Beyond Graduation: Naomi Driessnack


In an April 5, 2019 email interview, Naomi Driessnack, a 2016 WKUPJ graduate sat down for a few moments and told us about her path from the classroom at WKUPJ to her current position at Apple. While Naomi cannot disclose exactly what she works on as a photo editor with Apple’s Media Content photo team, she finds the job extremely rewarding and fascinating. 

Where were you born?

I was born in State College, Pennsylvania.

What High School did you attend?

I went to Virgil I. Grissom High School in Huntsville, Alabama. My dad was in the military and we moved around a bunch growing up, but I claim Huntsville as my hometown.

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

Hmm, actually it is a pretty good story. I had expressed to my dad that I was interested in photojournalism. I had just watched a documentary in high school called Born into Brothels and was completely blown away with the impact of photojournalism, the reach and the opportunities. My dad, being the researcher that he is, found WKU among the top schools with photojournalism programs, and he also found that they had a workshop for high schoolers during the summer. He immediately signed me up.

When it came time for me to go, I refused. I was nervous to be in a strange place, surrounded by people I didn’t know, focusing on a subject that I did not feel confident in. I distinctly remember crying in the car (I’m a drama queen). My dad told me that I did not have to go, but that I had to call the workshop coordinator and let them know I would not be attending. The idea of confronting an adult and telling them I didn’t want to go because I was nervous was so lame that I couldn’t do it.

I attended WKU’s high school workshop and I loved every second of it. I met amazing people, made lifelong friends, became acquainted with the school I would later choose to attend, hung out with the professors and learned how to use a freaking camera.

After attending the workshop, I knew that I needed to be at WKU and I really wanted to be a part of WKUPJ.

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

I started attending WKU in the fall of 2011 and graduated in the spring of 2016. Just one victory lap. [smiley emoji]

Why did you require the “victory lap”?

I took an extra year, which allowed me to study abroad for a semester in Harlaxton (England) my sophomore year. I was also able to complete a winter term in Cuba and a Summer term in Germany. Having an extra year gave me the flexibility to take advantage of these programs. Another bonus of having a victory lap year meant that I had more chances to take internships before graduating. During my time at WKUPJ I interned with TIME, and leading up to graduation. I also worked as a freelance photo editor for my senior year, working the morning shift 5 am to 8:30 am Monday through Friday. My extra year was extremely worthwhile, giving me work experience and a definite edge to separate me from other recent graduates.

Naomi Driessnack’s life as a photo editor finds her in exciting spaces and places, like here in 1 World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan in a conference room at GQ, an incredible view of the Hudson River over her shoulder. “No, I’m not cruising my Instagram account during a meeting,” Driessnack said. “This is a pretty accurate picture of what it’s like to be a photo editor – buried in my phone answering emails every chance I get.”

Immediately after graduation I …

The day before my graduation I flew to and from NYC for an interview and started at GQ as a photo assistant a week after. I mostly assisted the magazine’s director of photography (who is still my boss – now we are at a different company), but also was able to edit a small section of the magazine. I worked for GQ and GQ Style magazine for a year as a freelance photo assistant and then one year as a full-time assistant photo editor for GQ and GQ Style magazine as well as

Who do you currently work for?

Currently I work for Apple as a photo editor on the Apple Media Content Photo team based in Cupertino, California. Unfortunately, I can’t talk more about what I do at Apple. I know, it’s silly, but I can only mention the team that I am on.

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

Maybe not so much as “places” that I have visited, but as a photo editor I am able to assign photographers to cover stories. A few of my favorite commissions have been commissioning Grant Cornett to photograph the two highest rated American restaurants, Devin Christopher to photograph the culture around “Donks,” in Miami, Grant Hindsley to photograph Steve Aoki’s workout routine while on tour and Wayne Lawrence to document New York City’s beachgoers.

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

WKUPJ taught me to constantly be searching for the beautiful and unique parts of people. Everyone on this planet has a story if you listen well enough. The unique, wacky parts of people are what is fun to photograph, but the best part of storytelling is discovering the similarities that connect us all.

