ROUTE – A visual journey down Historic Dixie Highway

Stretching from the tip of Florida to the top of Michigan the historic Dixie Highway created communities along its Route.  Travel with Anna Leachman and Gabi Broekema as they document its path through the state of Kentucky, telling the stories of its people, religion and businesses, along its winding road.

View the entire project here:

Survivors – Finding Hope Beyond Domestic Violence

Ever so often students do a project that shakes you and makes one stop to notice the depth of storytelling that our students are capable of producing. Survivors is a senior capstone project by Allie Schallert and Arthur H. Trickett-Wile that had the room on an emotional rollercoaster during the presentation. It is a story of two women and their journey through the impacts of domestic violence.

View the entire story here:

Losing Cherokee by Sean McInnis

Western Kentucky University’s Photojournalism & Documentary Sean McInnis, a junior, explored the culture and language of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians tucked away in the Great Smokey Mountains. While interning last summer at the Charlotte Observer, Sean learned about how the Cherokee language is quickly disappearing, and the efforts that are being taken to preserve it. To better tell story, Sean created a multimedia presentation that pulls together examples of the Cherokee language in written and spoken form and broke down a timeline of the Cherokee Nations struggle the past 200 years to hold onto their culture.  Visit the it at:

2023 Capstone Projects

What happens when your freshman year of college everything shuts down for a pandemic and your a Photojournalism Major? Learn to adapt. Our graduating senior class had to learn how to engage with people when the world says to distance. When events on campus don’t resume until your junior year in college. You learn invaluable skills in an always changing world. (Example electric at our senior picnic shelter would never turn on during a rainstorm)

Students in the photojournalism sequence spend the last semester of their major working on a individual or small-team 16-week long projects.  The results of their efforts can be viewed at this site:


Survivors by Allie Schallert and Arthur Trickett-Wile

Domestic violence is a worldwide problem, but in the U.S., Kentucky leads the proportion of women who face it.


Champion of My Own World by Charlie Haynes

Despite challenges, boxing coach Josh “Rocky” Mata still manages to follow his passions and inspire other along the way


Route by Gabi Broekema and Anna Leachman

A documentation of Kentuckians who work, worship and live along the historic Dixie Highway


Stone of Comfort by Gunnar Word

Despite having overcome a rough childhood and unlikely odds, Ebenezer Griffith is on a journey to try and represent the United States in the Olympics in 2024


Tonality by Georgia Mallett

Finding a voice in identity and music


Unbreakable Bond by Tyler Breneman and Cristina Betz

Despite their vastly different backgrounds, two sibling support one another in a way no one else can.

Carry On

From the moment the world learned of the death of Queen Elizabeth II on the evening of September 8, 2022, to the funeral held at Westminster Abbey on September 19, 2022, could be described as a fever dream. The city of London was still simmering with activity as it always has, but a blanket of calm and quiet sadness cloaked the streets. Citizens dressed in black and adorned in medals representing their service waited in the queue zig-zagging along the banks of the Thames to see the casket of their queen and to pay their respects to the monarch who dedicated 70 years of her life to her people.

WKUPJ student Gabi Broekema, who was studying a semester in Denmark, took the opportunity to hop over to London to document this historic event.

You can view the project here

Scenes from across London, England, of people mourning of the passing of Queen Elizabeth II and looking forward to a new era with the recently appointed King Charles III.

Julia Finder poses for a portrait after waiting nearly 8 hours in the que to pay her respects to Queen Elizabeth II’s casket as she laid in-state at Westminster Abbey on Friday, September 16, 2022. “It’s my queen,” Finder says. “I would have even waited 12, 15 hours.”

A mourner pauses on her trek to lay flowers at the Green Park floral tribute for Queen Elizabeth II and waits for a glimpse of the recently crowned King Charles III on Friday, September 16, 2022. The King and his siblings were to stand vigil at Westminster Abbey over their mother.

The crowd outside of Buckingham Palace gets pushed back by security to make way for the recently crowned King Charles III as he headed to stand vigil over his mother, Queen Elizabeth II as she laid in-state at Westminster Abbey on Friday, September 16, 2022. Parents and guardians keep a steel grip on their children’s coat collars while pushing forward against the wall of spectators in hopes of helping them catch their first glimpse of the new head of the monarch.

The crowd cheers and waves as the King Charles III rolls by in full military uniform to stand vigil with his siblings over his mother’s casket as it laid in state on Friday, September 16, 2022.

Nourishing the Soul by Kennedy Gott

Kennedy Gott’s WKU Photojournalism capstone project, examines a family as they tackle the challenges of sourcing their own food in a more healthy manner.

Ellen Aldridge practices modern homesteading by growing and raising her own food on their family’s land at their home in Bowling Green, KY. The Aldridge family is living an old-school and natural lifestyle while many in society struggle with the conveniences of a fast-paced life that results in unhealthy eating.

