Before I go

In her personal project Before I Go, WKU senior Morgan Hornsby examines her relationships with her immediately family as she reckons with her decision to move away. With rural Kentucky as her landscape, Hornsby explores themes such as intimacy, longing, and the desire to create a new life.

My mom and I get ready for my grandmother’s funeral on April 21, 2020 in Albany, KY.



I am from a place where leaving is betrayal. For all my life, my family has lived in a small town in Eastern Kentucky. This has been true for generations. It is a place of tradition, where families build houses next to each other and gather on Sunday for post-church dinners.

Everybody knows everybody and nobody goes too far from home. In my girlhood, I didn’t dream of marriage or family as much as creating my own interesting life. I grew up happily, but with a map on my wall.

This work was made the year leading up to my graduation from college. It is meant to be an examination of what I’m leaving behind, looking closely at my connection to my family and our connection to the land. This work is also a question mark as I examine the life I have, holding it up to the light of all that I want. To see the entire project, click here.

All In My Head

In her personal project, In My Head, WKU senior Lydia Schweickart, of Louisville, Ky., reflects on her experience recovering from a traumatic brain injury and how it affected her mental wellbeing, the people she loves, and the path of self-discovery that it provoked.



In March of last year, I was in a car wreck and suffered a severe Traumatic Brain Injury. I received medical attention for 10 weeks: 1 week in the ICU of Skyline Medical Center, 2 weeks at Frazier Rehabilitation Institute, and 7 Weeks attending Frazier Outpatient Therapy. After the wreck I found myself in the hospital, not knowing why, lost and confused. The recovery process involved having to relearn everything that I knew before the wreck; Walking, Eating, Writing, Fine Motor Skills, Communication, Memory, etc. Having a sense of identity is an essential part of the human experience, and the car wreck stripped me of that identity.

Although my brain tissue has recovered, I will still always question whether a trait, a lapse in memory, slow reaction time, etc. are the result of something related to the car wreck. Because my brain has suffered this damage, I’ll never be the same person I was before the TBI, so it’s like I’ll never “fully” recover. When I started my recovery process I was a blank slate, learning and gathering information about who I was before and trying desperately to be that person again. One of the biggest obstacles was coming to terms with the fact that being that person again isn’t an option for me.

Accepting that I will be forever changed helped me to stop mourning the Lydia lost in that intersection. Recovery became a way to learn more about the Lydia I am now. Even though I have changed, the support of my family and loved ones never did. I didn’t have to go through this exploration alone. Having a traumatic brain injury is like rewriting who you are, and my car wreck provoked an identity crisis that forced me to ask myself, “Who Am I?”

One year after the accident, I’m still figuring out who I am and am in no rush to find the answer. To see the entire project, click here.

These Days: A 2020 Senior Class Project

A multimedia enterprise that captures the emotional journey Americans have collectively experienced during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic. This project aims to highlight how the universally shared experience of grief deeply connects those who would otherwise be strangers.


To see the entire project, please click here



For the last four years at Western Kentucky University we’ve sat through literally hundreds of photojournalism program lectures about  telling powerful and personal stories through the lenses of our cameras. We’ve been taught that great stories come from talking to people on the street and sharing moments with people in their homes. In the middle of our last semester we were completely stripped of those tools. As a class, each of us were deep into the production of our capstone projects; for many of us they would be the highlights of our careers at WKU.

With the finish line in sight, we were thrown an unprecedented curveball. We’d obviously heard about the virus, but we took for granted the potential it had to disrupt our lives. We left campus excited for spring break, saying “see you later” instead of “goodbye”. Just like that we were locked down and our finish line moved impossibly out of sight. “What now?” Was on everyone’s mind but in no time discussions began on a group project to document the evolving crisis.

This was a learning experience for all of us. We learned how to connect with people through our webcams. How to tell stories about life and humanity through the lens of someone else’s iPhone. Without ever touching our cameras, we collected stories from people across the country. Without ever meeting in person, we collaborated digitally to storyboard, produce, and edit a project with dozens of unique voices. We put into practice perhaps the most essential skill we’ve learned; how to adapt and overcome.

