At the end of the semester, 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 – we could not be more proud of this year’s seniors.
Paducah, Kentucky | Photojournalism major; Political Science minor
- The Paducah Sun [Kentucky]
- The Chautauquan Daily [New York]
Katii and Kyle Bishop inform their daughter Hannah that her younger sister, Jude, had died a few days after a tragic car accident they were in. The three sisters, Hannnah, 9, Norah, 7, and Jude, 5, were in a December 28, 2018 car accident. The tragedy resulted in them being transported to multiple area trauma centers and treated for life threatening injuries. Taking her health into consideration, Katii and Kyle decided it would be best to wait until Hannah made enough progression before telling her the news on Feb. 7, 2019, at the Frazier Rehab Institute.
ABOUT THIS PHOTO
On Feb. 7, 2019, I drove to the Frazier Rehabilitation Institute in Louisville, Ky., to meet Hannah for the first time. As Katii paced anxiously and then laid down on the hospital bed, I knew what was about to happen. Katii had discussed with me earlier in the day that it was time to tell Hannah about Jude. The hospital room was quiet and sterile as Katii carefully began to ask Hannah questions like “Do you know about heaven and angels?” I stood there looking through my viewfinder with tears rolling down my cheeks. In that moment, I had to find the balance between knowing I had a story to tell and feeling the pain of what was happening in front of me.
I made this image not long after I began my journey with the Bishop family. It never ceases to amaze me when someone allows me the opportunity to document the most intimate moments of their life. This is the most difficult and meaningful image I have ever made. I have laughed with this family; I have grieved with this family. Over the course of my time spent with the Bishops, I have realized that sometimes being a photojournalist means picking up the camera to document a situation that’s unfolding in front of you, and other times it means sitting with people and being an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on. I will forever be grateful for what the Bishop family taught me about storytelling as well as what they taught me about myself.
Gainesville, Florida | Photojournalism major; Criminology minor
- Gainesville Sun [Florida]
- Lexington Herald-Leader [Kentucky]
- Indianapolis Star [Indiana]
Lashay Brooks, 24, of Louisville, Ky, wears her African head wrap on April 22, 2018. “That wrap is an escape from not having to do my hair or my wig. I can dress it up, put make up on and still be confident without my hair being done. I can be me, a black woman,” she said.
ABOUT THIS PHOTO
This picture means a lot to me, it was taken in my advanced lighting class which helped me come to the decision to own my own portrait studio. Through the process of taking this image, it taught me how to blend background colors in order to highlight different skin types. Taking this photo helped me get out of my comfort zone by experiencing a different aspect of photography, fashion photography. It taught me the ability to be able to tell a story about an object instead of a person. With learning that, there are many more doors and opportunities that could be opened just by knowing a little more.
Nashville, Tennessee | Photojournalism major; Entrepreneurship minor
- West Brentwood Living [Tennessee]
- St. Louis Review [Missouri]
- The Post and Courier [South Carolina]
- The Flint Journal [Michigan]
Jimmy Gayton stands and applauds as Zandrina finishes singing “Rise Up” during the Emanuel 9 Rally for Unity on Saturday, June 23, 2018 in Marion Square. Gayton’s sister-in-law was Myra Thompson, one of the nine victims in the Emanuel AME shooting in 2015.
ABOUT THIS PHOTO
On an extremely hot Charleston, S.C. day I went to this assignment while interning at The Post and Courier. I was sitting in front of the stage making images of the people in the crowd as one of the singers preformed the song “Rise Up.” The entire rally was filled with so much emotion and by the time she started singing I was tearing up while trying to keep taking pictures.
One of my favorite things to capture in images is raw emotion. Whether that is extreme joy or sadness, I always strive to capture those in a picture. One person in particular caught my eye that day, a man standing up front was pouring his heart out while singing along. As he sang, it almost looked like he was screaming to the sky while tears ran down his face.
Sometimes it is hard for me to make these images because it feels like I am intruding on a private moment, but after making this image and talking with the man I found out his sister-in-law was one of the people who died in the Emanuel AME shooting in 2015 and he was more than happy to talk to me about it and give me his name. He even thanked me as I left. After this I realized that while some images might be hard to take, the people in them sometimes just desperately want to tell their story and have people understand what they are feeling. I think that’s why I love this image so much, because I realized I am capable of being the photojournalist I want to be and produce work that can connect people.