Click here to view the interactive project.



Our 2022 Senior 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.  We hope you spend some time with the work of these talented alumni, it is no easy feat to earn a degree from WKUPJ.

Brenna Pepke

Memphis, Tennessee | Photojournalism major; Studio Arts BFA


  • Artist Residency Boyd Station, Kentucky
  • Creative Director, SHOW&TELL, Kentucky
  • Artist Residency Azule, North Carolina


As the COVID-19 pandemic lock down was at its’ peak, I was in a studio lighting class. However, without access to campus and therefore the studio, I was forced to experiment with more creative portraits that were created within my own home. Although it was incredibly challenging to be in school during the pandemic, I was able to delve into an un-journalistic portrait series revolving around what I imagine various colors’ personalities might be.


View Entire Story:

Finding Home: After losing their shared house in the devastating series of tornadoes that swept through the midwest in the winter of 2021, a mother and daughter duo see an opportunity to build separate lives. Facing homelessness, and financial uncertainty both women must continue to provide for their families and redefine their idea of home.

Jordan Matthis

Owensboro, Kentucky | Photojournalism major; Advertising major


  • Falling Creek Camp, North Carolina
  • Image West, Kentucky

After being sent home from COVID in March of 2020, Jordan Matthis was enrolled in Intro to Studio Lighting in which she was challenged to learn technical lighting skills through weekly zoom classes and photographing herself. This photograph is part of a 5-studio portrait final, where she replicated famous paintings and dedicated a portrait to the 2020 graduates who lost their important chapter of graduation.


While being in the pandemic and locked in my house, my creativity and motivation hit a low. While seeing everything diminished and halted by the shutdown, I took it on myself to produce something that is meaningful, impactful, and represents a portion of time of graduation. I find this photograph now to be very sentimental to me as my college career comes to an end and seeing how the world has changed.

In 2019, Jordan Matthis created a series of iconography and photography campaign posters to address and create awareness of the issue of sexual assault towards young adults. Western Kentucky students Hannah Reed and Daniel Garcia volunteered to model for the campaign to showcase that both genders can be affected/silenced by sexual assault.


These campaign posters are important to me because it was the first project between my two majors, advertising, and photojournalism, that I could intertwine my technical and creative skillset of photography and studio lighting with my knowledge of strategy and communication to connect to a wide audience over a sensitive topic.


View Entire Story:

Unconditional by Sam Mallon & Jordan Matthis

Zane Meyer-Thornton

Los Angeles, California | Photojournalism major; Sociology minor


  • Cincinnati Enquirer, Ohio
  • Native American Journalists Association, Fellowhip/Remote

Ellie Banaszynski, 5, has a snack between games of Killerqueen on Sunday, June 20, 2021, at Wondercade Cincy. By having only classic arcade games, Wondercade Cincy is helping a new generation of people enjoy games from years past.


When I first got to this arcade, I thought to myself “what a nightmare of a place to photograph”. All the windows were covered, which made available light extremely scarce. As I walked down an aisle and looked to my left, Ellie’s infatuation with the game stopped me in my tracks and reminded me to never overlook a situation.

Sarah Anderson is swarmed by goats during her goat yoga class at Westbrook Farms in Bowling Green, Ky. on April 17, 2021. The class was organized by Be Happy Yoga and Westbrook Farms to combine the calming effects of yoga with the joyful experience of playing with goats.


Photographing a goat yoga class was something I would have never imagined doing but represents why I love photojournalism. Inhabiting these light slivers of the world where people find true joy will forever be why I enjoy this craft.


View Entire Story:

Crux by Addison LeBoutillier & Zane Meyer-Thornton

Our individualistic perspective of the world determines what makes life fulfilling. Rock climbing represented this for Sunny Yang, until he was left paralyzed from the neck-down after being struck by a distracted truck-driver. When doctors informed Sunny that he would be paralyzed for the rest of his life, he told them to not provide any more life-saving treatment for him; he would rather die than live a life without rock climbing. However, the support of his wife children, and the rock-climbing community helped him realize what matters most.

Kennedy Gott

Bowling Green, Kentucky | Photojournalism major; Philosophy minor

During weekly Sunday meetings at Faith Works Sober Living Home, the women living in the home reflect on their week, their struggles, their success, and their emotions. Regina Hensley (second to the right) relapsed after losing her sun to cancer on August 9, 2015. She gave into her addiction to alcohol through these tough times; yet, in September 2020, she chose the road to recovery and moved into Faith Works Sober Living Home in January 2021. “I can’t remember anything from the past two years. But I remember everything since September. Since I’ve been sober. Since I’ve lived in this house,” Hensley said.


This was the first story that I did where I got completely out of my comfort zone. I had been photographing family members since I started my photojournalism journey in the middle of the COVID pandemic, and this was the first story that I did where I got to connect to and get to know someone that I had never met before. This story made me realize the importance of photojournalism and the impact that it makes on others and the world. The ladies of the Faith Works told me that they were happy to have me and share their stories because “most people don’t care about people like them,” and they appreciated that I did care.