Now we look towards the future. Searching for work in an uncertain job market, moving away from the college town we’ve all called home, no chance to say goodbye to our favorite diners and dive bars. A more bitter than sweet final semester, to say the least. Through all of the ups and downs of these days, there is one thing that helps us get through. When someone asks in 20 years what we did during the COVID-19 pandemic, we can show them how we all overcame our historic circumstances. 

Life in Quarantine

The non-majors PJ131 Introduction to Photography class took to turning their camera on themselves, the life around them and their families as they found themselves quarantined the second half of the spring semester due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. We are proud of their efforts and wanted to take a moment to applaud their work and recognize their efforts.

“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. Photo by Rachel Taylor

Stephen Taylor follows along in his Bible as his pastor reads Psalm 23 through video. “These days I’m spending Sundays mornings on my front porch watching my preacher on a Facebook video and I think it’s normal. How crazy is that?” Stephen said he’s never missed church more than two or three Sundays in a row his entire life. Now he’s missed nearly seven because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Rachel Taylor

“In all my years of preaching, I never could’ve imagined doing something like this.” Brother Grant Minton has been the pastor at the Auburn Cumberland Presbyterian Church for over 25 years and has been a pastor his entire life. “The worst part is the empty seats. Preaching to my phone just isn’t the same.” Photo by Rachel Taylor

As Lara Levine is painting, Tiger, one of three cats comes to visit. He is intrigued by the paint brush and sniffs it, ending up getting paint on his nose. “Tiger is a funny cat and is always sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong.” Photo by Samantha Levine




While the COIVD-19 pandemic takes over, I try to find the light in the situation no matter how impossible it seems. Continuing to find myself and blossom like I was in my first year of college has taken an unexpected turn, but I will make do. After every storm there is a rainbow, you just have to look for it. Photo by Grace Bailey


Luke Taylor, a Western student, goes to the grocery store so his grandparents can stay at home. “You never know how much you hate being lazy until you’re forced to be lazy. Sometimes, I go to the store because I have nothing better to do.” said Taylor. There is no question many share Taylor’s feelings, even during quarantine the roads of Bowling Green are packed to the brim as people try to escape the boredom of their homes. Photo by Raaj Banga



Derrick Russell, 9, looks out the window with his backpack thinking of memories of going to school. “I miss my teacher and friends, I don’t want to stay in the house anymore.” With hopes to everything getting better he is currently taking classes online. Photo by Vonn Pillman





Yvette Calhon, 60, cheers up her grandson who misses going to school. “I understand that every kid his age wants to be around others his age this is very hard for him.” With hopes of everything going back to normal she gives him a new toy everyday to make him happy. Photo by Vonn Pillman


Photographer Kennedy Gott tries to find a way to continue to take portraits while in self-quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing is becoming very frustrating to her because she misses being able to do the things she loves and see the people she loves. “I wanted to use this blanket to show this feeling of ‘being trapped’ within my home,” she thought. Photo by Kennedy Gott


Paul Driehaus sits on the stairs, rather annoyed with Josie, the dog. They’ve had a long few weeks, with him not being able to go out. Paul is not taking too well to being stuck, as he likes to be independent. Photo by Alex Driehaus


Michael Frausto secures the placement of his mask to avoid contamination. Michael says, “I must do everything in my power to ensure safety of my daughter.” Photo by Karla Frausto


This moment in my life is very strange and I’ve found myself struggling to find balance between healthy and unhealthy behaviors. My cigarette intake is up to two packs per day. I’m also finding it hard to convince myself to bathe, as it’s really my only big to-do. In this photo I’m embracing the yen and the yang. Photo by Missy Johnson


During the COVID-19 pandemic, several volunteers help to bag groceries contains essential foods for the Ephram White Park Food Drive in Bowling Green, KY. Photo by Kennedy Gott


Two sisters run around in the creek through Cherokee Park. “I love watching them play in the water, they just have so much fun!,” their parents said, Even though these girls can’t be around their friends the ability to get out and enjoy the weather brought big smiles to their faces. Photo by Alyssa Gordon