Elizabethtown, Kentucky | Photojournalism major; Entrepreneurship minor
Martha Emmons, 63, of Paducah lies back on her bed to put on her shoes while getting ready for work with her husband, Hutch Smith, 67. Martha and Hutch own BikeWorld, a bike shop, which they opened together in Paducah in May 1987. With the shop’s 30th anniversary approaching this coming May, Martha says, “It wasn’t until we were about to have our 20th year that we thought ‘Huh, I think we’re going to be pretty successful in this.'”
ABOUT THIS PHOTO
As photojournalists, there is absolutely nothing like cultivating a meaningful relationship with the subjects that allow you into their lives. Personally, I feel like I have succeeded as a photographer when the relationship with my subjects progresses to the point where I am allowed to be a part of quiet, intimate moments in their lives. In this image, I feel like I achieved that special kind of relationship with the Emmons’. In this moment it was like I wasn’t even there. We were so comfortable with one another that it was nothing for me to be in their bedroom while they got ready in the morning. That is special. Although I might not remember the images that I made during this story, I will always remember the time spent getting to know Martha and Hutch and the connection I made with them. This is why I do what I do, because ultimately it isn’t the images you walk away with, it’s the relationships.
Santa Rosa, California | Photojournalism major; Journalism major; Military Science minor
- US Army; Fort Knox [Kentucky]
- 101 Airborne 2 Battalion Combat Team; Fort Campbell [Kentucky]
- Deb Dawson Equine Photography [California]
- Discoveries West [California]
WKU Army ROTC Cadet Tom Pelkey, from Rochester, Minnesota, prepares to open the contents of his MRE (meals ready to eat) while taking shelter with his battalion-mates at Training Area 14 on April 14, 2018 in Fort Knox, Ky. A lightning storm descended over the area while Cadets conducted a platoon sized ambush lane. Luckily the Army had tents setup within range of retrograde movement. The tents would house close to 10,000 Cadets as they move through TA14 in the upcoming summer training. WKU Cadets, once a semester, travel to the base Army Cadet Summer Training Advance Camp is taught in Fort Knox, and conduct FTX (field training exercise). All Cadets under contract to be commissioned in the Army as 2nd Lieutenants must first pass Army Advanced Camp, often attended in the summer between junior and senior year.
ABOUT THIS PHOTO
This was my fourth of a final six FTX’s I was privileged enough to be allowed on while earning my degrees at Western. I was in the Navy when bellbottoms were still issued, and originally had no idea I was going to be a journalist when I went back to school in 2013. One of the three people who set me on the path to become a full package journalist, Thomas De Alba, died 29 days short of his 28 birthday this past week.
What started as just a class in photography, has turned into three collegiate degrees. Everything I have seen and done has prepared me to be a journalist. Because of Thomas, the other co-editor in chief, Nadav Soroker, and Anne Belden our professor, I came to WKU to pursue a degree in photojournalism. When I got to WKU I was told my photo work was “not even good enough to get the job done.” Thanks to WKU PJ, I have improved and hope to be able to cover troops as an embed journalist for a national news source. I would prefer to work as a civilian for a civilian company to better protect my sources, the troops, instead of being a PAO or otherwise government employee.
Woodbridge, Virginia | Photojournalism major; political science minor
- Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department [Virginia]
- Victoria Advocate [Texas]
Ellen Estill plays with the youngest cat she has in her home at the time who she calls Wild Man. He was found sick and injured in the road. Ellen took him in, got him veterinarian care, nursed him back to health, and has found a new home for the eight-week-old kitten. “They’re part of my family, I love every one of them,” says Ellen.
ABOUT THIS PHOTO
This photo is from my second time participating in the photojournalism portion of the Mountain Workshops in Mt. Sterling, Kentucky in October of 2018. I was ecstatic when I drew a slip of paper with the keyword “kitty” on it out of the hat and the description said 35 cats. I met Ellen that day and immediately bonded with her over our mutual love for cats, coffee, chocolate, and what she was doing for these cats who may have gone without a home otherwise.
Ellen runs Kitty Lodge Inc., a retirement home for elderly cats. She takes in cats whose owners have passed away or have become too old to care for them. She even sometimes takes in younger cats because she of course would not turn one away.
