Showing posts with label CPOY. Show all posts
Showing posts with label CPOY. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tim Hussin interview - Part C

© Tim Hussin

Starting Over - Hold Onto Your Family - Russ Brown looks out the window of his new bedroom with his mom, Susan Brown, at his new apartment six days after the fire. "Life is so unpredictable," he said. "Who knows what's going to happen. So hold onto your family."

Please read Tim Hussin's biography, read parts A and B of this interview and see the images on his Web site.

What trends do you see happening with peers at other universities?
The year of not finding a job. (laughs)

I think the evolution of multimedia. I have a good number of friends at OU and Western that I've met along the way. It seems like they're really pushing multimedia in their curriculum. We are too, but I think we're a little behind, which is one of the things I've tried to help with while I've been back at school.

Universally, the main change in the curricula of photo schools is multimedia. OU and Western use to - may still have - film classes. I'm not sure if they got rid of those. I think they're weeding them out or making them electives. They're not mandatory anymore.

(Darkroom classes) are being replaced more with learning video, multimedia, editing audio.
Is there a push toward Renaissance Journalism?
Yea, that's another thing. All these things are part of that - learning one more thing. Learning video is part of that.

I think that's what made me competitive as well. You're getting all these people graduating photo schools that cannot only shoot photos, they can shoot video and audio, and some of them can maybe write well.

Yea, I think the push is having us do more things at the same time, which is good to know, but at the same time I think there's the danger of spreading us thin. Taking away something from each of it.

If you have to shoot video and photos in the same amount of time, that normally someone would just shoot photos, you're going to miss certain things with each media.

So, I think there's a balance that you must find. Maybe it's just a matter of allowing more time to shoot video or take audio. Otherwise, people are just going to put up mediocre multimedia pieces online.

I think people can tell when something is not good journalism. Even if they don't know all the technical words - or whatever words we use to describe it - they'll click on whatever else they've got on their computer screen.

I think the push is into making us into Renaissance peoples.

Here, design is not mandatory. We have classes here. My degree will be in journalism. I have to take a capstone course, which is a course - for example in photo - it'd be the last course you take, which is Advanced Photo 2, which is a photo story class.

Along the way, you can take design. You can take HTML or Flash, which you're encouraged to do. It's a matter of if you have time for that or not.

In my courses, I've taken HTML. I've taken design. I've taken reporting. A little bit of everything, but the crux of it has been photo.

If you have - like me for example - I'm doing photo, and that's what I want to do. A lot of teachers are very open to me adapting projects. For example, adapting a Web page to be geared toward photography. Layout's geared toward photography. It's a pretty good program in that respect.
What do you wish you had learned in college?
I wish I had learned multimedia - video, editing with Final Cut. I wish I had learned multimedia, but at the same time I wish I had learned the bare-bones basics that you could get at schools like Western or OU. That'd be great if I had a film class.

I feel like they have a lot of classes that really push you like you have to go to an event and just shoot one frame, and that's it.

Here, I would have liked to learn multimedia and some more basic photography. But, you've got to give something up. In this case, I would give up the darkroom classes because the combination of HTML, video, photos and audio is where this is going in some respect.

There will always be a place for photos and the printed page, but this is what's making people - students particularly - more marketable to any sort of publication or Web site.

I don't think I have very good business skills. I just started off doing this, and it was very fun, enjoyable, and I figured out I could get paid for it. At that point, your work is good, and people are willing to pay for it, but you don't really know how much it's worth. For that reason, people tend to take advantage of you.

A Business of Photojournalism class or of journalism would be invaluable to have. Yea, that would be great. Right now, I'm still trying to figure it out. People are always asking me - other people that come to forums like A Photo A Day - they're always asking, "I have this gig, what should I charge for it?"

There's all sorts of things like in terms of the rights they have and how long they can use the photos and all these little pieces of that - that I have no idea about.
Do you think it's important to freelance while you're in college?
I think it helps. It can't hurt obviously. Trying out all that stuff in college is important: internships and freelancing, touching on all the professional pieces.
What does it take to be successful in this profession?
Hard work, passion, also it's important to have a vision that's unique from everybody else's - a vision that makes you stand out. It makes you different from everybody else.

I see a lot of photographers that all seem to have either a style or subject matter or something that - you think of child marriage, and you think of Stephanie Sinclair. Something to make you unique is important.

I will, hopefully, figure one of these things out. I think that's one of the most important things - to have a vision and to have a subject matter or approach that is unique from other people.

There's so many good photographers coming into the field and are still going to be coming into the field that you need something to set you apart.
What have you discovered about the profession that you did not expect?
That it's such a tight-knit group of people. It's a pretty small community. There are lots of things like photo workshops, like Eddie Adams or seminars and list serves and blogs that bring all these people together. I didn't know it would be very helpful.

You can feel like you're not lost in a huge, huge crowd of photographers. You feel it's somewhat manageable. You can somewhat wrap your mind around it in some way. I know there are a lot of people that don't participate in that sort of thing. There's a lot of shooters abroad that I'm not even tapped into. I feel like it's a smaller community than I expected.
During internships?
I always expect something new in an internship. It's been different everywhere I've gone. It's been similar, but the people have been different in different places.

I expected a lot of things. I expected it to be high-paced, but still kind of laid back at the same time. I expected the standard to be pretty high, but that has evolved as I have evolved. As I've gotten better, the standard has gotten better at the places I've interned.

My first internship was for credit here at The Gainesville Sun. I expected the standard to be high there. After I've gone through the rounds, I went to the Monroe Evening News, The Deseret Morning News and The Rocky Mountain News.

After coming back, I can look back on that and say, "Wow. This is actually manageable." Those expectations I initially had were not quite as true as I thought them to be. Now, I can go into a newsroom and have some sort of comfort and confidence that I'm able to produce good work as well.
Is it important to be technically proficient?
Yea. That sort of thing stands out - especially at a newspaper. You caption and tone your photo and send it along, but there's so many tiers of people that look at it before it goes into the paper, so they're going to catch anything - any little mistake that you make. Be it in the caption or toning - if you take the blacks all the way down - they're going to notice those sorts of things.

Technically, yea, that's important. That's very important. They will come out in the paper the next day if you screw up. People maybe will not trust you as much or whatever the case may be.

You can't sharpen an out-of-focus photo to make it work. Having that frame the best it can be is important. You've got to have sharp photos.

It's something that, at first, you aren't quite into that, but then it's something you just expect. You expect it to be exposed right, in focus. Beyond that, once you can figure out those things, you can concentrate on vision and content and the things that are really, really important - telling the story.
How important is competition in the industry?
It's important within the industry as far as making a name for yourself, and people seem to notice that. If you have a Pulitzer, people are going to know that. They're going to look at you a different way because of that.

But, at the same time, I don't think that needs to drive people. It does drive some people, but other people stay humble, and they keep focused on the reasons they're doing it, which - I hope - aren't totally contest-driven. It differs for everybody.

I think it's important to get you there probably, but I don't think it should consume people. I don't think it should consume the photographer to the point where they forget about why they’re doing this.
How's the job market look for you and your peer group in general?
On the surface, it looks pretty bad. At the same time, I think there are a lot of options that people might not be looking at, or might not be noticed yet. Of course, we're going through a lot of change now. People are getting laid off left and right, but for people going into the market - if you want to get a newspaper job, it might be tough.

You're not going to get a job at The New York Times right away. I don't think that should discourage people, unless that's all you want to do.

There are a lot of other options, be it freelance work or multimedia work. It's tough for people - like myself - coming out of school. I think they should know what's happening, but they don't need to be afraid of it. I think there's a certain excitement to how things are changing. I think that there are a lot of options that are opening up that people might not recognize yet.

Multimedia is the main thing. Specifically, I don't know, it's growing a bit. A lot of people are creating these collectives. These groups of photographers that are all have a similar approach or similar message, but are all very different. I think a lot of people are banding together to deal with the issues the economy is facing. I think we will find a way out of it, or find a way to do what we want to do.