Carley Kayabasi sits at Cherokee Park with her mask on while visiting her friend. She says, “With such pretty weather it has been awesome to social distance in the outdoors with a close friend.” Photo by Alyssa Gordon


On April 14th, her fourth week of self-isolation and social distancing, WKU freshman and student journalist Cassady Lamb takes a slow shutter self-portrait in her house located in Louisville, KY. Louisville currently has hundreds of reported coronavirus cases, and citizens of the Commonwealth are urged by Governor Beshear to stay in their homes if applicable. Photo by Cassady Lamb


Ken and Leslie Kann have found taking walks around their neighborhood to be beneficial for their mental health. “Getting some fresh air outside helps life feel a little more ‘normal'”, Leslie says. “A change of scenery no matter how small is definitely nice.” Photo by Elly Kann


Self-portrait by Fatimah Alhamdin.


Self-portrait by Raaj Banga.


This very small one bedroom apartment located on Fairview Ave.houses three cats and one dog, making Johnsons time of isolation less lonely. Photo by Missy Johnson

How long has it been?

On March 11, 2020 at 2:09 PM WKU President Tim Caboni sent out an email outlining this university’s COVID-19 response plan, altering our lives forever – or at the very least, for a very long time. The letter in part stated, “As the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly evolves, WKU continues to monitor aggressively the situation as it unfolds. We have for weeks been holding extensive internal discussions and developing a wide range of contingency plans to make preparations that best protect our WKU Community and also the broader communities in which we live. It is now necessary to activate a portion of those plans.”

Something we know many are asking themselves right now is how long have we been in quarantine? Using this date as the beginning of our battle with this pandemic, we started this count-up clock. Let’s all try to stop this clock from counting up and follow CDC guidelines – social distance, or as we like to call it, physical distance, and help your neighbors anyway that you can.

How are Kentuckians facing the future of work?

The Way We Work

In place of coal miners stand robotic machines. Instead of farmhands, Bluetooth tracking-chips count cattle. Older folks are on their toes, redefining, revamping and reconsidering their work, while younger people are charging boldly and soberly toward their specialized and technical careers. As the workforce transforms at breakneck speed, it seems that if Kentuckians don’t take advantage of the myriad modern technological opportunities, they’ll be left in the coal dust. The Way We Work follows farmer, Mark Chapman, former coal-mine worker William Stevens and high school senior Kendall Pearson as they navigate the tricky job market and determine what may career path may be best for them.



Eleven years later and still waiting for answers


SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 2019, 8.29 A.M. LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY – The sun has a hard time getting through the curtains in Karr's apartment in The Highlands, a neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky. Her eyes are sensitive to light, so there is a purpose for the darkness. She walks around the kitchen, feeding her service dog, Blaze, and gets dressed in a flat cap, shirt and pants, leaving her joggers in the bedroom. She needs to move on after a rough night, she explains. The sheets were messy when she woke up. Blaze was laying on her chest; he does this to stop her night terrors. The anxiety returned when she placed her head on the pillow last night. She found no peace.

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 2019, 8.29 A.M. LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY – The sun has a hard time getting through the curtains in Karr’s apartment in The Highlands, a neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky. Her eyes are sensitive to light, so there is a purpose for the darkness. She walks around the kitchen, feeding her service dog, Blaze, and gets dressed in a flat cap, shirt and pants, leaving her joggers in the bedroom. She needs to move on after a rough night, she explains. The sheets were messy when she woke up. Blaze was laying on her chest; he does this to stop her night terrors. The anxiety returned when she placed her head on the pillow last night. She found no peace.


A Wounded Soldier

WKU Journalism and Photojournalism students, Sara Krog and Sofie Mortensen tell the story of Veteran Megan Karr who suffers PTSD caused by her experience of sexual assault by two colleagues, while serving in the military.

“After the incident I changed, not necessarily for the better, but for the worse. I struggle a lot, and that struggle has been tough, especially for the people who knew me before. I guess this is what affected my family situation.”



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