“It’s just something that I’ve always wanted to do,” Ellen said. “I feel like God put on my heart that it was a service that needed to be done.”
Ellen is 71-years-old and returned to work as a veterinary assistant solely to provide for the cats. Recently Ellen was awarded a grant from the Doris Day Animal Foundation to help with the cost and care of providing for her cats. As part of the application for the grant, my photo story on Ellen was submitted alongside and helped secure the grant for her. While I was in town for the workshops, Ellen and I started off every morning together by sipping coffee and eating Honey Bunches of Oats. I was even in town for her birthday and we had a wonderful dinner at a local restaurant. Stopping to see Ellen on my way back home from school is always the highlight of my journey and I am always sad to say goodbye. Ellen and this story will forever hold a special place in my heart. Ellen and I are very similar in many ways which can be encompassed by this quote, “When I die,” Ellen says, “I want to come back as some crazy nuts cat just like me.”
Nashville, Tennessee | Photojournalism major; Creative Writing minor
- Philmont Scout Ranch [New Mexico]
- The (Owensboro) Messenger Inquirer [Kentucky]
- WKU Football Videographer [Kentucky]
- Kertis Creative [Kentucky]
Jockey Jose L. Ortiz rides the number 9 horse Yoshida as he beats out Beach Patrol (10)ridden by Joel Rosario during the 2018 Old Forrester Turf Classic at Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY.
ABOUT THIS PHOTO
The Kentucky Derby has always meant something to my family so when I was asked if I wanted to go and shoot the illustrious event I could not pass up the opportunity. Working for Dan Dry, a derby veteran, was nothing short of unforgettable. The freedom he granted myself and the other classmates that were on the team let me stretch my eye and try new things with my camera. The motion blur that you see in this picture was one of about 40 takes between multiple races.
I enjoy looking at life like I am traveling at light speed and that I am always moving forward. Some days it is not always like that but as long as I have this image, my life keeps moving and changing. In order to grow, I believe you need to take chances and always know that moving forward is the best direction. I have been told I like to take chances with my photography and this is a prime example of when taking a chance, timing, and position, all come together and a frame is filled with something exciting.
Louisville, Kentucky | Photojournalism major; Digital Advertising minor
- Waterstep [Kentucky]
Mary Duke, mother of two, comforts her youngest child while cleaning her home in Alvaton, Ky. Duke is a co-president of the Kentucky Home Birth Coalition, which is a social media platform that provides space for women to get involved in the midwife community. Duke owns My Sunshine Birth Services, which helps women in Bowling Green and surrounding areas with multiple services including pre and postpartum visits, lactation consults and labor.
ABOUT THIS PHOTO
I feel like everything I had learned in the program brought me to this moment inside Mary Dukes home. I woke up the morning of March 3, 2019 and headed out to the home of a woman I had been longing to meet for 6 months. I had spent countless hours and interviews talking to women in the community, where I was always asked the same question “Have you talked to Mary Duke?” Mary Duke is one of the leaders of the midwife and doula community in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Imagine my frustration, I was working on a project where I had not had contact with the main character of my story. As a freshman, I learned how to find your story. As a sophomore I learned the importance of character, as a junior I learned patience. All of these lessons brought me to Mary Dukes’ door. I was welcomed inside and instantly felt like I had known her and her family for years. This photo of her comforting her child in her kitchen, a small detail of her life, reminds me of my journey through this program, something I will never forget.
Louisville, Kentucky | Photojournalism major; Film major; African-American Studies minor
- The Center for Gifted Studies [Kentucky]
- Las Vegas Review Journal [Nevada]
Patrick McGee Jr. holds his younger brother Arqueil Clark and Mother Aretha McGee as they made a makeshift memorial with a teddy bear and balloons tied to a liquor bottle, and spend the night in tears, remembering the highlights of LeeAndrew’s life before being murdered at the age of 26 at the Dino’s Gas Station in the Westend of Louisville. This day, they commemorate the one-year anniversary since his murder on March 28th, 2017. As nightfall brightens up the gas station lights, the McGee family place a teddy bear and balloons in LeeAndrew’s memory, of someone they lost way to soon. “I don’t even like going by Dino’s anymore. They killed Breezy. Watch the teddy bear we put down in the front of Dino’s be gone by tomorrow,” Patrick McGee Jr. said.
