Beyond Graduation: Demetrius Freeman


In a recent email interview, Demetrius Freeman, a 2014 WKUPJ graduate, shares personal experiences while at WKU and the life that followed as a staff photographer for the New York City mayoral office and eventually becoming his own boss. You can see his current work at and be sure to follow him on Instagram @demetrius.freeman.

Demetrius Freeman, a 2014 WKUPJ graduate, runs his own photography business based in New York City.

Demetrius Freeman, a 2014 WKUPJ graduate, runs his own photography business based in New York City.


Where were you born and what high school did you attend?

I was born in Atlanta, Georgia and I attended Lakeside High School.

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

In 2004 when I was a Junior in High school, my best friend’s parents invited me to a family trip in Pensacola, Florida. During the trip my best friend’s dad, Randy, had a point and shoot (Canon Powershot) camera that I was curious about. I had never used a digital camera so he showed me how it worked. For the rest of the trip, I took pictures and kept filling up the memory card, returning it to him and going back out again. A year passed and he came across the photos I took and thought I had a unique eye for capturing emotions and people so, for my senior graduation gift, he gifted me a Canon AE-1, two lenses, a flash, and a camera bag. 

After high school, I attended Gwinnett Technical College in Lawrenceville, Georgia where I learned more about photography and digital imaging. The program was designed to introduce students to film photography, digital photography and all the different aspects of photo: architecture, product, portrait, and photojournalism.

The more I photographed, the more intrigued with storytelling I became and this led me to attending the Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar. At the seminar I noticed a trend. The majority of the photographers who placed in the contest were from WKUPJ.

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

I started WKU in 2010 and graduated in 2014.

Immediately after graduation I …

Immediately after graduation I took a vacation trip to Copenhagen, Denmark, Rome, Italy and Split, Croatia. I wanted to reset my batteries and prepare myself for my internship at the Tampa Bay Times. I then spent three months at The Tampa Bay Times before being hired as a full time photographer for The New York City Mayor’s Office under Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Who do you currently work for?

I run my own freelance company with the majority of my work is with The New York Times, Pro Publica, and The Huffington Post.

What economic decisions or creative process lead you to running your own business?

After 2 years of covering the mayor’s office, I felt that I had accomplished what I set out to do and that I had learned a lot. I wanted to return to journalism. I missed the creativity involved in journalistic work as well as the sense of connecting with a variety of people. Because of the state of the industry, starting my own business was the only route for accomplishing this in New York City.


NYTOPEN: FLUSHING, NY. - August 26, 2019: Serena Williams serves to Maria Sharapova in the first round of the US Open at Arthur Ash Stadium in Flushing, New York. CREDIT: Demetrius Freeman for The New York Times

August 26, 2019: Serena Williams serves to Maria Sharapova in the first round of the US Open at Arthur Ash Stadium in Flushing, New York.   |   Demetrius Freeman for The New York Times

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

This is a tough one to answer because I feel that I have been able to experience a lot of interesting places and events. I have covered the U.S. Open Tennis tournament, the World Series, and have taken photos of political candidates, presidents, parades, protests, and lots of feature stories.

One assignment that stands out is during the coverage of the U.S. Open Tennis tournament in Flushing, Queens, New York. I was in the pit behind the player receiving a serve from Serena Williams. Williams then served a 120 mph ball, which bounced right into my 600mm lens and knocked it out of my hands. The noise was so loud the ball girl asked if I was okay. Luckily, I had moved my face in time and the camera was okay. 


NOVEMBER 22, 2019: Democratic candidate, Cory Booker, hold a “Conversation with Cory” event at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, New Hampshire.   |   Demetrius Freeman for The New York Times

I see that you have been on the campaign 2020 trail, what has that been like from a visual storytellers perspective?

The campaign trail gives you a unique and interesting way of seeing the election. You are in the front seat, which gives you a chance to see how the candidates navigate their crowds and watching the energy of the voters. It also presents lots of fun challenges. Most campaigns are designed to present you with what the candidate and their staff want you to see or capture, so your goal is to seek images that are out of the norm for the event. For example, Joe Biden typically strays from the plan by leaving the stage and approaching voters while Pete Buttigieg will stick to the stage and linger in the space. You have to learn the person and work to get past the limitations to make unique images. 

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

The most important thing WKUPJ taught me was the power of storytelling in photojournalism. Every story, no matter how small, is an important one. A good example of this is a feature story I worked on about how deeply segregated New York City schools are. This story was not happening in an extreme environment or a faraway place, but rather a poorly/badly lit small classroom in Brooklyn. Regardless, I stuck to the storytelling element and was able to create a POYi award-winning image.

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

I don’t think much has changed, except that I have more of an understanding of the industry. “While I didn’t foresee specific locations I would work in or positions that I would occupy, I did set two key expectations for myself: to maintain the quality of my photography and to keep my work ethic high.”

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

I have a few work projects related to the 2020 campaign and presidential race coming up later this year. I will continue to work on the trail with the democratic candidates up until the election.  

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

To be completely honest, I feel like I am currently working on my dream assignment, covering the 2020 election.

What is your favorite memory from WKUPJ?

My favorite memory from WKUPJ is finishing a photo assignment and going into the photo lab in the evening to find everyone at their computers or with their cameras. I always found it fascinating to see how different everyone was yet how we all bonded together over photojournalism. I miss that feeling of togetherness and everyone pushing each other to improve. 

WKUPJ winners 2020 Eyes of History – White House News Photographers Association

Congratulations to WKU Gabriel Scarlett the 2020 Student Still Photographer of the Year for the White House News Photographers Association annual photography and video competition.