Otherwise, I guess maybe we'll look for other things. But, I don't think I want to do that right away.

It's important to keep an open mind and to push yourself, to keep at it. If I, at some point, run out of money, and I had to sell my cameras and live on the street, maybe I'd reconsider. But right now, it's not happening.

It's important to have an open mind - a malleable mind - be open to change and be open to doing something different like shooting video.
Anything to add?
This is just a very exciting thing to be doing. It cannot only help people - teach people - but, it can also allow you to experience things that many people have never experienced, or to see things the way that other people have never seen things.

It's a way to connect to people. I think being allowed into someone's life for however long it is - for a couple of minutes or a month or a year - I think that is enough to make me keep doing it. That's something that's not easily achieved.

If I wasn't doing this, I don't know that I would be seeking out the life of other people. I'm able to use this like a medium to get me into places and experience things and - in turn - translate that into a form that other people can experience. I find it very exciting and somewhat noble, and I find it honorable to be that messenger - that person that does that.

For people who are just getting into this, for people who want to do this, I'd say to keep doing it.

Enough for now,

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tim Hussin interview - Part B

© Tim Hussin

A Wildfire's Approach - Residents watch as firefighters make a fire line to stop a wildfire on Green Mountain on Monday, August 4, 2008. The fire, said to be started by lightning, approached many neighborhoods in the area causing mandatory evacuations but did not cause any property damage.

Please read Tim Hussin's biography, read Part A of this interview and see the images on his Web site.

Noah Rabinowitz stated, "This summer I remember Hussin talking about how much Preston Gannaway influenced him while he was interning at The Rocky. Why?"
I think he talks about that more than I do. She won the Pulitzer this year for Feature Photography and was just hired on The Rocky Mountain News staff. She got there a little before I did.

For me - and I think for Noah as well - she embodies that ability to be invisible. She captures these moments that are so genuine, so unique - even when she's not even spending too much time with a subject. She has this uncanny ability to do that.

Those that influence me, I don't really know that they're influencing me. I just see their work and appreciate it and go on with the daily grind shooting what I need to shoot. It must influence me in some way. How it does, I'm not really sure, but I know it does.

Working with her over the summer and seeing her daily work and how she produces wonderful image after wonderful image, it pushed me a lot during that summer to put my whole self into everything I shot to try to do that as well.
Do you "make" or "take" photos?
I like to think I "take" photos. I feel like I do my best when I capture things that are real moments that are actually happening without the presence of myself. Portraiture, illustration and things like that are not particularly my strengths.

I would say I'm more of a photographer who takes photos and tries to be in the right place at the right time and tries to capture whatever that subject is by capturing unique moments that happen.
Do you have a visual pet peeve?
I try not to. I try to be open to a lot of things. I don't particularly like clichés. There are a lot of clichés, like a kid on a swing, for example. Things that are easy to shoot for daily work, just to get something in the paper. That bugs me a little.

I know sometimes people have to do that, but more than that, I'm pretty open. I think there are some specific things - cutting off people's feet.
Some of your images have body parts entering the frame.
Yea. Some of them. There are some general things that you can go by. Like people say, "You have to learn the rules to break them." I'm not saying I know all the rules - I know a lot of them - but, you have to do it in a meaningful way.

Sometimes it isn't meaningful. I think a lot of things are becoming cliché like that - like cutting off body parts. I think, at the same time, it can add some aesthetics to an image that make it more complete or make it more visually interesting.

So, I'm open to using clichés, but at the same time I'm thoughtful when I do and the reasons that I do.
Most PJ's have a driving motivation. It underlies all their projects, stories and even single images. What's yours?
I might disagree. I think there are many reasons I do this. I think there probably is a overlying general motivation that I have and lots of parts to that.

With photojournalism, I have the ability to make a difference and reach a lot of people. I know that's possible.

It seems like it's the right thing to do. I think a lot of people - initially, before they're disenchanted with life - feel like they need to make a difference. They are happier with themselves and with their community if they feel like they're contributing something to that community.

I think that's the motivation for me, is to be able to contribute something to the community that I'm in - be a part of that community and not just stand on the side and take things for what they are, but find parts of that community that I think are important, and I think are good and could tell something to somebody else and present those to people within that community and elsewhere. Just say, "Hey, this is something you need to look at and consider, maybe take to heart."

I guess that's my motivation, but it's also a way for me to express myself. It's also a way for me to do something that's artistic and practical and meaningful - to not only me, but for other people. It also allows me to become a better person by experiencing more things, parts of people's lives that a lot of people wouldn't experience, unless it happened to themselves.

Maybe I feel that's the best way I can express myself. If I can't do it through my own words, maybe it's through my own eyes or through the words of other people.
Do you see your work as permanent?
No. It's always changing. The work I have done, it's going to be there. It's going to be representative of something that happened, but it's always evolving.

The daily effect you can have on people is important. You're creating this historical record, but you're also showing people something about that daily. You're showing them a viewpoint on that.
Do you want to influence behaviors of others?
No. That can be a result of what we do, but it's more about showing people a perspective that they might not have seen, or might make them wonder about what's important to them or what other people are going through.

What drives me? Maybe it's the thought that I can connect people to stuff that can bring their own lives into perspective.
What advice do you have for young photojournalists?
Right now - in this current time in photojournalism, because the market is very saturated with very talented, passionate photographers, who are really good at what they do - in order to do that and compete with that, you really have to make it a lifestyle more than a job.

In this case, you'd have to make it more than just going to class to go out there. You have to really want to do this to compete with that market. Really get into whatever you're doing.

It's important to think of it not only as a major, but as something that you will potentially do for the rest of your life. Something that - in order to do it for the rest of your life - you really need to put your whole self into it now and grow as quickly as possible. Reach out to people who you look up to.
How important was your education to your career and why?
It was important in getting me started. At UF we don't have a huge photo program. We only have two full-time professors and one visiting professor. So, it's a good launching pad for me to be introduced to the field. I did not know much about it before I came here.

What's made me grow most is internships. The majority of my growth has been through my own initiative - applying to internships repeatedly and getting turned down tons and tons of times but finally coming up with something and taking that opportunity to really push myself to take advantage of the opportunity and then come back here and work in class to do what I want to do - not just do the bare minimum, but do something meaningful to me and also reach out to my professors and treat that like a mentor relationship more than a teacher-student relationship.

The classes here are good, but there are schools like Ohio University and Western that are much bigger and better and more competitive. We don't really see it here. A lot of younger students don't see it here, but we're competing against that - we're competing with everybody in the nation. So, you really have to go the extra length to make it work.

Most of what I've learned has been achieved from internships.
How did you choose UF?
I'm from Florida. I'm from the Tampa area. It was free. I got scholarships, and we've got Bright Futures. It pays for tuition. Well, it's not entirely free. My parents had a Florida Prepaid Plan. Basically, they were putting money gradually ever since I was very young into an account for college. Florida has a couple of programs. Basically, I was able to get school for free.

So, that was - obviously - a motivating factor. My brother went here. I came here to study environmental science.

Growing up, I was always interested in taking photos. On family vacations, I was always the one with the camera. In high school, my sister gave me the camera that our grandfather gave her once he passed. That was when I first explored it a bit.

But, I had never taken it seriously until I got here. I started studying environmental science, and I got burned out on taking chemistry and biology and stuff I really wasn't interested in. So I thought about journalism.

I took an Intro to Journalism class, and it motivated me to explore it a bit further and eventually found that I was able to combine my interest in photography with something that was more practical. So, that's how I started. It took off from there.

I started shooting a bit for the school newspaper, and they hired me a little later. I just picked it up pretty quickly.

It's not like I popped out of the womb wanting to be a photojournalist. It kind of came to me and happened. I feel fortunate that I was able to find something that I truly love and that I'm somewhat good at.
When did you transition?
It was my second semester in college. I took a semester of environmental science - all kinds of science classes. The next semester, I took some of those classes as well, but I also took an Intro to Journalism class. That's where the professor - his name is Dr. William McKeen - he taught that class. He's very excited and very motivated. He makes you feel you can change the world and all these ideas.

