Every year, the fourth-year RIT photojournalism students make a trip to Washington, D.C. to meet with distinguished organizations that have had significant influence in shaping our field of work. This year, there are ten students. We are being guided by our professor, Jenn Poggi, who served at the White House for four years as a picture editor and deputy director of the Photo Office.
Our first stop of the week was USA Today. RIT participates in The Collegiate Readership Program; as a student, I have daily access to both USA Today and The New York Times. Because most of the news that I now receive comes from online, it can be really refreshing to hold and go through a physical newspaper.
Upon arrival, we were led by Andy Scott, the Deputy Director of Multimedia, to the newsroom where we met Carol Klino, a recent RIT graduate who now overseas visuals for USA Today College. Klino introduced us to the Collegiate Correspondence Program, which is now accepting applications for the spring. They’re looking for photographers who can produce quality stories consistently and solve problems. The challenge is taking a topic that everyone is talking about and taking a unique spin on it.
We continued to the conference room and met with editors and staffers. They stressed the importance of backpack journalism and having the skill set to produce stills, shoot video, and capture audio. As a photographer, everyday is different and one has to think on their feet. Before we continued to lunch, we were told to be positive and excited about what are doing.
Alex Snyder, who is currently the photographer and digital specialist at the US Peace Corps, showed our class around the office before we settled into the conference room. To our surprise, he had taken a look at each of our bios and had suggestions for our Senior Capstone Projects. He told me to look at MediaStorm’s story, Japan’s Disposable Workers, which tells the story of some people overworking themselves to suicide. Snyder mentioned that in the piece, families of suicide victims receive a bill they must pay after their family member jumps in front of a train. He also told me to apply for grants, which is something that will be my focus during winter break.
While my class had visited Bloomberg headquarters in NYC last year, it was also very interesting to see how the news agency functioned on a smaller level in DC. Andrew Harrer, Bloomberg photographer and an RIT graduate, acts as the photo department at Bloomberg. During our discussion, Harrer explained how Bloomberg stands out from others. When you’re shoulder-to-shoulder with AP and Reuters, there is a certain way you need to position yourself to get different pictures. Bloomberg is also allowed to be a bit more selective about what they cover. His advice for making the transition out of school was having a portfolio that shows you as someone with a different eye, knowing the news, being very self-driven, and sharing stories.
After spending the day in various offices, it was a very pleasant change to end it with a potluck in someone’s home for the Women Photojournalists of Washington’s quarterly meeting. To have the opportunity to attend was incredible and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.
The featured speaker was Amanda Mustard, a self-taught photojournalist who was named in PDN’s 2014 30 Under 30 Women Photographers, talk about the three years she spent in Egypt, where sexual harassment and assault are always a concern. What was most incredible was that she, being 23, is so close to our age and has already accomplished so much. It was truly inspirational to hear how she works in scenarios that are dangerous to any photographer, especially a woman. She was able to give a behind-the-scenes look at how she works by keeping a GoPro running on top of her camera while she shoots. In the footage, she is constantly aware of her surroundings and we see the photographs that she made while shooting. While I haven’t really given conflict photographer much thought, it was very grounding seeing her work and hearing about her experiences. It truly takes a special person to be able to handle this kind of work.