ABOUT THIS PHOTO
This picture means the world to me. During my time as a photojournalism student at WKU I have not seen a photo that showed black pain in the inner city like my photo has. That’s what I wanted to accomplish when I started my ‘broken branches’ project. I wanted a person in a different state to see the struggle my hometown of Louisville is going through. The photo almost didn’t happen. I didn’t have a car at the time so I had to catch a Greyhound bus back and forth from Bowling Green to Louisville as I worked on the project. I was originally taking photos of a balloon sendoff commemorating the one-year anniversary of LeeAndrew McGee’s passing at a local park in the Westend of Louisville but my bus was delayed so I had some extra time with the family.
My project up to that point was conversations and portraits. But this was the first time I was actually seeing first-hand the pain a black family in Louisville was going through. There was real pain there.
Upon arriving at the gas station, the family put down a teddy bear and a bunch of balloons tied to a liquor bottle were LeeAndrew was murdered. Two friends smashed two liquor bottles and screamed in anger over his passing. The moment happened so quickly. By the time I decided to take a close up of Patrick McGee Jr., his tears were almost gone and the hugging moment became more somber. Within five seconds of the image being made the mother said “let’s go.” In these five minutes, I experienced more pain and suffering than I have ever seen from any other photo I took before. I went home that night thinking I can’t believe that happened, I can’t believe I experienced that. The photo received an award of excellence in COPY but I was just happy a black student’s photo from his hometown could show black pain in Louisville. I love my black people and I love Louisville and that moment is dedicated to anyone lost by gun violence in the city.
Louisville, Kentucky | Photojournalism major; Sociology minor
- Interlochen Center for the Arts [Michigan]
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel [Wisconsin]
- Philadelphia Inquirer [Pennsylvania]
Officer Charles Irvine Jr., 23, lies in the hearse as he is escorted by the Milwaukee police department and saluted by the Milwaukee fire department as he passes beneath the American flag over N. 9th St. on Fri. June 8, 2018. It has been 22 years since an officer died in the line of duty in Milwaukee, Wis. On June 7, 2018, Officer Charles Irvine Jr., died in a car accident while in pursuit of a reckless driver. His partner lost control which caused the squad car to flip 20 times before landing on its roof.
ABOUT THIS PHOTO
It was a Thursday night when I received a phone call from the director of photography, Berford Gammon, of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, telling me about a death of a police officer. He needed me and fellow WKU student Chris Kohley, to go down to the medical examiner’s office to capture photos and videos. We showed up and the whole street was filled with police officers waiting to hear of any news. After that night, I was sent to cover a press conference with the Chief of Police.
I was told that the image I’m capturing would be running center A1. It was a nerve-racking feeling, but I felt confident in my ability to create a strong image. I showed up early to scout an area I wanted to set up to capture the image. I knew I needed to get the hearse driving underneath the flag, so I got down onto my stomach and pointed the camera up hoping for the best to get everything in frame. If it weren’t for WKU Photojournalism I wouldn’t have known to show up early, stay late, or how to compose a photo, get close, step back and try new angles. This image is a constant reminder of how far I have come in this program.
Bloomfield, Kentucky | Photojournalism major; Criminology minor
- Philmont Scout Ranch [New Mexico]
- Chesapeake Bay Program [Maryland]
- The Denver Post [Colorado]
- The Los Angeles Times [California]
A portrait of my grandfather, Bennie Goff—or Pop to us grandkids—on our family farm in Bloomfield, Kentucky.
ABOUT THIS PHOTO
I was born and raised on my family’s farm in rural Kentucky, where I was fortunate enough to experience all that a kid can on farm—space to run and ride horses, a love of nature, and the type of motivation that can only come from being surrounded by the hard labor it took from my family to keep a farm running. Of course, I took all of that for granted for most of my childhood, until my aunt gave me my first camera. She taught me to take pictures on our farm, where we would practice aperture and shutter speed by photographing chickens and cows. I came to love photography then, the way it made me love where I was from and want to keep it with me in photographs. This photo is of my grandfather, Pop, taken for a project in picture stories class. I credit so much of my creativity to him and to the farm he has kept alive for all of us. Without it, I may never have found my passion for photography and I certainly would not have done so well on my intro to photojournalism class egg picture.