I got motivated by him in that class. So I decided to take the next class, which is a writing class. Here, the photo program is part of the journalism program. It's not necessarily a four-year program. You have to take a couple of prerequisites before you can take the photo classes. One of those is a writing class.

You write a story a week in lab. I was taking photos on my own and trying to shoot for the school newspaper. Eventually that took off, and I ended up falling into the journalism photo classes and doing pretty well with this.

Please also see Part C of this interview.

Enough for now,

Monday, December 22, 2008

Tim Hussin interview - Part A

© Tim Hussin

Anarchy at the DNC - Pepper Wash - Amanda Hubbard of Denver has water poured over her eyes after she was pepper-sprayed by police.

Please read Tim Hussin's biography, and see the images on his Web site.

John MacDonald stated, "I actually think he's a ghost. His photos come off like he is invisible to his subject matter. Eerie and scary how good he is at this stage in his career. He's a PJ prodigy in my opinion. Good to see some strong recognition this early."

How do you get close to your subjects?
For one, I physically get close to my subjects. I tend to shoot more wide-angle photos. I really try to develop a rapport with the people I'm around when I'm shooting. It lends itself to being able to capture the more intimate moments that would seem like the photographer is invisible.

I've admired a lot of the shooters that are able to do that. Here and there I've come across them while interning at papers. I've always admired that ability to be invisible and have the ability to connect with the subjects to the point where you're able to show that intimacy to somebody else.

I guess that's the main thing. Being able to develop a relationship with the subject is important so they aren't constantly aware of you. Also, allowing yourself enough time to do this is very important.

If you spend enough time with a subject, eventually they'll forget you're there. That's when the pictures are made that really speak to the readers.
Do you plan to spend much time with your subjects?
Ideally I do. Most of my experience is with newspapers. You can't always spend a lot of time with subjects. I try to spend as much time as possible.

With projects, I've been able to spend more time with one family or one person to develop that intimacy.

With a lot of the assignments I've had - a lot of the singles in my portfolio - I haven't really had that much time. It's just a fleeting thing: a fire, a news assignment or whatever the case may be. In that case, I try not to make myself a huge presence in the places I go. I try to be low key. (I) take less camera gear or not being in someone's face constantly so I can blend in and capture these photos.
How does this work with wide-angle lenses?
You can't, but I try not to be so intrusive. I can be next to somebody, but not bother them - not let them know I'm constantly shooting their photo. Maybe it's a matter of not shooting a lot; maybe it's a matter of not trying to be so intrusive.

I do tend to shoot a lot. But, I'm conscious of how somebody is responding to me and how somebody is relating to me when I'm shooting them. I can feel whether it's going well or not going well. I try to make it the best possible situation for myself by being conscious of how a person feels all the time, and how they're reacting to me. In a lot of occasions, I - obviously - don't want them to react to me.

If they are reacting to me, I would step back for a second and give them time to get back into how they are reacting with their environment without me.
How long were you with the Brown family?
I spent about three weeks with them. I think the final frame might have been shot six days after the fire, but I spent more time with them. A couple of frames before were from after the fact.
Tell me about yourself.
I see myself as someone who still has a lot of growing to do. Most photographers, regardless of their talent level, I think everyone can constantly grow. I am in a spot where I have been fortunate enough to have a lot of reinforcement in what I am doing. I've had that to a point where I've been motivated to keep doing it and have been reassured that there is worth in what I'm doing, which is photojournalism story-telling.

I'm in a spot that's pretty exciting for me. I'm graduating in December. I'll be out on the market. It's exciting and kind of scary in the same respect because of how the market is right now.

I've had three internships at newspapers. Once I graduate, I'll take a break from that. I don't think I'm going to try to find a newspaper job - staff job - right away. I want to spend some more time doing documentary work, doing freelance work for magazines and Web sites and develop my multimedia storytelling as well. I've gotten into that a lot the past couple of internships.

I can really see the future in that. It does have a lot of potential and a lot of ability to advance our method of communicating stories to people.

I'm open to what is offered to me. But, as of now, I plan to work on more documentary projects. Although I haven't had the ability to really get into some serious projects, I think that's what I'm interested in pursuing for the next couple of years of my life. Just see where that can take me.
Have you looked at funding?
I've applied for a Fulbright Grant. I suppose that is the main issue. At the same time, I don't expect to live lavishly for the next couple of years. Now is the time when I don't have a family to support or a mortgage. I feel like now is the time I should take that opportunity to really dive into it. Take the little money I do have and put that toward what I really want to do with my life.

Right now, it's continuing telling stories that are meaningful to myself, and that I believe are meaningful to society. Telling stories that can connect people and can take people out of their comfort zone and show them something they've never seen before.
Domestic or international?
Both. Depending on what is offered to me, or what I can find. The Fulbright Grant, for example, I applied to one in Denmark. I'm interested in both.

The main thing for me is to concentrate on one thing that is important to me now and do that.

Right now, I have a lot of ideas, and I need to concentrate on something specific to do something that's powerful. I'm not sure what that is yet.
What is the purpose of your work?
I think the purpose of photojournalism is to connect people through sharing these stories. I think one of the things I see us doing is bringing people to a place that they've never been before and telling them something about it that's meaningful and can relate to their lives.

There are lots of ways to do that. One being the Web. We don't have the barriers of having to go through the newspaper or magazine to have our work seen. The Web has a lot of possibilities - most of which people are exploring. There's newspapers. There's also things like Media Storm that are really on the forefront of that multimedia revolution.
Not yet. I think that's a starting point to do a project like that - a serious documentary project with video and audio and music and put something together. Try to get it out there through the Web or even documentary filmmaking, which is another beast.

I think that's something I'm interested in pursuing. I don't know where the money is going to come for that.

Right now, I'm going to graduate. I tentatively have a gig at The Washington Post available to me and then the National Geographic thing, which is positive. It's what I have now.

I don't know. I could graduate and go straight to doing those things, or I could have a little bit of time to work on the stuff that I've been talking about.

But, I think a delivery system, sure, you could do it through newspapers, through Web sites like Media Storm, through many different nonprofits.

I've got a couple of things lined up, but after that - in the bigger scheme - I'm not sure. A lot of things are changing. I could also make some connections and talk to people in the not-so-distant future, who are getting into these things.

I'm not too worried.
Are you considering a masters degree?
No, not now. I feel like I'm done with school for now. I think that could be an option in the future. I'm ready to get out and do some work.

I have a lot of friends, who are (returning for masters degrees) too. (Ohio University) masters program - I have some friends that have gone from my program - University of Florida - right into there. I know that route too. It could be an option, but I feel like I need to explore and maybe go back after I've seen the options - if that seems like a good option for me.
Noah Rabinowitz asks, "Were you really drunk at the DNC?"
(Laughs) Is that from Noah? I didn't have time to drink at the DNC. I was up too much. I was drunk on not sleeping. And, by the way, Noah made up that name too.

Actually, we kind of came up with it together, but he's the only one that took it seriously for a second until I told him maybe we should change it to something else. We did a blog together. He was my roommate in Denver. He was interning at The Denver Post. I was at The Rocky Mountain News.

That was the name of a blog we came up with and put the alternative view of the DNC up, which got this semi-cult following for a little while.
Rabinowitz stated, "You are obviously pushing yourself not only as a still image maker but as a multimedia producer as well. What mixed media pieces have struck you as being especially effective recently? Why?"
Some of the best work I've seen is on Media Storm. It sets the standard in some ways. I think that works. It's been what I've looked at most as something I'd like to aspire to. I've a way to go, but I don't think it's impossible.

They pull together the audio, video, photos and graphics so it's seamless. I think that's something a lot of people struggle with is trying to connect these media to have them work together to tell a story.