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

I always thought I would be working in journalism, specifically breaking news. Now, I work in tech (ha!), an industry I never thought photojournalism would take me. I definitely did not expect to be where I am today while I was in school.

Do you have any immediate future work plans that you can disclose? What awaits you in 2019?

I cannot disclose. [smiley face emoji]

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

I would like to curate a gallery show of photography that focuses on niche culture studies.

What is your favorite memory from WKUPJ?

An amazing benefit of being in WKUPJ meant that I had the opportunity to work as a staff employee for student publications, including our campus yearbook The Talisman. Working with a bunch of weird, talented, hardworking people who cared about creating meaningful and honest work that represented WKU accurately was a dream. I made my closest friends and my favorite memories brainstorming ideas to capture our campus in unique ways and helping students discover what set our school on a hill apart, both good and bad. I cannot stress enough how significant the experience was. I do not think our student publications would be as highly regarded without strong programs like WKUPJ equipping students with the technical skills needed.

A close second favorite memory would be pulling all-nighters and staying on campus over Thanksgiving break to work on a documentary I made alongside my short-form documentary class called Beyond Breath. Because we were documenting our subject’s Thanksgiving, we all missed the chance to celebrate on the actual calendar day. Instead, a day later after we were finished documenting, we all pitched in and cooked a HUGE Thanksgiving meal and ate together. WKUPJ was and continues to be my family. [smiley face emoji]

How can we see more of your work?

My website is mainly work I produced or shot for GQ before joining the team at Apple. You can find mostly pics of my dog here and some lame jokes I make here.


The Wrongful Imprisonment of Jose Luis Garcia

The Wrongful Imprisonment of
Jose Luis Garcia

Story by Gabriel Scarlett and Skyler Ballard

Residing in in the Unites States for 50 years and a current green card holder, Jose Luis Garcia was arrested by ICE as part of a new Trump administration policy targeting legal and illegal immigrants with criminal backgrounds. The policy put in place to deport gang members ended up arresting people like 62-year-old Garcia who had a minor infraction 17 years ago.
For the complete story visit:


Jose watches fireworks from his rooftop on July 4th. For weeks after his imprisonment, he suffered from nightmares and sleepless nights. But he remains positive and says that achieving his full citizenship is his number one priority. “I will continue to do the right things with my family and I will become a U.S. citizen in no time.”


More than a week after the arrest of her father Jose (who is a green card holder), Natalie Garcia tries to console her daughter Marley outside their home in Arleta, California from which Jose was taken. He had been watering his lawn and preparing for a shift driving for Uber, one of his three jobs, when ICE officials detained him for deportation for a charge from two decades ago. Since his arrest, Marley has slept in his bed and lays out his clothes each day to pretend that he is there.

The Pain We Cause

The Pain We Cause:

The entanglement of addiction and incarceration in Kentucky, told in two parts.

By Morgan Hornsby and Gabriel Scarlett

Upon her release from jail for drug-related offenses, Amy McKeown struggles to adjust to life at a home with a family she has alienated during decades of addiction.
At the Warren County Jail, volunteers and staffers try to prepare inmates for reentry into society, but the challenges of life on the outside still prove daunting for most.


Once a month, the Warren County Jail allows local churches to come to the facility to hold a baptism service for inmates who wish to participate. Part of Miles’ job is to coordinate with local groups, like churches, recovery groups, local businesses, and a community college

Mountain Workshops 2019


OCT. 29 – NOV 3, 2019

The Mountain Workshops, now in their 44th year, is an internationally recognized collection of simultaneous workshops on photojournalism, video storytelling, picture editing and collaborative digital storytelling.

In what started as a class project to document one-room schoolhouses in Eastern Kentucky and Tennessee, the Mountain now hosts roughly 100 visual storytellers each year as they explore a different Kentucky community.

