I had multiple moments where I didn’t feel like I was succeeding and wanted to quit, but thinking back on the conversation I had with John gave me the confidence to keep going.

Looking back on that 2:00 a.m. shoot with John at Mo’s House, I’m happy that I continued in my studies and stuck with it no matter how many times I wanted to give up. Every portrait I’ve made represents a moment that I was able to capture with my camera and share with the people around me. Without those moments, I would be a different person.


Katie Stratman

Covington, Kentucky | Photojournalism major, Digital Advertising minor

INTERNSHIPS

  • National Senior Games, Albuquerque, N.M

Taveion Hollingsworth celebrates after taking the lead over Arkansas in overtime. Western Kentucky University triumphed over the previously undefeated Arkansas team 86-79 on December 7, 2019, in E.A. Diddle Arena.

ABOUT THIS PHOTO
I started working with the WKU Athletic Department my sophomore year of college. Basketball season at Western is definitely one of my favorites. The atmosphere in Diddle Arena is special, especially when playing an SEC opponent like Arkansas, which was undefeated until the team came to Bowling Green.

I remember walking into the stadium that night a little nervous but very much excited to see how the game was going to unfold. This picture was taken in overtime and it enabled Western to take and keep the lead. I was sitting the furthest away from the basket, trying to capture the emotion on Hollingsworth’s face over everybody in front of me. My heart and mind were racing a mile a minute throughout the entire game.

I love to capture the reaction shots in any game, as any expression can tell a story.


Silas Walker

Portland, Oregon | Photojournalism major, Digital Advertising minor

INTERNSHIPS

  • Lexington Herald-News, Lexington, Ky.
  • Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah

Malik Staples of the Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers sprays water while celebrating a victory against the University of Alabama Birmingham Blazers on September 28, 2019, at Houchens L. T. Smith Stadium in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The Hilltoppers and Blazers went back and forth, tying the game in the third quarter, but the Hilltoppers were able to stop the Blazers and add a touchdown in the fourth quarter to win the game. The Hilltoppers went on to have an 8-4 season and win the 2019 First Responder Bowl game against the Western Michigan Broncos.

ABOUT THIS PHOTO
I was working the WKU vs. UAB football game for Getty Images. It had been a long night, with both teams scoring back and forth. When WKU finally took the lead in the fourth quarter, I could tell the team was going to go crazy, so I rushed to put myself in front of the student section where I knew they would run to celebrate. The team did rush over and celebrate. I saw some players grabbing the opposing team’s water bottles and start spraying water everywhere, so I just started making pictures.

When I looked at this image while running back to the workroom, I was so happy one image worked out from the celebration. This image really helped my confidence because I had known where the right place was, when the right time was and I was prepared to document the moment.


Hayley Watson

Louisville, Kentucky | Photojournalism major, Digital Advertising minor

Alexis Watkins, a Western Kentucky University student from Louisville, Ky., is a student leader for the university’s Intercultural Student Engagement Center (ISEC) Academy. ISEC is a Western Kentucky University initiative/program to assist students who identify as students of color, and/or who are first-generation college students, Pell Grant eligible and have some need for assistance with their transition, persistence and graduation from Western Kentucky University. Watkins credited the academy for playing such a huge role in her college experience thus far.

ABOUT THIS PHOTO
This photo was the first time that I learned that you can make studio-quality photos outside of the studio. It was the first time that the power of a quiet moment and nice lighting really clicked for me.

Due to the nature of the lighting assignment we were given – show up at DSU and there will be a 5-10-minute time limit with each student who comes to you – I wasn’t really able to “research” my character or the idea before we began shooting, so I showed up knowing that I was going to have to be personable and likable if I wanted to take a photo that shared the essence of who Alexis was.

During our photo session, I asked her if she had brought anything that was special to her, and that’s when she pulled out her rosary beads and we started talking about faith and belief systems. I went in thinking this was an assignment only teaching me how to use camera lighting equipment, but in actuality I left feeling more confident as a photojournalist.