Lauren and Lucas Moore got married on October 2nd, 2021. It was a day filled with tears, laughter, and lots of dancing. They did a huge sparkler send-off at the end of the night, where the sparkler smoke filled the air and lit the sky in orange, red and yellow colors.


Wedding photography has been a huge part of my photojournalism journey. When I got my first wedding inquiry for a wedding on August 8th, 2020, I was baffled. This was something that had been a goal of mine since I picked up a camera. After I photographed that wedding, the wedding inquiries started flooding into my email inbox. I photographed 3 weddings in 2020, 25 in 2021 and have 16 planned for 2022. Photographing weddings has taught me a lot about how to connect with people, how to take pretty and meaningful photos and how to hustle. I am thankful for each of my couples that I have had the honor to photograph and get to know.

Photographing weddings also taught me that it is okay to change my dreams and goals. I came into the photojournalism department at WKU with tunnel vision that I was going to be a wedding photographer for the rest of my life and that was it. As I learned the value of photojournalism, I realized that there might be more out there for me than wedding photography, and I am open to seeing where life takes me after graduation.


Addison Leboutillier

Owensboro, Kentucky | Photojournalism major; Digital Advertising minor


  • Center for Gifted Studies, Kentucky

The Pastor of Little Flock Church in Owensboro, Ky sings praises after Nala Olou (left) announced that she had finally gained her United States citizenship after ten long years of appeals.


For me, this photo was one of the first times that I felt truly pushed out of my comfort zone. It was for our Faith assignment freshman year, and I didn’t have many leads going into it. However, I remembered a small wooden church sitting in a field just off the bypass that I had seen several times while driving between Bowling Green and Owensboro. One day I went, and I could not have felt more welcomed. It gave me an insight for the first time into how important it is to just stop and ask, there can be good images wherever you go.

Stars trail across the sky on Saturday, October 9, 2021.


This was one of my favorite nights over the four years I spent in this program. Our class had the opportunity to go film star trails together in October of 2021. Whenever I look back at this composite, I think of the four-plus hours spent sitting together in the dark trying in vain to keep the moisture off our cameras. Yet despite all the frustration, it was a reminder of why this program is special. In the middle of the night when no sane person would be awake, we were all up together. For no reason other than wanting to try, we stayed out in that soggy field pushing each other to create something beautiful.


View Entire Story:

Crux by Addison LeBoutillier & Zane Meyer-Thornton

Our individualistic perspective of the world determines what makes life fulfilling. Rock climbing represented this for Sunny Yang, until he was left paralyzed from the neck-down after being struck by a distracted truck-driver. When doctors informed Sunny that he would be paralyzed for the rest of his life, he told them to not provide any more life-saving treatment for him; he would rather die than live a life without rock climbing. However, the support of his wife children, and the rock-climbing community helped him realize what matters most.

Sam Mallon

Silver Spring, Maryland | Photojournalism major; Gender and Women’s Studies minor


  • Lexington Herald Leader, Kentucky
  • Friends of Acadia, Maine

“I thought a lot about Wild Earth being this space where we don’t just say what’s wrong with the world, we really show what can be right with the world,” Heather Patrick said, a co-founder of Wild Earth Farm and Sanctuary. Patrick homeschools her daughter, Everly, 5, and the two spend most of their days learning and playing outdoors.


This photo is from a story that was a bit of a passion project of mine: I happened upon Wild Earth Farm and Sanctuary on Facebook one day and immediately knew that I needed to get out to Eastern Kentucky to capture the essence of the place. Co-founder Heather Patrick was gracious enough to let me into her and her daughter’s lives whenever I was able to make trips out there that semester, and the entire experience taught me so much not only about who I am and want to be as a storyteller, but as a person. When I look back at this photograph, I am immediately reminded of why I love this craft so much; and I can’t help but grin to match Everly’s contagious smile.

Jockey Chris Landeros is speckled in dirt after finishing seventh riding King’s Mischief in Race 14, the final race of the evening at Churchill Downs following the Kentucky Derby on May 1, 2021, in Louisville, Kentucky.


Photographing the Kentucky Derby is an experience unlike any other — the energy that exists at Churchill Downs that first weekend of May is surreal, contagious, and beautifully bizarre. It might be a sporting event, but the intersection of light, color and personality that erupts throughout the entire stadium is any feature photographer’s dream. This is one of the last photos I took after last year’s race day; most photographers had retreated to the media room by that point, but I simply couldn’t peel away — there’s no fourteen-hour workday I look forward to the way I do the Derby.


View Entire Story:

Unconditional by Sam Mallon & Jordan Matthis

Our 2021 Senior Exhibition

With COVID and all that jazz, we recently realized that we overlooked posting the 2021 Senior Class work so we thought before THIS year’s seniors graduate, we want to make sure we recognized the class of 2021 and all of their achievements.