I think there are some people, who are able to do that in a way that you don't flinch when it goes from stills to video or audio all mixed together to become one. I think that's what gives it it's power. Not only the beautiful image-making - the great seeing, the great photographer, the wonderful interviews and the music - but, how it's edited and put together to work as a cohesive piece.
Did you record audio separately or pull from video for the DNC piece?
All the audio was taken from the video. During the DNC, I was recording - I had a video camera and was shooting stills - so I shot a lot of video. At some points, if I needed just audio, I'd take the mic out of the camera bag and hit record and just shoot photos, but have the mic recording audio.

Please also see parts B and C of this interview.

Enough for now,

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tim Hussin - 2008 CPOY winner

Tim Hussin was born in Palm Harbor, Florida in 1985. He is currently a freelance photojournalist.

He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Photojournalism from the University of Florida. He has interned at The Rocky Mountain News, The Deseret Morning News, Monroe Evening News and The Gainesville Sun.

In 2008, he won the College Photographer of the Year and was a semi-finalist for the Hearst Journalism Awards. He has also won other awards from the CPOY, Hearst Journalism Awards Program, the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), the Michigan Press Photographers Association (MPPA) and the Photo Imaging Education Association (PIEA). He is currently the 2008 NPPA student clip contest point leader.

He participated in a project about the sponge industry in the Bahamas as well as a Study Abroad project at an historic art house in Berlin, Germany. Recently, he covered the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colo. and the separation of parents from children at the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Eldorado, Texas.

Additional images can be seen on his blog, his Web site, and his Flickr stream.

Please read his interview parts A, B and C.

Enough for now,

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Best PJ colleges and recruits 08

In 2005, 2006 and 2007 we tried to ascertain which colleges are best for PJ students. My answer is always the same:   The university doesn't make the best PJs. The best PJs make the most of their time at university.

This fact was proven when the College Photographers of the Year Casey Templeton and Rick Gershon were both lone wolves from their universities. Tim Hussin, the 2008 College Photographer of the Year, is also a lone wolf from the University of Florida.

We now have four years of data to show us benefit-for-investment trends at different universities. Let's use the information we have and draw a few conclusions.

When looking at the winners list, let's ignore who won gold, silver, bronze and honorable mention. Instead, we'll look at how many individuals from different universities got any awards. Of these winners, we'll eliminate the universities with only one winner (no matter how many awards were won) and eliminate the redundancies.

Again, what remains is a solid guess at the quality of the PJ education at different universities. If nothing else, it shows a consistent ability to teach students to shoot and select quality images for competition.

Here's the breakdown by number of individual students who won any awards at this year's CPOY:

2008 top award winning schools
13 (+1) - Ohio University
11 (+3) - Western Kentucky University
06 (+2) - San Francisco State University
05 (-2)- University of Missouri
04 (-2) - Brooks
04 (=) - University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
03 (+1) - Syracuse University
02 (new) - Loyalist College
02 (new) - Southern Illinois University

Western Kentucky gained the most ground this year and picked up three. San Francisco State increased awards by a third. Ohio held the lead and increased its total by one. Syracuse also picked up one. The University of North Carolina was stable while the University of Missouri and Brooks both lost two.

Loyalist College and Southern Illinois University are new on the leader board this year while the University of Nebraska vanished.

As stated before, universities with strong programs draw strong students. These students are frequently as demanding on one another as they are on themselves. The top two PJ universities continue to impress. Both have remained at the top of the leader board for the last four years. This means their students are producing consistently high-quality work from year to year.

Meanwhile, one driven PJ can still take all the marbles without cohorts. Tim Hussin took the portfolio win. He also accumulated the most overall wins. What makes him so dangerous to other collegiate PJs is he accomplished this with still images and mixed media. Hussin's skills match what's happening on the pro side of this biz.

He won awards in Spot News, Feature, Domestic Picture Story, Still Image Audio Story, Video/Mixed Media Photo Story and Portfolio.

Unlike last year's multimedia dominance by Ohio and UNC, awards were won by many schools. Ohio University, University of Florida, University of Missouri, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Western Kentucky University all earned awards. This means these universities, have a grip on industry demands.

Best recruits
The College Photographer Of the Year is the shooter with the best portfolio. This system is similar to the Pictures Of the Year (POYi) awards. Meanwhile, the NPPA regional photographer of the year is determined by points. This point system shows consistent commitment to excellence and competition throughout the year.

Since it's not possible to give the same points because the NPPA student competitions are held quarterly (incidentally, Hussin is currently leading in those points as well by 150 points), we can use a different scoring system. We'll assess the following points:
6 - CPOY (Gold 4 + 2)
5 - CPOY runner up (Silver 3 + 2)
4 - Gold
3 - Silver
2 - Bronze
1 - Award of Excellence

Since we have four years of data now, we can crunch some numbers. Editors who get resume packages from these folks should take a serious look-see at the packages. These numbers indicate a consistent ability to perform at a high level in multiple categories over time.

Top 10 individuals from 2005 - 2008
20 - Matt Eich - Ohio University
20 - Andrew Henderson - Western Kentucky University
20 - Yoon Byun - Ohio University (Boston Globe)
18 - Tim Hussin - University of Florida
18 - Jenn Ackerman - Ohio University
18 - Tim Gruber - Ohio University
17 - Dominic Nahr - Ryerson University
16 - Travis Dove - Ohio University
16 - Carl Kiilsgaard - Western Kentucky University
16 - Daryl Peveto - Brooks Institute of Photography
The 2008 top three draft picks are:
18 - Tim Hussin - University of Florida
12 - Jenn Ackerman - Ohio University
9 - Andrew Burton - Syracuse University
The cumulative draft picks are:
20 - Matt Eich - Ohio University
18 (tie) - Tim Hussin - University of Florida
18 (tie) - Jenn Ackerman - Ohio University
18 (tie) - Tim Gruber - Ohio University

The folks still in college will drive up their numbers in the next few years. Those who graduated three years ago may not have done as well on this list as they would have if I had the whole data set. Nonetheless, the top 10 above are all strong recruits for newspapers and magazines. Of these, we again see Ohio continues to be the top school.

Enough for now,

Friday, November 23, 2007

Travis Dove interview - Part C

Jason Gillispie (left) and Aaron Levy ride to Vinton, Ohio's Fellowship Chapel for Sunday service in the back of a donated bus. Both men are disciples of Refuge Ministries, a three-step recovery program for people struggling with drug addiction. Levy, the 19-year-old grandson of a preacher, is finding his way back to God after struggling with an addiction to heroine.
© Travis Dove

Please read Travis Dove's biography, Parts A and B of this interview and see the images on his Web site.
You already have a BA degree. Why did you return to college to work on your master's degree?
Even when I was working with John [Loomis] and working on my internship at The Augusta Chronicle, I always saw myself as a student anyway. So it didn't seem like a huge leap for me at the time to go back to school.

I knew there were some gaps in my skill set that were going to be easier to fill in at school than in the industry - like multimedia.
How did you choose Ohio University?
I looked at several schools. I met a couple of students, who came out of OU. They seemed driven. They seemed competent, successful. They were everything that I wanted to be and couldn't at that point.

When I came here to visit with the professors, I got a sense that the coursework was very practical, and they allowed a lot of freedom to explore other venues like learning Flash, for instance, or design. [There were] a lot of other subjects that I was interested in.
Are you ready to enter the pro world?
Absolutely. For me, I know this was the best school for me. All I know is this has been really helpful for me.
What gaps did you have in your education?
I had never taken a formal journalism class. I didn't know about newsgathering really. I was just learning as I went along, which seemed a little dangerous to me at the time. I wasn't totally comfortable with it.

Certainly with multimedia. I didn't see myself picking up a video camera, picking up an audio recorder, learning Pro Tools and learning Final Cut on my own. I needed some direction, and that's what this place provided for me.

And, it was a photo community. I had picked up on the idea that it's important to surround yourself with people that are going to help you grow. I knew this was that type of place.
Do you have other language skills?

I took some foreign language classes (Spanish) in college. I did horribly.

