The Making of “These Days”

The 2020 PJ433 Projects class on the last day as they used Zoom to present their final project “These Days” to our Professional Advisory Board, Justin Fowler, Leslye Davis and Cara Owsley. Photo faculty and staff Jeanie Adams-Smith, Jonathan Adams, James Kenney and Miranda Pederson were also present in on the class.


In a socially-distant approved Slack exchange, PJ436 Projects in Photojournalism professor Tim Broekema interviewed These Day’s student project manager Nic Huey about how the idea germinated and how did the class ultimately engage in what became a powerful project where not one member of the photo class actually picked up a camera but yet, used every ounce of their visual training to make this story become a reality.


What inspired you and your classmates to pivot to a team project?

Shortly after receiving the news that WKU would be transitioning to online classes, I knew the second half of our last photojournalism class would be a bit different. Emily Moses and I were discussing ideas about how to document people’s experiences as this unfolded.  We knew that the situation was incredibly dynamic; our feelings, as well as everyone else’s, were changing daily, sometimes even hourly. We had considered at first trying to tackle it on our own, but knew that to get a wide scope of voices we would need to enlist the help of others.  I think within 24 hours I had reached out to you to get that ball rolling. 

Did you have a vision in place as you started or did the project change along the way?

That may have been one of the most challenging aspects of the project.  We knew that the most important thing was to start gathering content as soon as possible and to continue to interview the same people as the situation unfolded in order to capture the emotional rollercoaster we were all on.  New interviews came in almost daily, and the target shifted with each update.  I can remember hopping off Zoom calls feeling confident in our direction and plan, only to be derailed within days by new news about the virus or technical limitations with our workflow. Then it was back to the drawing board, shifting our ideas to better present the content that was coming in. The vision was a moving target, but so was the virus, so it felt fitting honestly. 

There were 13 people involved in this project, and the professor – and you all could not meet in person, did you ever have a moment where you felt this was a bad idea – and it stood no chance in getting done?

The work from home approach came with many pros and cons. On the one hand, it was easier to work on our own time, but that came with the consequence of struggling to keep everyone on the same page. We all met together once a week on Zoom, but I would say most of the progress was made on everyone’s own schedules. I felt like our lives pretty much existed between Zoom, Slack, and Frame.IO at times, especially towards the end. I knew it would get done, it was just a matter of how stressful it would be in the final days. 

Did you feel that in some way, the quarantine brought about a new level of opportunity for learning?

Personally I would say this was the greatest learning experience of my college career. We were forced to adapt overnight to new circumstances and develop remote workflows, coordinating an effort between 13 people that involved new tools that many of us had never used. I think it was great preparation for the journalism and production worlds as well, and for any industry for that matter; work from home will be the new normal for millions of people. I can’t say that I’m glad our semester ended this way, but we all learned to overcome new obstacles and are better off for it. 

Did you feel the project was successful?

I think that we achieved our goal. I think there are definitely things that we would approach differently given another opportunity, but that’s how the learning process works. We were able to try new things with this project and experiment with new ways of storytelling which was a lot of fun. I think the stories and experiences of our characters came across in a really authentic way and I feel like we can all see ourselves fitting right into this story in some way or another. At the end of the day, I would say we all walked away with a project that we can be proud of.

VISIT THESE DAYS to see the entire project

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