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. We also have linked their capstone projects and portfolios. We hope you spend some time with the work of these talented alumni, it is no easy feat to earn a degree from WKUPJ.

Autumn Alexander

Atlanta, Georgia | Photojournalism major, Entrepreneurship minor


  • Tennessee National Democratic Party


This image is about humor and not taking life too seriously. The day I took this photo I was really stressed out and I wanted my lighting to look perfect. Being that I was stressed out, my subject, Broadway the Clown, could probably sense that and decided to put on the pink clown wig for my portraits. This was a really fun shoot for me. I got to take pictures of Broadway in the wig and I also got a chance to present my project in the same wig as well. Photojournalism and college, in general, has taught me that there is a time and a place for everything. Sometimes it is okay to just let loose.


WKU has made me a better me. Prior to attending WKU I was a shy, timid person that may or may not have been scared of her own shadow. Now I am coming into my own, the young woman I always knew I could be. I am proud of what I have accomplished as a Hilltopper, but a little sad that I have to move on to the real world. However, I know I can always come back and see my WKU family.


Unfiltered Love


A family recounts on their mother and grandmother having renal failure, a disease that takes lives in the black community all too often. They tell their story in hopes that their loss will inspire others to tell their story and take charge of their health. If their story can save one life then it would have all been worth it.


Visit Autumn’s capstone project

Visit Autumn’s portfolio


Grace Armes

Hodgenville, Kentucky | Photojournalism major, Entrepreneurship minor

Annie and Abby Burd are 19-year-old identical twins from Bowling Green, Ky. They have grown up together and left their hometown together to attend the University of Alabama Huntsville on soccer scholarships. They are spending their last weekend together before Abby moves back home to Bowling Green, and Annie stays at school in pursuit of her soccer career and degree. This will be the first time in their lives that they will be living apart.


This 2018 image was taken from my final portrait series in PJ 333, Intro to Lighting. For my final project in this class I decided to do a portrait series on twins because I was a twin myself. I wanted to collect twins of all different types to photograph. Boy twins, boy girl twins, girl and girl twins, I even found a mother of twins that was also a twin for this story! I always had the idea of doing this story before I had even come to college because it represented a part of who I was. Having a girl twin sister is a huge part of my life and I wanted to share that.This is a photo of Annie and Abby Burd. At the time, they both attended The University of Alabama Huntsville on Soccer scholarships. This was taken the spring of their sophomore year in college and Abby had made the decision to move back home and Annie wanted to stay in Alabama. This was the first time in their lives that they would live in different places. Today, Abby is in Cosmetology school here in Bowling Green, Ky. and Annie is in her senior year at the University of Alabama Huntsville. 


WKUPJ has meant so much to me! As a senior, I am so glad that I gave every single project, even if I only had to turn in one single photo, my all. This led me to asking my peers for help, gaining friendships. It led me to use the gear checkout, learning with classmates on what gear would make the project its best. It led me to spending long nights in Jody Richards Hall franticly editing videos the night before the project was due. (whoops) But as a senior, I have realized that this is what makes up the college experience. Living and learning and using your experiences to become a better photographer at the end of it.


Learning Curve: A Kindergartner’s perception of public school effected by the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.




How does no-contact learning effect a 6-year-old and her family? Kindergartner Marjorie Young navigates what it is like to be a student and learn virtually while being a sociable little kid amid the COVID-19 pandemic.


Visit Grace’s capstone project

Visit Grace’s portfolio


Ivelliem “Ivy” Ceballo

Tampa, Florida | Photojournalism major (Second degree)


  • Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Tampa Bay Times, Tampa Bay, Fla.


  • NABJ Visual Task Force scholarship recipient, 2020
  • Mountain Workshops scholarship recipient, 2019


Burmese refugees Thang Khup, Niang Lun and their two children Samuel Lian, 3, and six-months-old Mercy Vaan, play in their home while waiting for their case worker to arrive on Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. The young family began building a new life in the United States on Nov. 9. “I don’t work, have any income, but the government, people around here providing me with food, a place to stay that is a blessing beyond anything I can imagine,” Khup said.

The International Center of Kentucky introduced me to two families, whom I’ll always remember fondly, because connecting with them taught me how much fun this profession could be. I felt really nervous while working on sharing Khup and Lun’s story because there was a language barrier between us. I had to communicate with them via a translator, who wasn’t present the days I went to photograph them, so Google Translate and hand gestures were our friends.

All they brought from their native home was a few clothes, a photo album with 4×6 pictures to remember the life they had to leave behind, and a medium poster from their wedding day on display in their living room, on the wall opposite of the pictured couch they were donated. They had each other and that was enough. Hiding in their shower with a camera while we all played hide-and-seek with Samuel brought me so much joy. This image hangs in their living room now too.