It's not that I haven't tried. At Wake Forest, they require that you take a foreign language up to the level of foreign literature class. Man that was a struggle for me. (laughs)

By far the worst I did of any of my classes at Wake Forest.

I think it's important. It sounds hypocritical of me to say that because I'm not really fluent in another language. Before I found out that I'd have this opportunity at The Charlotte Observer, my plan was to go to Guatemala for the summer and get better at Spanish.

It's still a goal of mine to become fluent in a foreign language. Now it's a matter of finding the time to make it happen.
You completed three internships. What's the importance of internships?
It's important to think practically about your photography. There are a lot of great images that people have taken that are never going to be published because they're just not right for a newspaper or a magazine.

That's something you learn about when you go to a newspaper and do an internship. (laughs) You learn about news value. It's important to have some life experience in the field before you jump out there.
Do you think the number of internships you've had is helpful?
To be honest, I've actually had more than three internships. I've had like five or six internships, they just haven't been in photojournalism.

I don't think that there's a magic number as far as internships go. Every one of my internships has helped me personally. I think every case is different. You just need to do internships until you feel comfortable with your skill level. Feel comfortable with where you're at, and then go for it.

Well, I've got one coming up at National Geographic. So, that will be four for sure. (laughs)

Every internship that I've had has been a step forward. As long as I have an opportunity to take a step forward, I'm going to take it.
Have you ever had a raw-take edit?
That's what we do at OU. We did that in my Photo Essay class. They're displaying every photograph you took to the whole class. You're entire take. Every time for the entire essay.

That was pressure. (laughs)

It's like being naked in front of the class. It was so nerve wracking the first time we went through my entire shoot in front of everybody.

All the outtakes are like these dirty little secrets that you don't want anybody to know that you have. Gosh, it was a great learning experience. You started to think more about every picture that you were taking.

John Loomis told me the first day that I met him at the coffee shop, he said, "The only difference between me and any other guy with a camera is that I've taken more bad pictures." It's important to take bad pictures. It's important so you know what's good.

[The class] wasn't nit-picking the worst pictures and then critiquing them. But, we would talk about the way that everybody is approaching the subject. You can learn a lot by looking at how you got to certain pictures. The steps that you took to get to a certain frame.
Your Web site lists you as a freelancer. Is it important to freelance while in college?
I wouldn't say it's any more or less important than having an internship.

Freelancing for The Chapel Hill News taught me something about how to submit a photograph, some of the rules for toning, really practical things I had no idea about at the time.

As a graduate student, it's important to me because I don't have any money. (laughs)

It's good to eat every now and then when you have the opportunity. Freelancing is certainly important in that regard as a student.

It is good practice for what you're going to be doing later on in life, which is making a living. It teaches you something about how the business works, which is knowledge that you don't really get out of school.

That's one thing that I wish we had a little bit more of at OU:   the business of photography. Thankfully, I did have a little background from my undergraduate experience.
How do you view yourself professionally?
I don't think I do view myself professionally. I view myself as a student. I look at myself as a student first because I think I have a lot to learn.
What's the difference between you and a pro?
Experience. Experience.
How are you gaining experience?
I'm doing a lot of internships. I am trying to put myself out there as much as I can. I try to talk to people about my work whenever I have the opportunity. I seek advice when I can. I try to surround myself with photographers, who are going to push me to become better.
When does a photojournalist become a pro?
That's a tough question to answer because I don't know that there's a line. I think it's a self-perception.
When will you cross over the self-perception line?
I don't think I ever will.

I could see myself teaching. I don't think it's written in stone that I'm going to be a teacher when I get done with school. I'm just trying to stay open to all possibilities right now.
How important is it to be technically proficient?
I think the technical aspects are the things that people start grasping first when it comes to photography. Yes, it's extremely important to have that foundation.

Hopefully it's something that you can forget about and something that becomes a little more effortless as you progress.
Does lack of proficiency interfere with PJ work?
Oh yea. Absolutely. A lot of people might know what you want the final photograph to look like, but you don't know how to make it happen. That can be really frustrating.

For me, it was a process of trial and error when I was learning how the camera worked. There's still aspects where I could improve my technical proficiency like with studio lighting.
How important is studio lighting?
It depends on the type of work you want to do when you get done.

I was lucky in that I had assisted for a studio photographer before I came into photojournalism. So, I had a little bit of that knowledge when I started out. I'm not sure I would have gone after that later on in my career.

I'm glad that I've had that experience, but I'm by no means a seasoned studio photographer right now. That's one of those subjects where I'm still a student.

Studio lighting can definitely help you make money later on.

There are a lot of assignments that come out that only an experienced photographer that knows something about studio lighting is going to be able to accomplish successfully. If you don't have those skills, then you're out of the pool automatically.

You're really limiting yourself by not knowing anything about studio lighting.
How important is competition in the industry?
I think it's critical. I think one of the things that's helped me grow here at school is a healthy competition that we have between the students.

I feel we feed off each other's energy.

One of the things that's struck me since entering this field is people's willingness to help you out - even when that's in direct contradiction to their own goals.

When some of the students here are trying to put together portfolios for internships, a lot of us are applying to the same internships. But, we'll sit down together anyway, look over each other's work and try to make it as good as possible.

The competition is important, but it's also important that it doesn't override everything else.
Is it important for you to shoot overseas?
No. I don't think it's critical that I shoot overseas. I wouldn't say that I'll never shoot overseas.

Some of the most important work that's being done is conflict photography in places other than the U.S. That's very important work. So, I don't want to take anything away from people who are doing that. But, there's a lot of valuable work to be done in the U.S. as well.
What's the purpose of your work?
The purpose of my work is to increase understanding by taking people places that they wouldn't normally go, or don't want to go.

I hope there's some universality to it.

To some extent, I am shooting for myself right now because a lot of this work is not being published anywhere. The reason that I'm shooting for myself right now is because I want to improve as a photographer. I want to become better at the craft. So that when I'm shooting for a publication, I can say that I've done everything I could to be as good at this as I can.

I don't have a readership right now. Right now my readership is primarily other photographers. Literally, right now. When I was shooting for The Charlotte Observer, I was trying to shoot for their readership. When I was shooting for The Augusta Chronicle, I was shooting for their readership. When I'm at OU, I'm shooting for myself.
What are your thoughts on citizen journalism?
I can see the value in it. But, I see a lot of dangers in it as well. Obviously, these people are not held to the same journalistic standard that we are at all times. I don't think they have media ethics running through their heads when they're doing this work. You can't take anything away from the impact nonetheless.
What's your biggest visual pet peeve?
(Laughs) It might be the gratuitous silhouette photographs. Those strike me first.

It's probably the first creative device I learned as a photographer. It's probably because it's the one that I overused the most when I was first starting out.

I don't think that it's a rule that you can't ever have a silhouette in your portfolio. There's a time and a place for it.

You don't want to have too many of any one trick in your portfolio like rim lighting or silhouetting.
Throughout most PJ's career, they have one driving motivation. It underlies all their projects, stories and even single images. What's yours?
I think I'm obsessed with the power of photojournalism. That's it.

It has the ability to move people, to draw emotion out of people, to make people feel something and relate to others. I love being able to provide that.
Anything to add?
What's made this whole CPOY thing so special is the incredible response that I got after it was announced. I got so many e-mails and phone calls, hugs and everything from people from all different parts of my life. I would just like to thank everybody that's been so helpful to me and so supportive of me over the past few years.

Like Matt said last year, I'd be happy to talk to anybody about photography or about life - whenever.

Enough for now,

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Travis Dove interview - Part B

Photo © Travis Dove

Ann Wilson's dog, Tobias Bubba, gives her a look from his floatable board, which is tied to Wilson as she swims on Lake Norman outside of her home in Denver, N.C. Wilson swims in the lake while towing Tobias just about every day the weather permits.
Please read Travis Dove's biography, Part A of this interview and see the images on his Web site.

Bryon Houlgrave a pro in Wisconsin said, Travis, congratulations on the recognition. It's very well deserved as your portfolio is full of solid, well executed work.