This October, these participants and faculty will tell the stories of the small northeastern Kentucky town of Cynthiana. Established in 1793 by Robert Harrison, it is believed he named the town after his two daughters, Cynthia and Anna. Home to 6,200 residents (18,000 in Harrison County) Cynthiana is a quiet community nestled in the middle of the Louisville, Lexington and Cincinnati “golden triangle.” A rich history of tobacco and bourbon whiskey still lingers here.

Each participant will tell a story about a community member that, as tradition dictates, they draw out of a hat. Participants typically have journalistic training and come from a variety of journalism schools and professions, but it is not limited to those in the newsgathering business. Attendees come from various storytelling backgrounds and sometimes come back to the workshop several times. It is the rich traditions of this workshop that make it one of the oldest photojournalism workshops in the country.

Scott Applewhite, a Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist with the Associated Press, said the workshop environment is crucial to the next generation. “Where would any of us journeymen (photojournalists) be if we had not been guided by seasoned pros who had walked the path before us. Bless you for always giving so much of yourself to our emerging photojournalists, especially this week at the Mountain Workshops,” said Applewhite in an open letter to the workshop faculty last year.

Industry challenges over the last 25 years has changed the structure of the Workshops. Where once film was processed in tiny bathrooms, digital labs full of computers and high-end digital cameras now fill the headquarters which are provided by the communities each year. As the business of photojournalism has changed tremendously, the multitude of mentors and coaches that volunteer their time have kept the Mountain Workshop’s values intact. It’s always about the story.Mountain Workshops Logo WKUPJ WKU

Nicole Raucheisen who attended the 2018 Video Storytelling Workshop, worked on a story about a volunteer fireman. He was burned in an explosion over 30 years ago receiving burns over 30% of his body. Raucheisen was touched by her time with her subject.

“When someone is more open to the process it allows you to take more risks. It allows me to think of more interesting ways – to push a little deeper – to go underneath surface-level storytelling. The interactions that I’ve had here will inform how I produce stories in the future, particularly when dealing with sensitive subject matter,” said Raucheisen.

About 150 participants, faculty and staff will gather in Cynthiana in October, a community sitting on the Licking River and priding itself on its close-knit community. The Mountain Workshops will produce documentary shorts, still images and collaborative projects in the hope of capturing the spirit of the people and their love for who they are and where they are from. There will also be a book and a traveling gallery.

“Only well-informed, warm-hearted people can teach others things they’ll always remember and love. I think the most important thing participants will learn isn’t about gear, or lighting, or technique — those are valuable in the short term. By (Mountain’s) example, they are learning how to give back,” said Applewhite.

For further information, please contact: [email protected] or visit

Beyond Graduation: Emilie Milcarek


In a March 25, 2019 email interview, Emilie Milcarek, a Flemington, NJ native and a 2018 graduate, provided us with her story about her time here at WKUPJ.


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

Prior to attending WKU,  I was at Wesley College in Dover, DE working towards a degree in Exercise Science. I had become very sick with an autoimmune disease that kept taking me out of school for a semester at a time. I found myself in a position where I had to relearn to walk every time I got sick and I needed to find a way to push myself.  During this time I picked up a camera I had not used since I was a photography student in high school and I loved it. I then went back to school at Wesley, changed my major to Media, realized I needed a school that was more specialized and enrolled at the New York Film academy. While there discovered that I loved what I was learning, but not what I was doing. I was creating scripts and storylines when I was truly passionate about sharing stories that already existed in the world.  I started going to workshops and talking with professionals in the field who spoke highly of WKU and how it would be a great fit for me. They were right.

Immediately after graduation I …

… started working for NC2 Media in Franklin, Tenn. working for their Lonely Planet Digital Platform team, making text-led videos for social media.

Who do you currently work for?

I am still employed by Lonely Planet, but have expanded my responsibilities within the digital platform team. As the demand for all things visual got greater, we started creating videos for clients and partnering with other countries as well. I’ve since taken assignments on all levels of platform videos and assignments as a camera operator and assistant producer.

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

The most interesting place I’ve been so far has been Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. I traveled there in August for the Beluga whale migration and then again in November, as you see me above, for the polar bear migration onto the ice. Both trips felt like I had traveled to two different locations because of how drastic the seasons were. The stories behind this town, which is so tiny and remote, and their lives co-existing with these incredible animals was truly life changing. I want to go back because there are so many more stories to be told.