Do you ever find yourself somewhere with a camera and think, how did I get here?…In this person’s space to get to see this moment? That was my WKUPJ experience, and I am so grateful for it. I enjoyed learning about the people and places a camera could help me discover and I look forward to continuing developing this craft.

Although I picked up a camera my first go at college, I never really thought it could become a career. I started out pursuing a career in the military (I know, right? Me. My life was split between leadership involvement in yearbook and JROTC in high school), then life happened and after a hiatus in Brazil, where I served as a missionary, I returned home to finish my first bachelor’s degree knowing I wanted to work in journalism. After a web news internship and eventual job I found myself falling head over heels for the work by a talented team of photojournalists at Deseret News, and I wanted to get out of the newsroom and be in the community so badly that I quit my job to try to do it solo.

I made the decision to attend Western after stopping by for a tour on my move back across the country to start only a few months after I visited, and it’s been the craziest road trip since. I wouldn’t trade the experience and the continued education I gained from Western’s photojournalism program at the cost of stealing my heart with the love and support of so many kind humans connected to the Hill.


God Bless My Journey: Laboring in the field while surviving the pandemic.




A community of essential field workers bonds together amid the coronavirus pandemic. The diaspora of immigrants from Central America already struggle to survive to pay their bills and put food on their tables. When the health crisis struck, the community responded.


Visit Ivy’s capstone project


Joeleen Hubbard

Knoxville, Tennessee | Photojournalism major, Arts Administration minor


  • Zoo Knoxville, Knoxville, Tenn.


  • 2nd Place, CSP Gold Circle Awards, 2020
  • 3rd Place Feature Photo, Associated Collegiate Press Pacemaker Awards, 2020
  • George & Francis Tames Scholarship, 2020-2021
  • David B. Whitaker Scholarship, 2020-2021

Incoming freshmen participate in a glow zone party on Wednesday, Aug. 21st, 2019 during WKU Master Plan, an orientation program for incoming freshmen to adjust to college life.

I chose this image because I was able to capture pure joy during a transitional period for all college students. College has been such an important part of my life where I was truly able to grow into the person I have always strived to become, and I loved getting to document that same experience for other college students. Along with that, this photoshoot was one of the first that built my confidence and reassured me that I am able to do this and eventually enter this career field. I left the photoshoot feeling confident and secure in my ability to become a photojournalist and continue my passion.

There isn’t enough time and there aren’t enough words for me to express exactly what WKU PJ has meant to me. When I first began my WKU PJ experience, I would’ve never seen myself being confident enough to photograph a complete stranger and getting to capture the most intimate moments throughout their daily life.

I’ve been able to open myself up to some of the best relationships because of photojournalism and have created some of the best memories, all because of the professors and mentors that have pushed me and helped me grow throughout my time at WKU.

Thanks to WKU PJ, I was able to form relationships with peers who have become some of my best friends, meet and photograph some of my favorite musicians, meet and photograph politicians, and even work as an intern to document some adorable animals! That’s the magic of WKU PJ- you never know where the heck your time and experiences here will take you.


A Second Chance: A couple shares how traumatic events have strengthened their relationship.



Justin Weatherbee was introduced to drugs when he was merely 12 years old. Since then, he has been battling with drug and alcohol addiction while cheating death multiple times. When he met Christina Scott in 2014, he opened up about his journey to recovery; but Scott was unaware of the hardships that the process would bring. The couple soon learns about the struggles that come with addiction recovery but would also find strength and a newfound perspective on their relationship.


Visit Joeleen’s capstone project

Visit Joeleen’s portfolio


Chris Kohley

Naperville, Illinois | Photojournalism major, Sales minor


  • Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee, Wisc.
  • Appleton Post Crescent, Apppleton, Wisc.
  • St. Louis Post Dispatch, St. Louis, Mo.


  • Bob Adams Journalism Scholarship, WKU Student Publications, 2018
  • David Cooper Scholarship, WKU Photojournalism, 2018
  • 3rd place, Multimedia Sports, The Associated Collegiate Press, 2018
  • 1st place, Sports Picture Essay, Kentucky Press Association, 2018
  • 1st place, Sports feature photo, Pinnacle College Media Awards, 2019
  • Honorable mention, Magazine cover of the year, Associated Collegiate Press, 2019
  • Mike Morse Scholarship, WKU Photojournalism. 2019
  • George Tames Scholarship, WKU Photojournalism, 2020
  • 3rd place, Hearst Journalism Awards, Photojournalism I Competition, 2020
  • 4th place, Hearst Journalism Awards, Multimedia Innovative Storytelling & Audience Engagement Competition, 2020

Keaton McCarty, 19, learned the ways of farming as a child on his family owned farm. Today, he is the owner of his own farm and has aspirations for its future. He says his goal is to give farmers a better reputation in America.