Could you talk about your own style when it comes to approaching your subjects? Your images seem to show that you blended in well with your subjects, and that they weren't really aware of your presence.

A huge part of taking good pictures is putting yourself in a situation where that's a possibility. Part of it is, certainly, finding the right subject, who's going to be able to ignore you eventually. Another part of it is staying with them for a long time. (laughs)

Spending a lot of time with them.

If there's a magic formula, then that's it:   finding the right subject and spending a lot of time there.
Houlgrave continues, Could you discuss your views on the importance of internships, and what you've gleaned from your experiences at The Charlotte Observer, The Augusta Chronicle and The Valley News? How does that practical experience compliment what's taught at Wake Forest, or Ohio University?
I'll take this question chronologically. At Wake Forest I was shooting photography as a hobby. That's just the place where I learned I like pictures on a very basic level.

At The Augusta Chronicle, I started to get a feel for the daily grind of working as a photojournalist:   the whole 9-to-5 aspect of pumping out publishable work on a daily basis.

At The Valley News, I was given a lot more freedom to succeed and freedom to fail. They gave you a lot of space for photographs at that paper. I had one page dedicated to pictures every month - dedicated to my photographs, which is awesome and really rare in this business. That was an amazing learning experience for me.

At The Charlotte Observer, I tried to take all those things I learned at The Augusta Chronicle about pumping out daily work, and things I learned at The Valley News about shooting picture stories and put them together and used them in a much bigger venue.

The whole time, I was trying to find people who were going to be helpful to me and help me grow as a photographer.

At OU, part of what I'm doing here is filling in the gaps - things I didn't learn at some of these internships like how to shoot video, how to record audio. Practical things like that.

Like I said earlier, I'm learning how to shoot for a feeling and avoid shooting for a process.
Houlgrave continues, How are colleges teaching multimedia today? Do you get much exposure to video production or slideshows? Do you see multimedia in your future, or are your ambitions more designed toward photojournalism?

Thank you, and congratulations again. Best of luck.

Thank you very much.

We do get some exposure to multimedia. I think they're going to start requiring it here in the future. It's not a requirement right now. I took an audio class last year, and I took a video class last year. I had a lot of fun in those classes, and I feel like they taught me a lot about storytelling in general. It's helped my photography too.

I definitely see multimedia in my future. I enjoy it, and I think it can be powerful if done well.

Most of the multimedia that I've done for myself have been a combination of audio, video and stills. It's not perfect for every situation at all. There's certain times when it's really helpful in telling a story.

Do you think it's important to the industry?
Yes. I do. I think the industry has a lot to learn about audio and video, and so do I. (laughs)

I'm guessing that if you showed some of my video clips to somebody, who's been doing television for 30 years, they'll probably think that I'm terrible. (laughs)

The industry has a long way to go but the growing popularity of Internet news, it's crucial.

Tried it in a professional environment on deadline?
It is extremely challenging and frustrating. That's one of the reasons I said it's not perfect for all situations. A lot of the time you're going to be sacrificing some photographs to get this video. It's important to pick and choose your battles in this situation.

That being said, one of the pictures in my portfolio actually came from an assignment where I was shooting video and stills on deadline. It was the photo of the lady with her dog on a raft.

Man that was an experience. I almost didn't get that picture. (laughs) Oh man, that assignment was something else.

[The equipment] was waterproof at first.

I had heard that this lady swims every day with her dog. So, I brought basically the entire pool of equipment to this assignment. I had long lenses, monopods, tripods, video camera, one of those Ewa underwater bags. I had tons of stuff. I had three cameras because I had no idea where I was going to be able to go for the shot. I brought my bathing suit, obviously.

When I got there, I ended up borrowing this little life belt thing from this lady's husband. I swam out there with The Observer's camera in one of those underwater housing kits. I'm following her out there, and I started taking some photos. I was kind of struggling because I had never done underwater photography before. It's hard. It's so hard. (laughs)

I started taking a couple of pictures and the battery died in the camera. I had to swim back to the dock and take everything out of the underwater bag. Put a new battery in the camera. Locked it back up. Swam back out there. I started shooting some more photos, and I'm looking at the back of the screen and everything is black.

I had set the camera to automatic and the sky was so bright and it was reflecting off the water. You couldn't see anything. It was way, way underexposed.

I was like, "None of these pictures are going to work."

I swam back to the dock again. Dried my hands off. Grabbed the video camera. Shot some video from the dock. Put that down. Grabbed my personal still camera. Didn't put it in the bag, and just swam out there with my camera just praying I didn't drop it into the water.

I probably got five or six publishable frames from that assignment, and that was one of them. But that entire day I was constantly taking still photos, putting that camera down, picking up my video camera, shooting that.

It's hard to tell a story with video when you're constantly debating in your head, "Should I be shooting stills or should I be shooting video right now?"

It's hard. That's why I say you have to choose your battles with that. The video ended up being pretty horrible I think. (laughs)
When do you decide what tool to use?
It's certainly dependent on the subject matter. I don't know if there are hard-and-fast rules. You just have to go with your gut on that.

There's certainly times when you start talking to your subject, and they have an emotional response to the topic. That's very audible. It's a good time to pick up your video camera and start recording.
Better to keep them wired?
(Laughs) Yea. That's so tough though. I can't see myself ever doing that actually. I can't see myself wiring somebody up from the beginning, waiting on them to say something and pressing record.

I don't think my brain works that way where I can do both at the exact same time. I have to keep putting one down and picking the other up.

I don't know how you can do both at the same time. It would make my brain overload. I have to be committed to one or the other. (laughs)

The thing that's frustrating to me with shooting video and frame grabs or whatever is the depth of field. I can't get over the fact that I can't really affect the aperture in a way that I'm used to.
Michael Rubenstein, a pro and OU alumni now living in Mumbai, India asks, Every year the judges at CPOY choose one photographer to be the photographer of the year. Every year thousands of photographers submit work. I'm sure that you've viewed the podcasts for this year's judging, and I'd like to know which images and which photographers stuck out in your mind as the cutting edge of photojournalism. In addition which of your peers would you say give you the biggest push to keep on keepin' on.

The first person that comes to mind is Dominic Nahr. His work was inspirational. I really admire the effort that it must have taken for him to do so much work abroad. That's really inspiring that a student would have that much drive.

Some of the other work that I found to be really strong was like Benjamin Reed from the University of Missouri - his work in the Sports Portfolio. Earlier, I was talking about capturing a feeling rather than a process. One of the places where that's really difficult is when you're photographing sports. I feel he does that really well. That work stuck out.

My fellow students. Wow. They're all amazing.

This girl, Kainaz Amaria, is always, always, always raising the bar and putting in 110 percent with every assignment. I think that's awesome. She pushes everybody in the class.

If I was being truthful about it, I would name every student in my grad class - all 10 of them.
You won a Boy Scout photography award when you were 8 years old. What was the subject of that image?
(Laughs) It was a basketball goal.

It's funny because we talk a lot now about photographing things that are important to you or relevant to you, and that is exactly what I was doing at that time in my life. I loved basketball. So, that's what I took a picture of. I guess that part of it is kind of instinctive.
Judging from the Boy Scout experience you started photography young. When did you start to think of it seriously?
It was something that I always knew that I liked. It's not that I didn't take it seriously. It's that I didn't think that I could do it. I didn't think that I could do it well until, probably, my first internship. That's when I started thinking this could be a career for me.

That was after my undergraduate experience. I was between undergraduate and graduate school at that point.

This is how it happened:   I graduated college and I knew I liked photography, but I thought I wanted to be in advertising or something like that.
You're undergrad degree didn't prepare you for PJ work?
No. Not at all. I didn't take anything close to a journalism class. But, I did take some photography/art courses. Those concentrated a lot more on the art aspect and a lot less on the photography aspect.

So when I got out, I thought I wanted to do something in advertising. I know I had an interest in photography, but I didn't think I was a photographer.