Michelle Hanks 2nd place in Feature: Long Term Video Project. A video project  she documented during her semester abroad at the Danish School of Media.  Her story is about Mahmoud Bayragdar,who fled the Syrian civil war and is trying rebuild his life in Denmark.


Through Our Eyes Week 3!

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

First Place

(Left) Self-portrait in a wedding dress (Right) First day of hunting season. | Morgan Hornsby


Second Place

David Curran is a firefighter with the Bowling Green Fire Department. | Nic Huey


Third Place

Nick Richards #4 of the Kentucky Wildcats jumps to score over Keyontae Johnson #11 of the Florida Gatos during the first half of the game at Rupp Arena on February 22, 2020 in Lexington, Ky. | Silas Walker

Through Our Eyes Week 2!

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

First Place

St. Louis Blues defenseman Justin Faulk (72) keeps his eyes on the face-off circle against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on February 16, 2020. Nashville won 2-1. | Chris Kohley

Second Place

Jack Quinn, a freshman at WKU, grew up with music as a large influence in his family. Quinn is currently in two bands whilst pursuing a degree in graphic design and journalism. | Sam Mallon

Third Place

Sabre Semrau is a Junior at Western Kentucky University who co-founded the art collective Deep Relief Designs. Semrau works in varying mediums, including embroidery and collage. Semrau has recently started working with Resin, producing a variety of ashtrays, rolling trays, and plans to start making coasters. “I won’t lie, the resin is expensive as shit but I also have more issues with charging friends for my art since I don’t believe in capitalism,” Semrau explained. | Lydia Schweickart

The future of our business

WKU PJ students listen in on the Career Day roundtable discussion during the 16th annual event sponsored by the WKU Photojournalism program in the School of Media at WKU.

On Friday, February 21, 2020 we hosted our 16th annual WKU PJ Career Day. Thirteen professionals from the region come in for the day to interview our Photojournalism program students for potential jobs and internships, but mostly to give many of the students an opportunity for “first contact” with the photojournalism profession and an opportunity to allow the students to exercise their interview skills.

As evident from this list, our alumni support is strong:

Albert Cesare – Cincinnati Enquirer (WKUPJ graduate)
Gary Hairlson  – St. Louis Post-Dispatch (WKUPJ graduate)
Joe Howell – Vanderbilt University (WKUPJ graduate)
Mark Humphrey – Associated Press, Tennessee
Brett Marshall – Kertis Creative, Louisville (WKUPJ graduate)
Patrick Murphy-Racey – Freelance, Knoxville
Marcia Prouse – The Tennessean, Nashville
Sawyer Roque – Kertis Creative, Louisville (WKUPJ graduate)
Steven Rosenberg – Chicago Tribune
John Russell – Vanderbilt University (WKUPJ graduate)
Sam Upshaw – The Courier-Journal, Louisville (WKUPJ graduate)
Mark Weber – Daily Memphian, Memphis (WKUPJ graduate)
Bryan Woolston – Freelance for AP, Reuters, and Getty, based in Louisville

Marcia Prouse, Director of Photography at The Tennessean in Nashville, listens as Lily Thompson, a WKUPJ junior, talks about her portfolio work.

Emily Moses, a WKUPJ senior, has her portfolio reviewed by Associated Press photographer Mark Humphrey.

WKU graduates Albert Cesare from the Cincinnati Enquirer (L), Sam Upshaw, Jr. from the Courier-Journal and freelance photographer and SONY camera ambassador Patrick Murphy-Racey talk with WKUPJ students during the roundtable discussion.

After a morning of interviews, we broke for lunch, then we conducted a roundtable discussion, where the professionals gave the students advice about how to prepare for a career in photojournalism while still in school, how to obtain employment, and tips on how to succeed in the profession once they enter it. We then resumed with interviews throughout the afternoon.

James Kenney started organizing this event 16 years ago because he said he heard too many  students say they were hesitant about reaching out to the profession because they didn’t feel like they were ready to do so. As a faculty and staff in the photojournalism program we feel the the sooner they make contact the better, and therefore the more directed (and committed) they will be toward their goals while navigating their way through the photojournalism program. The added bonus is that many of our students have directly benefited from Career Day, with many of them obtaining internships as a direct result of meeting with the professionals during this event. One professional who has attended the past two years, Sawyer Roque, was hired as an intern at Kertis Creative (a multimedia firm based in Louisville, Kentucky) as a result of an interview with the company during Career Day. After her internship was over, they hired her on full time, and now she is attending as a professional to mentor a new generation of future visual storytellers – full circle! Kertis currently has six of our Photojournalism program graduates working for the company, and many others from our program have interned and worked there over the years.

Sawyer Roque, a WKUPJ graduate, came to Career Day representing Kertis Creative to complete the full circle of student, intern, professional and now mentoring current students, like Grace Pritchett, a WKUPJ senior.

Through Our Eyes Week 1

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

First Place

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

Second Place

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

Third Place

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

Honorable Mention

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

We Can Do Hard Things – by Emma Steele

We Can Do Hard Things

by Emma Steele

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story by Lily Thompson,

To view the entire story visit: Family Values

Tracey Moore is a midwife, and so much more.

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

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

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

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

Congratulations to Hearst Photojournalism round one finishers!

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

Michael’s 6th place winning entry:

Silas’ 7th place winning entry:

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Atlanta Photojournalism Student Portfolio of the Year – Michael Blackshire

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

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

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