This image is from the 2018 Mountain Workshops in Mt. Sterling, Kentucky. It’s of 19-year-old Keaton McCarty sitting the cab of a semi-truck waiting to drop off a supply of grain. There is something magical and infectious about Mountain, I feel like everyone who goes gets a lasting image from it. I have great memories of my story especially because my subject was the same age as me, but we had very different paths in life. Keaton graduated high school and immediately wanted to become a farmer because it is in his bloodline and there aren’t many people who wish to be local farmers anymore.

Keaton and I got along so well because we could have been buddies in college, we were the same age and just understood each other. That allowed some vulnerability out of Keaton which allowed me to make this image. I remember sitting in the passenger seat of the cab making conversation with him and snapping some frames here and there. In this moment he happened to look over his shoulder as a friend approached his vehicle, and that made the picture which ended up in the final story and is ultimately what comes to mind when I think of my most memorable WKUPJ image.

As a freshman, the standard of work being done by those ahead of me was so astonishing and inspiring. Nobody did the same kind of work, and I appreciated the freedom WKUPJ offered you to become the kind of photographer you want to be. I used this freedom to immerse myself in everything WKU had to offer from student publications, the Mountain Workshops, and WKU Athletics. I’m leaving this program having accomplished more than I could have ever imagined as an 18-year-old coming in. WKUPJ has meant lasting friends and connections, a place for me to spread my wings, and given me confidence in my own work and abilities.


Love After Loss: A couple prepares and deals with the loss of their newborn daughter to Potter’s Syndrome




Kylee and Wyatt Weeks were expecting their first child, Naomi, in November 2020. Weeks before delivery, the couple discovered the baby would be born without kidney’s due to the development of Potter’s Syndrome. Kylee and Wyatt then prepared to deliver a child they knew would not survive.


Visit Chris’ and Lily’s capstone project

Visit Chris’ portfolio


Reed Mattison

Bowling Green, Kentucky | Photojournalism major, Outdoor Leadership


  • Outdoor Leadership, 2018
  • Explore Kentucky Initiative, 2017

David Kramer, 85, sits beside his custom-built machine designed to bend wood. Kramer makes Shaker boxes and sells them in Shakertown, a defunct religious community in central Kentucky. David has been making boxes for almost 30 years. “I enjoy it,” David says. “It keeps an old man off the streets.”


This picture is important to me because I felt like I was beginning to hit my stride as a photojournalist. During my time photographing Mr. Kramer at the Mountain Workshops, I had no other distractions or obligations. It was the most feedback I’d gotten on a story, it was the most time I’d spent with a subject consecutively, it was just the most in all aspects. Mr. Kramer ate me alive though, he asked me tough questions, made me work hard to find his story, and gave me nuggets of wisdom I’ll always think about.

I definitely didn’t know what I wanted to do in school. After finding WKUPJ, I wouldn’t want to do anything else. My time here has been so formative and has been hard at times. A word to newcomers: it will get hard, but that’s what makes the trip so beautiful. Hold onto your friends and persevere together. To all my classmates: I love you and thank you. I’m not dying, I’m just graduating.


Green is Easy on the Eyes



Max Farrar and Davida Flowers are two of the 321,000 Millennial farmers. As a generation becomes more concerned about the climate crisis and sustainable food sources, Millennials are finding their way back to the dirt.Max and Davida find gardening while living in Houston, however the constraints of the city, a surprise pregnancy, and the drive to pursue something bigger than themselves lands them in Bowling Green on Max’s grandfather’s old farm.


Visit Reed’s and Mads’ capstone project

Visit Reed’s portfolio


Alex Maxwell

Salt Lake City, Utah | Photojournalism major, Music minor


  • WKYU – PBS, Bowling Green, Ky.


  • 9th place, Hearst Multimedia Category II, 2021

Master carpenter Mark Whitley aligns pieces for a table at his workshop in Smith’s Grove, Ky.


This image of master woodworker Mark Whitley in his shop is one of my favorite shots of a character, and this project represents to me one of the first times I felt like a true photojournalist capturing unique moments.

Being a part of the PJ program has led me to so many unique experiences, behind the camera and otherwise. I’ve made lifelong friendships, and become a better journalist thanks to the great people and professors at WKU PJ.


Recovering Hope: How the community is fighting the growing hunger crisis.




Recovering Hope is a look into how hunger in Bowling Green has been made worse by the Pandemic. It shows how people in the community have sought to fight back against growing food insecurity, and how food pantries and new forms of hunger relief have coped with the rise in demand.


Visit Alex’s capstone project

Visit Alex’s portfolio


Rhyne Newton

Shepardsville, Kentucky | Photojournalism major, Fashion Merchandising minor

Cowles and Leann Crawley, a VA nurse for Hotel Inc. tend to Jeff’s wounds after a fall to the concrete at the Inn. Often times medicines are lost or stolen and never able to found again, without the help of Cowles as the street medicine coordinator. “It’s real and it’s raw and you leave exhausted but you keep going and you get used to it cause this all matters to keep them going,” said Cowles.