I got a couple of internships in Boston. One of them I was working for a photo rep and the other I was assisting the studio of a commercial photographer up there.

The whole time I was up there, I felt like I enjoyed the photography aspect of everything I was doing, but I didn't feel like my work had as much meaning as I wanted it to have.

After those internships, I moved down to North Carolina to be closer to my girlfriend. I was really trying to make some money. So, I thought I could find some photographers around the area to assist for.

I started calling people. I was getting a lot of rejections. There weren't a lot of commercial photographers in Durham, North Carolina for me to assist. I came across the Web site of this photographer named John Loomis.

I saw his work, and I thought and it stuck out at me as being a lot different than most of the photography that I had seen in the past.

I thought that he didn't need an assistant for a lot of the work that he was doing, but I thought I'd just give him a call anyway and give it a shot.

I called him and he told me that he didn't need an assistant, but I asked him if he would mind meeting with me and just telling me a little bit about what he does.

We met for coffee a couple of days later and that's kind of where my interest in photojournalism started.

At that point, I wasn't taking anything completely seriously. I didn't just leave the meeting and say, "I'm going to be a photojournalist now."

But, I knew I was more interested in photojournalism than advertising.
John Loomis, a pro in Miami asks, Describe the significance of "Bull-Moose" to your photographic process.
(Laughs) Oh man! (Laughs) I can't believe he asked that question. (laughs)

Bull-Moose is a drinking game that I told him about on one of our many, long roadtrips while I was an assistant for him. (laughs)

I don't think that really has any significance whatsoever. (laughs)
Loomis continues, As someone who went to school at a predominantly non-photo university, how has that affected your growth and passion for the industry and the way that you envision yourself entering into the field?
I'm really glad that I didn't go to a predominantly photojournalism school as an undergrad. At that point in my life I just wasn't ready to take it seriously. But, I did get a lot out of my experience in college. I think it was good for me.

I learned a lot about business and about the world and about who I was. That experience helped me to grow as a person - not necessarily as a photographer.

Because Wake Forest is more of a business school, that's probably one of the reasons I was interested in becoming a commercial photographer when I first left school. To be honest. Because I was a lot more concerned about money when I first came out of there.

It wasn't until a little bit later when I started thinking that's not the most important thing in my life.

Please read Part C of this interview.

Enough for now,

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Travis Dove interview - Part A

Photo © Travis Dove

Marki Carter loads a funnel as Dan Fluharty passes out in the chair next to her.
Please read Travis Dove's biography and see the images on his Web site.

What advice do you have for new PJ students?
I can share the advice that was helpful for me. My instructor here at OU - Julie Elman - she said in her class that we should, "Dare to suck." I think those are words to live by. Just throw it all out there. Don't worry about failure.

Also, it's important to always be working on something. It doesn't really matter what that is. It could be for somebody else, or it could be for yourself. Always be working on something. Don't be stagnant.
Benjamin Rasmussen, a freelance PJ in the Faroe Islands (Atlantic Ocean between Iceland and Norway) who won an CPOY Award of Excellence in portraiture this year, said, Congratulations on the win. Your portfolio has definitely raised the bar for student work.

How much influence do you feel that your masters program at Ohio has had on your photographic style and vision?"
I think I've grown tremendously in the past year and a half because of my experience here at OU. Probably the biggest influence for me has been the other students here at OU - particularly the 10 grad students that are in most of my classes with me. I think we've fed off of each other's energy throughout all these classes.

I'm just not the same photographer I was when I came here.

One of the things that we talk about here a lot at OU is trying to photograph a feeling rather than photographing a process. That's something I didn't really recognize before I came here. That's one of the things that helped me grow is recognizing that.

When I first started out, I was getting tied up in photographing exactly what's in front of me. I've got all these elements in front of me, and I felt like I needed to include this, this and this to tell the story properly. But, I feel like you can get so much more out of a photograph by searching for a deeper meaning.

One of the professors that we had last year - Bruce Strong - he used to say this quote all the time, "You remember one-third of what you read, one-half of what people tell you, but 100 percent of what you feel."

It certainly takes some work to get to the point where you can shoot for feeling because it's awkward at first. But, it's worth it. It's worth it.
What you feel or the subject feels?
I'm trying to connect with the subject, and hopefully it's a feeling that we can both share. You want to relate to the people that you're photographing. I don't want to go out there and feel like a vulture when I'm photographing people. I try to draw on whatever I can to relate to the subject.

There's a way to photograph their feelings and put it in the frame.

There's also a way to take the reader deeper. You're not just putting their face in the frame. You do that by using creative devices, but also by making a connection with the subject so you can get closer to them - understand their situation a little better.

There are certain situations like Skatopia, for instance, the owner of Skatopia - Brewce Martin - has done lots of things that are pretty crazy, and we don't have a lot in common as people. But, he has a lot of passion for skateboarding. He eats and sleeps this place that he's built. On some levels I do feel I can relate to his energy and his passion for skateboarding. That's what I try to feed off of when I was out there shooting.
Rasmussen continues, Your story on Skatopia gives the feeling that you had really become a part of the community. How much time did you spend there working on this project how long did it take before they really let their guard down around you?
I did that project for a class that we have here at OU called Documentary Photography. We were required to do between 12 and 18 visits for that project. I think I did 18 to 20 visits. Actually, I wasn't finished with it at the end of the quarter. I felt like it was missing something.

During my summer internship, I asked for some time off and went back up there again for three days. That was for the Bowl Bash Party. I think there are like three or four pictures from that one three-day period out there.

So, I spent quite a bit of time there.

It was actually difficult when I was first showing up out there. They've had a lot of photographers come out there, but most of them are like skate photographers, and they're really interested in shooting the action. I was a lot more interested in capturing lifestyle.

So, this was a different kind of experience for them.

I can't say that there was like a specific moment when I realized they were letting their guard down. I think it was probably more like me letting my guard down because that's not the typical crowd that I hang out with.

I was nervous going out there in the beginning because I didn't know how they were going to accept me. They were actually surprisingly open with me.
Daniel Berman a PJ student in Seattle, Wash. said, Congratulations on your win. Your work shows a lot of intimacy and access; how do you work to gain this access?
Thank you. Thanks for the congratulations Daniel.

Most of it is keeping in contact with people. For instance, there's one single in my portfolio that's a kid sleeping in a coffin. That coffin was sitting outside of their house probably a month before I took that photograph. They had put it outside their house as like a Halloween decoration.

I had stopped by and talked to one of the kids' mothers about taking pictures around the town. I was just trying to make contact. I had been back to the town several times, and I remember seeing the coffin sitting out there for a while and then it disappeared.

I ran into the mom again and started talking to her about what was going on. She told me that they brought the coffin into their kid's room and used it as sort of a guest bed on the weekends. I thought, "That's a picture." (laughs)

She had told me that I was welcome to photograph her kids anytime I wanted. So I stayed in contact. I kept it in the back of my mind and waited for a good time to go over there. I called, and I hung out with those kids three nights before somebody actually went to sleep in that coffin.

I took the picture probably around midnight or 1 a.m.
Part of a bigger story?
At the time we were working on an essay on life in America's coal region. It was for a class here called Photo Essay. That was a picture I was taking for that project. I had other shots for that essay, but this was the only picture from these kids.

I was shooting all kinds of different things during that time period for the essay. But, I knew I wanted this photograph out of this group of people, so I was continually going back for that one photo. But, I had lots of other stuff working at the same time.
Berman continues, Also, what advice would you give to a sophomore in college, seeking out their first internship?
Be persistent. One of the things that has helped me get internships in the past is being persistent. Most of the people that have given me work in the past, I've had to bug them for it. (laughs)

I would encourage you to show them that you want it. Keep in contact and don't give up.