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

Keeping to deadlines and never having excuses are the reasons I keep being offered more opportunities. I’ve proven myself to be a very reliable employee in every aspect and that is something that was instilled in us as WKUPJ’s. Never miss a deadline, no excuses.

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

Honestly, I always saw myself as a photojournalist and particularly a sports photographer. As I completed my senior year I realized how much I cared about storytelling and connecting with people. Now, my job most of the time is editing. My favorite thing to edit has been videos called “Just Back From.” It’s an interview with the writers of Lonely Planet and making use of their mobile phone content. Being able to listen to them and figure out what they’re trying to communicate through their on camera interviews (as they’re not on camera personalities) is challenging and rewarding to me. I never thought I would love the process of editing, this came as a surprise to me. It goes to show that life plans can change.

Do you have any immediate future plans for work? What awaits you for 2019?

My plans for 2019? I plan on staying with this company as long as they’ll have me and keep advancing within the company. I also have decided that giving is as important as receiving and am seeking out non-profit clients that represent similar beliefs as mine and give back to their cause by donating my skills as an editor and visual story teller.

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

My dream freelance assignment would be to produce, shoot, and edit a series of short docs.

What is your favorite memory from WKUPJ?

My first year as a participant at the Mountain Workshops in Franklin, Ky. I was the only time-lapse participant with Grant Kaye as my coach. Years later I still talk about that experience. It was the first time I pushed myself to tell a story in a medium that doesn’t usually do that. I pushed myself as hard as ever in every possible way. I remind myself of that feeling whenever I’ve hit a wall with my projects.

Where can we find you?

Instagram: @emm_milcarek

LinkedIn: Emilie Milcarek

Ali Exhibition starts it’s nine-week run

The Muhammad Ali photo exhibition at the School of Journalism & Broadcasting had its opening reception on Monday, March 11. The publisher of Picture: Muhammad Ali photo book Warren Winter gave opening reception remarks thanking Courier Journal photographer Pat McDonogh, the books editor, for realizing the importance of the collection they uncovered in their archives. Courier Journal photojournalists C. Thomas Hardin, Keith Williams, Bill Luster and Sam Upshaw Jr. joined McDonogh for a roundtable to discuss the experiences around covering Ali during his 4-decade career as a boxer and humanitarian.

The exhibition is open Sunday, 1:00 – 9:00, Monday – Wednesday 9:00 – 9:00 and Thursday – Friday 9:00 – 5:00 thru May 3. The book can be purchased by visiting here.


WNKY-TV: Bowling Green

College Heights Herald

Bowling Green Daily News

From left, Courier Journal photojournalists Pat McDonogh, Bill Luster, C. Thomas Hardin, Sam Upshaw Jr. and Keith Williams talk about their experiences photographing The Champ during his 40-year career.  | Photos by Jonathan Adams

More than 60 prints make-up the exhibition of rare, never before published images.

Photojournalist Keith Williams, left, talks with colleague C. Thomas Hardin about images in the exhibition they took more than 40 years ago.

Students and members of the community study images in the exhibition.

Students explore a near life-size reproduction of what is believed to be the first photograph of a 12-year-old Cassius Clay as a boxer.

From left, Courier Journal photojournalists Pat McDonogh, Bill Luster, C. Thomas Hardin, Sam Upshaw Jr. and Keith Williams talk about their experiences photographing The Champ during his 40-year career.

Photojournalist Keith Williams, lower left, and C. Thomas Hardin sign copies of Picture: Muhammad Ali after the roundtable lecture while photojournalist Sam Upshaw Jr., right, talks with a WKU student.


WKUPJ Career Day turns 15-years-old this spring

WKU student, Abigail Dollins, meets with Tennessean photo editor Marcia Prouse as fellow students and portfolio reviewers go about their business at Career Day.