This image represents one of those moments where I walked into a high-pressure situation with a subject for my picture stories class. There was going to be a lot of vulnerable situations going on, most of which usually weren’t captured with a camera. But the PJ syndrome kicked in as soon as I walked through the door that night, and I felt like I knew exactly what I was doing. I was able to capture this image, which was able to represent the determination and tenacity my subject had, and I was extremely proud as well as my professor, Mr. Kenney, thank God!

I think the best part of PJ is how you gradually develop your own visual style. Over these four years you go from shooting everything, a frantic mess to catching yourself planning shots in your head before you’re even there. Everything you shoot is blurry, there’s always no good light and don’t even think about captions. But then there’s a switch! One day, you have a killer story, clear ideas of the visuals you want, you are sharp (mostly), and you feel kind of badass and maybe…might be good at this? Nah, that’s going too far. Anyway, it’s been four years and I’ve loved every minute, WKUPJ.


Mix of All Three: Nana, Mom and Dad. At 64 years old, Karen Teyib has to be all three.




A closer view into the realities of single-parent Kinship Care as a grandparent in Kentucky. The state remains at number one for the highest number of kinship cases in the nation, leading thousands of children to be re-homed each year.


Visit Rhyne’s capstone project

Visit Rhyne’s portfolio


Caroline Prichard

Delray Beach, Florida | Photojournalism major, Marketing minor


  • Organization for International Investment

Chad Hayes works on a lure he hand makes in his garage workshop for his small online business in rural Kentucky. Chad started his small business as a passion project that could also help him make ends meet, he works as a full-time electrician the other 14 hours of the day, then returns home to make and pack orders.


This photograph means a lot to me because this was one of the most labor-intensive stories I had done. I was told my freshman year that I would not make it through the program without a car. Four years later, many Ubers, Lyfts, and borrowed cars later, I am here to say it is possible. For this story I had to drive an hour and half into rural Kentucky in one of my friend’s very old and dilapidated cars. I had never driven this far out into a rural area before, alone, with spotty cell service. This shoot pushed me put of comfort zone and l taught me a lot about myself and my commitment to my photography.

WKUPJ has been some of the most challenging yet rewarding years of my life. I absolutely love my WKUPJ family and all the amazing friends and lasting connections that I have made within the program. My classmates are some of the most supportive and helpful people, I couldn’t have made it this far without them.


Getting Out and Trying Again: A  single mother struggling to get her life back on track




Carlandus (Cece) Elis is a 30-year-old single mother, currently living at a non-profit provided housing organization. Cece went through a multitude of trying living situations in her childhood from being abandoned by her mother who was addicted to drugs, being sexually assaulted by her grandfather, and physically abused by her biological father. All resulting with her being in and out of foster care, group homes, and inevitably jail.Cece represents a large demographic of children in America who grew up in single parent households riddled with abuse and how it both negatively impacts them for the rest of their lives.


Chloe Skeese

Berea, Kentucky | Photojournalism major, Creative Writing minor



This image was the first photo that I truly felt confident in. I could finally look at my work and see progress and potential, which became my constant encouragement to keep going.


I am immensely grateful for WKUPJ and all that it has taught me. Being encouraged to constantly step out of my comfort zone to try new things has provided me so many great adventures. I have created new friendships and connections in places I never would have dreamed. The constant support from everyone has allowed me to become more confident in the work I produce and has taught me to never give up on both small and large goals. It may have been the most challenging for years of my life, but in the end, it was worth it.


From Number to Name




Creating a name for yourself seems impossible. Creating a name after enduring years of trauma, pain, starvation, and neglect can be even more difficult. Tyler Hunter-Boards spent the majority of his childhood in different homes. Homes that should have been trusting and loving family members turned to homes that he would never go back to. Now, Hunter-Boards helps create a new legislature for the Kentucky foster care system in an effort to prevent others from going through what happened to him. He has his eyes set on one goal and one goal only, but this was not always the case.


Visit Chloe’s capstone project

Visit Chloe’s portfolio


Emma Steele

Louisville, Kentucky | Photojournalism major, Sales minor


  • Loudoun Now, Leesburg, Va.


  • 14th place, Hearst picture stories category, 2019
  • 3rd place, Kentucky Press Association, Picture Essay, 2019

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


This image is the cover photo from my picture story “We can do Hard Things”. This story was one of the most emotional pieces I’ve ever worked on and changed my entire perception as a person and a journalist. I knew that I was doing something right if my subject, Randy, allowed me to enter in on his most vulnerable moments after losing his wife just months before.

WKUPJ has taught me way more than how to be a photojournalist. I have learned how to step out of comfort zones, be bold, communicate better, and challenge myself. It has contributed to a major part of who I am fundamentally. Learning how to overcome challenges throughout the program has been the most rewarding. It has given me confidence that if I can make it through one of the toughest Photojournalism programs, I can achieve great things in the future.


