Internship Perspective – Adam Wolffbrandt

Each month, WKU NPPA features a student who has recently completed an internship. We believe internships are essential to student’s success and encourage everyone to start applying as soon as they can. Whether it’s a success story or a struggle, we love to hear from our students about their experiences. If you have an internship perspective you’d like to share, please email [email protected]

WKU senior Adam Wolffbrandt recently completed an internship with Kertis Creative in Louisville, Ky. To view his work, go to www.adamwolffbrandt.com

Here’s what his summer was like:

I was skeptical when I applied for Kertis Creative. I’d never worked anywhere remotely like it and I didn’t know anyone that had interned there before to tell me what I was getting myself into. I hadn’t really even heard of them before I applied. If you haven’t heard of them either, check them out: www.kertiscreative.com

I’ve been an intern at newspapers or a full time student, plugging away school almost non-stop for the past 6 years. I’ve hopped from place to place trying to build my portfolio and impress the photo editors. But recently I realized that was not actually for my own happiness. I felt pressured by the newspaper-driven school to go intern at a newspaper and fight my way through an industry that is (I refuse to say ‘dying’) cutting its opportunities drastically. I’ve witnessed rounds of layoffs more than once during my string of internships. It’s not easy to watch groups of really amazing people lose their jobs and continue to be the bright-eyed, eager intern ready to dominate the industry despite the struggling times.

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Trust me, I’m definitely not complaining about my experiences. Those newspapers made me the person I am today. Those photo editors pushed me to make better photos and they put up with my crap. They gave me the skills to work on a tight deadline. They gave me opportunities to shoot assignments that were real news and that mattered; really mattered to the community and even the nation. I had the opportunity to photograph situations that actually changed people’s lives. That’s the main goal of any photojournalist, right?

But then I really had to step back and take a look at what’s truly making me happy, and what’s not.

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I’ve found that I can confidently step into a spot news situation and get storytelling images. Sure, I know I can go feature hunting and return with an acceptable photo. Yes, I enjoy the excitement of a sporting event with a deafening crowd cheering around me. But there was always that voice in the back of my head that kept saying, “This isn’t what you want. This isn’t what you really care about.” No matter how amazing the internship experiences were, I’ve realized that being a newspaper photographer isn’t for me.

There. I said it.

I’ve always been happiest at school (that might be why it’s taking me 7 years to get into the real world). At school I’m surrounded by a community of peers that are generally aiming for the same goals I am. I’m given the time and attention to get critiqued by people whose opinions I value. I’m working on projects that I care about and have more than a couple hours to work on them. I’m connecting with the people I document. I’m not afraid to be as creative as possible with those projects.

Now that I’ve finished up at Kertis Creative and have the opportunity to reflect on my time here. Here’s a Top 7 list, Buzzfeed style, of the reasons Kertis Creative has been so great. (Number 5 will TOTALLY SHOCK YOU!)

1. They gave us a home.

They gave me and the other intern, Justin Philalack a place to live. We were able to live upstairs from the office in amazing apartments. Fully furnished. I think we lucked out on these, so no promises for future interns.

They also gave us a home in the sense that I was never afraid to be myself. I didn’t have to put up an overly-professional facade and watch my every move. The people that work at KC are, in fact, people. We’re able to joke around and talk without fear of saying the wrong thing to our bosses.

2. We weren’t “just the interns.”

Your confidence as a shooter doesn’t grow if the people you work with act like you’re still struggling with puberty. In most cases as an intern, your co-workers are much more experienced. Ideally, that’s a good chance for a supportive environment with a lot of growth. But that’s not always the case.

At Kertis Creative, our opinions were taken seriously. When we had an idea or a thought, the whole team listened and valued our voice. It was apparent that they hired us as interns because we still had a lot to learn, but were capable with our craft. They involved us in important projects with huge clients and trusted us to do our jobs.

3. We were given creative freedom.

With nearly everything. I was able to try some really weird edits with some of the projects I worked on and explore some ideas that I’ve been wanting to try. Most of the time it worked!

4. We were given time to work on projects.

KC realizes that quality work takes time to produce. If I needed more time to work on a project, it was given to me. I never felt like I was pressured to work faster.

5. We worked as a team.

There was not a single project that I had zero help on. Every interview had at least three people on it. School teaches you how to do absolutely everything by yourself, which I think is really, really important. But then if you get 10 people that can do everything themselves and have them working together, you can accomplish really great things. I never felt nervous about going out on a shoot because I had a support team with me. We were able to solve problems together instead of scrambling for a solution by myself. We inspired each other.

6. We told real stories.

I connected with every project I worked on. A lot weren’t even traditionally journalistic, but I was still telling a story and helping the people in them. I never felt like a vulture. That made me feel really connected to the community. I saw the people I documented outside of our scheduled shoots and had real conversations with them. Like, I actually gained friends from the people I documented.

7. I worked a lot of overtime.

Ok, that doesn’t sound like a great reason to work at KC, but I wanted to work. I was itching to work. There really wasn’t enough time in the day to do all the things I wanted to do. There were so many projects I wanted to be fully involved in and it meant being there more than 9-5. I think it means you’re doing something you love when you want to work overtime.

Kertis Creative is the closest thing I’ve seen to the supportive, creative environment of school. And the beautiful thing is, there are tons of places just like Kertis Creative all around the world.

So for any students questioning their future as a photographer, I think it’s important to realize how many opportunities there are for you out there. It’s obvious we’re all visual people. Now we just have to find where we fit in the visual world. It doesn’t have to be the traditional path. As long as you’re working hard and doing what you really want to do.

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