Career Networking, 101

Fifteen years ago, WKU Photojournalism program coordinator, James Kenney, was concerned that many of the students in the program had never applied for an internship or even interacted with a photojournalism professional. As a result, he invited a handful of photographers and editors from area publications to WKU’s campus so that students would have an opportunity to show their work and practice their interviewing skills. What started as a one-time event has evolved into an annual spring-semester program tradition.

Kenney said that he expected that this experience would be beneficial to the students, but he did not anticipate the value it would bring to the professionals.

“The opportunity to meet face to face during WKU’s PJ Career Day is extremely valuable to not only the student but also the professional,” said Mykal McEldowney, who is the Visuals Manager at the Indianapolis Star. “It’s exciting to see students’ current work but to also see their growth year-over-year. It’s not simply a career day, it’s a job/internship interview.”

The day of the event, McEldowney takes off from Indianapolis in the wee hours of the morning in order to make it to the 9 a.m. start time. He joins his colleagues – who number from eight to 17 in any given year – in Room 127 in the PJ lab to get ready for a line of well-dressed students waiting for an opportunity to meet with them. Students are encouraged to interact with as many of the professionals as they can to receive feedback about their portfolio and advice concerning their future. After lunch, there is a roundtable discussion with all of the professionals and students, where questions are answered and more general advice is given about what it takes to be a successful photojournalist. After the roundtable, one-on-one meetings continue until late in the afternoon.

Though the Career Day experience alone is a valuable step in the students’ future careers, the experience can also result in an actual job. This was the case for WKU senior, Ebony Cox, who has faithfully attended the event since she started in the program. “Career Day has been instrumental in my growth as a photojournalism student here at Western,” she said. “Being able to network with staff photographers and editors can open many doors to some amazing opportunities. I highly recommend going all four years too. You are able to create a bond with these professionals and they are able to watch you grow year after year in your shooting. I became the Indianapolis Star’s 2017 summer Pulliam Fellowship recipient thanks to Career Day!”

WKUPJ Senior Skyler Ballard tells a story of immigration

En Muerto En Vida


In the thirteen years that Jorge and Christina Zaldivar have been married, the family has been fighting for Jorge’s legal residency in the U.S. With a changing administration and an increasing focus on ICE and immigration policies, the family fears that Jorge’s time in the U.S. will soon be up.

Ballard began documenting the family during her summer internship at The Denver Post. See the entire story here.


Gabriel Scarlett interviewed by Alexia Foundation on his “Flock of Doves” Project.

WKUPJ student Gabriel Scarlett was interviewed by the Alexia Foundation about his project, Flock of Doves, which explores “the intersection of gang violence and a community of voices demanding change in Pueblo, Colorado.” Scarlett, a senior in the photojournalism program, elaborated on how the project came to be, his goals for the project, and his future endeavors in the world of photojournalism. You can read Scarlett’s full interview here

Julian Rodriguez plays with his son Christopher at their home on Pueblo’s East Side. Julian’s decades long struggle with addiction brought him intimately close to the gang operations as he often bought from and sold for the gangs in order to support his own addiction. With his son, Christopher on the way, he achieved sobriety and had his facial skeleton tattooed to remember his commitment to his son and to commemorate his brother “Bone Head” who was killed in a shootout with the police. “Everything that I desire and want in this life is for that boy.” Christopher will grow up on the East Side, in Duke territory, but Julian hopes that a loving relationship with his father can keep him from that lifestyle. | Gabriel Scarlett

Michelle Hanks chosen to attend Danish School of Media and Journalism

Michelle Hanks has been chosen to attend the Danish School of Media and Journalism this spring as part of an exchange program used to give students a chance of engaging in visual storytelling internationally.  The program, now in its 5th year, as brought students from Denmark to attend classes at WKU and in return has sent several of our students to Denmark for a semester.

Hanks, from Chattanooga, TN, is in her Junior year as a Photojournalism major.

This Fall Hanks documented Natasha a young mother battling with recovery with the hope of getting custody of her 4-month old baby. Her child was taken away from her four days after birth, because of her addiction to drugs.