My Family Portrait: Digging into my family’s past to discover the root of my passion for photography.



Knowing that my Great Grandfather had made a huge impact in my life, it was time for me to find out why. Through the stories of his wife, my grandmother, and my mother; I was able to piece together parts of who he was. A story in which the decisions of one man completely changed the fate of generations who came after.


Visit Emma’s capstone project

Visit Emma’s portfolio


Lily Estella Thompson

Paoli, Indiana | Photojournalism major, Political Science and Journalism minor


  • Center for Gifted Studies, Bowling Green, Ky.


  • Reinke Grant for Visual Storytelling, 2020
  • Second place, Hearst Journalism Awards Photojournalism II competition, 2020
  • Hearst championship runner-up and best single image, 2020
  • Third place and honorable mention, spots feature, Associated Press Photo of the Year, 2020
  • Award of excellence, general news, College Photographer of the Year, 2020

Tracey Moore is a certified professional midwife who has been performing home births for nearly two decades. Moore is one of few who practices home births in the Commonwealth, forcing her to travel all around the western and south central regions of Kentucky. She is based in Summer Shade, Kentucky, in rural Metcalfe country. Moore delivers June Hunt on Nov. 8, 2019. Moore’s days are always different. In the last few years, midwifery has taken a much larger role in her life since her midwifery partner, who was more like a member of the family, abruptly had to leave their practice in early 2017. This left Moore to take care of nearly twice as many patients as she felt comfortable with. Shortly afterwards, Tracey suffered a miscarriage of her own at 52-years-old, she believes partly from the stress of losing her best friend and business partner and having to stretch herself thin to take care of all her clients. However, Moore persists. “I always had the heart for it, and then I saw the need for it,” Moore said. “Too many women are run through the birthing machine.”


This photo was quite literally the first time I documented life coming into the world. My midwifery story was a turning point for me— it was one of the first times I really felt like I could do this and that photojournalism life is for me. There are many moments and photos that I cherish, but this story is special to me. Thanks to Tracey for letting me be there, and thanks to all the other subjects who have let me into their lives over the years. The people I have met, whether subject, classmate, professor or coworker, have taught me so much more than a textbook ever could. That’s the magic of WKUPJ.

WKUPJ has meant the world to me. It’s one of the few groups of people where I have ever felt accepted. I may not know every PJ super well, but I know I have a group of people who want to help me and see me succeed and I, the same for them. I am proud of everyone who I’ve met through this program and I am so happy that our paths crossed. The people really are the best part of this program. I learned so much, which is incredible, but it’s the people who I really cherish.


Love After Loss: A couple prepares and deals with the loss of their newborn daughter to Potter’s Syndrome



ABOUT THIS PROJECTKylee and Wyatt Weeks were expecting their first child, Naomi, in November 2020. Weeks before delivery, the couple discovered the baby would be born without kidney’s due to the development of Potter’s Syndrome. Kylee and Wyatt then prepared to deliver a child they knew would not survive.

Visit Chris’ and Lily’s capstone project

Visit Lily’s portfolio


Hannah Vanover

Covington, Kentucky | Photojournalism major, Public Relations minor


  • Beech Tree News
  • Ment Cowork
  • Ohio County Times



This image was taken as part of a final portrait series in PJ lighting class on invisible illnesses. This project was very close to my heart and it meant the world to me to have so many individuals open up about their struggles and allow me to visually portray their pain. I became very close with my photo subject, Kaytlin Morgan, and enjoyed being able to photograph and get to know her before and after this shoot. Kaytlin, later that summer, died unexpectedly and it was the first time that I had to experience the loss of not only a photo subject, but someone that I called a friend. The memories and photos that I have of her will forever live on and I am so thankful that life brought me to her.


I have come out of my comfort zone and done things I never thought I would have. This program has truly become a second family to me and I’ve enjoyed being around so many other people that share the same passion as me. I’m grateful to have been able to build my portfolio and receive so many opportunities. Thank you WKUPJ 


Invisible: Uncovering the reality of hidden illnesses




Invisible. Stigmatized. Misunderstood. Many are fighting a health battle seemingly unknown to those around them. Invisible illness takes many forms and they look and feel different for each individual. What do these people have in common? The need to feel seen, heard and understood. The chronic illness community will be shown in a different light – one that allows those with invisible struggles and feelings to become visible.


Visit Hannah’s capstone project

Visit Hannah’s portfolio


Photo and video materials belong to their owners and are used for exhibition purposes only. Please do not use them without written permission.

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:

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

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

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
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
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.

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

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.

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


  • 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.

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.

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


  • 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.

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


  • 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.

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.

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.

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


  • 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.

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


  • 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.”

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


  • 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.

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.

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.

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.”

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


  • 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.

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


  • 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.

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.

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.