I would also look for a newspaper where you think you're going to grow. It's always been important for me to surround myself with good people and good photographers. That's the best advice I can give really.
Berman continues, What can a 20 year old do to set their portfolio apart?
Find emotion. A lot of the younger photographers start to grasp composition and light a lot faster than they grasp emotion. That's something that was always lacking in my portfolio too. It just takes time.
Tim Gruber, a CPOY multi-award-winning PJ student at Ohio University said, During your first PJ assignment, you took your dog, Pepsi, to a portrait assignment of this couple and their memorabilia of Coke products. How did you react when the subject noticed your pet in the car and asked her name?
(Laughs) Well, I said her name is Pepsi. I was hoping that they would find humor in the irony of this situation, but I think it was lost on them. It was incredibly awkward actually. There was kind of a silence in the air, and eventually they invited me in, and it was forgotten about - thankfully.

That was funny. It was also the only assignment where I've ever had a memory card corrupted. I came back to the office, and I was missing most of my pictures. Luckily, I was so nervous about it that I shot two full cards worth of photographs. So I had something to fall back on. (laughs)
Gruber continues, Please talk about your struggle in finding a summer internship last year to going on to win CPOY. Please specifically address the level of commitment and passion one needs in this profession.
Wow. Last year - it was tough for me. I sent out a lot of applications for internships and ended up with nothing.

Luckily, we had a really great professor here named Bruce Strong, who required all his students to keep a journal - which he read at the end of the year. He read in my journal that I was feeling very discouraged by the fact that I hadn't gotten any internships at all.

When he read that, he called me and asked me if I was interested in an internship with The Charlotte Observer because he knew the photo director there. At that point, I had all but given up on it. I was feeling very discouraged. I'm just really thankful that he was there to help me out at that point. I'm glad things worked out the way that they did.

I can remember when I was first starting out as a photographer and not having any idea what to expect from my first freelance assignments, and going into The Chapel Hill News and talking to my editor Shawn Rocco how all this whole process worked.

He told me that they would have maybe one or two assignments for me a week, and they would pay $30 an assignment. So, that came as a complete and total shock to me. At that point in my life, I thought that you could actually make a livable wage taking pictures. (laughs)

Obviously, I was mistaken. I just wanted to do it so   bad that it was worth it for me to struggle - a lot.

I feel like I've come a long way since then. I also feel like I have a long way to go. In order to stay motivated through this process you just have to love it. You have to want it.

Please read Parts B and C of this interview.

Enough for now,

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Travis Dove - CPOY 2007

Travis Dove was born in Charlotte, NC on Nov. 22, 1981 and grew up in Concord, NC. He is the 2007 College Photographer of the Year.

He is currently a graduate student working toward a master's degree in photography at Ohio University. He plans to complete this degree in Spring, 2008. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wake Forest University in 2004.

He is a member of National Press Photographers Association.

He has interned at The Charlotte Observer, The Augusta Chronicle and The Valley News. He has freelanced for The News & Observer and worked at several smaller papers in the Durham, N.C. area.

He won 2007 College Photographer Of the Year, as well as Gold awards in Portrait, Documentary and Portfolio. He also won Awards of Excellence in Sports Feature and Pictorial categories at the 2007 CPOY competition. This is the first time his work has been awarded in an open forum.

Additional images can be seen at his Web site and his blog.

He resides in Athens, Ohio, 750 miles from his high school sweetheart, who he has been with for eight years.

Please read his interview parts A, B and C.

Enough for now,

Monday, November 12, 2007

Best PJ colleges and recruits 07

In 2005 and 2006 we tried to ascertain which colleges are best for PJ students. My answer is always the same:   The university doesn't make the best PJs. The best PJs make the most of their time at university.

For two years, this fact was proven when the College Photographers of the Year (Casey Templeton and Rick Gershon) were both lone wolves from their universities.

Last year's winner, Matt Eich, is from Ohio, the consistently top-rated (cumulative) university. Travis Dove, this year's winner, is also from Ohio University.

We now have three years of data to show us benefit-for-investment trends at different universities. Let's use the information we have and draw a few conclusions.

When looking at the winners list, let's ignore who won gold, silver, bronze and honorable mention. Instead, we'll look at how many individuals from different universities got any awards. Of these winners, we'll eliminate the universities with only one winner (no matter how many awards were won) and eliminate the redundancies.

Again, what remains is a solid guess at the quality of the PJ education at different universities. If nothing else, it shows a consistent ability to teach students to shoot and select quality images for competition.

There were additional multi-media categories introduced this year, so there are more awards to win and more data for our use.

Here's the breakdown by number of individual students who won any awards at this year's CPOY:

12 - Ohio University
08 - Western Kentucky University
07 - University of Missouri
06 - Brooks Institute of Photography
04 - San Francisco State University
04 - UNC Chapel Hill
02 - University of Nebraska
02 - Syracuse University

Although there are more awards this year, Ohio slipped by one. Western Kentucky gained one. Missouri gained two. Brooks slipped by one. San Francisco State doubled their wins. UNC Chapel Hill returned to the leader board; however, half of their wins are group entries. Nebraska held steady with two and Syracuse made it onto the leader board.

As stated before, universities with strong programs draw strong students. These students are frequently as demanding on one another as they are on themselves. The top four PJ universities continue to impress. All four have remained at the top of the leader board for the last three years. This means their students are producing consistently high-quality work from year to year.

Meanwhile, one driven PJ can still take all the marbles without cohorts. For instance, Dominic Nahr of Ryerson University kicked some major rump. Not only did he win CPOY Runner-up, he also took a Gold, Silver, two Bronzes and an Award of Excellence. Get down you funky Canadian.

With the introduction of multi-media categories this year, CPOY is positioning itself to match what's happening on the pro side of this biz. Other than a Gold to Jeff Giraldo of Western Kentucky University, Ohio and UNC swept the awards. This means these two universities, or at least their students, have a grip on industry demands.

Best recruits
The College Photographer Of the Year is the shooter with the best portfolio. This system is similar to the Pictures Of the Year (POYi) awards. Meanwhile, the NPPA regional photographer of the year is determined by points. This point system shows consistent commitment to excellence and competition throughout the year.

Since it's not possible to give the same points because the NPPA student competitions are held quarterly, we can use a different scoring system. We'll assess the following points:
6 - CPOY (Gold 4 + 2)
5 - CPOY runner up (Silver 3 + 2)
4 - Gold
3 - Silver
2 - Bronze
1 - Award of Excellence

Since we have three years of data now, we can crunch some numbers. Editors who get resume packages from these folks should take a serious look-see at the packages. These numbers indicate a consistent ability to perform at a high level in multiple categories over time.

20 - Andrew Henderson - Western Kentucky University
20 - Yoon Byun - Ohio University (Boston Globe)
18 - Matt Eich - Ohio University
18 - Dominic Nahr - Ryerson University
16 - Travis Dove - Ohio University
14 - Benjamin Reed - University of Missouri
14 - Tim Gruber - Ohio University
12 - Chris Detrick - U. of Missouri (Salt Lake Tribune)
11 - Casey Templeton - James Madison University
11 - Matt Mallams - Brooks Institute of Photography
This year's top three draft picks are:
16 - Travis Dove - Ohio University
14 - Dominic Nahr - Ryerson University
12 - Tim Gruber - Ohio University

I expect the folks who are still in college will drive up their numbers in the next few years. The folks who graduated two years ago may not have done as well as they would have if I had the whole data set. Nonetheless, the top 10 above are all strong recruits for newspapers and magazines. Of these, we again see Ohio as the top school.

Enough for now,

Please see the 2008 update.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

CPOY deadline this Friday

In case anyone needs a reminder, the CPOY deadline is this Friday.

October 05, 2007
College Photographer of the Year deadline
Contact: Rita Reed, CPOY director
Lee Hills Hall, University of Missouri - Columbia, Columbia MO 65211
Phone: 573.884.2188
The competition is open to undergraduate or graduate students enrolled in any college or university worldwide for at least one semester within the last year.
Student PJs who have worked more than two years as a pro (including internships) are ineligible.
This competition is completely digital now. Only online entries are accepted. College advisors are contacted via e-mail to verify eligibility.
Please read the interviews with previous award winners for help and/or inspiration.