I cover breaking news, American football, baseball, technology news and sometimes features.
In high school I asked my father for a Polaroid camera for Christmas. He ended up giving me the original one he purchased himself a couple of decades earlier. I made it a right of passage that any friend who came to visit my house had to let me take their picture.
In college I asked my father to teach me how to use his old manual film camera, which he no longer used. He gave me an hour-long lesson on how aperture, shutter and film speed affect an image. After that, I was almost entirely self-taught as far as the technical side of photography goes. I spent many nights in my apartment just experimenting. I ruined a lot of film in those days.
I attended the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, but I studied aviation, so getting into any photography class was difficult. Eventually, photojournalism professor Brian Johnson took me and two other students under his wing and we began an independent study course. This was the first step towards several photojournalism internships with newspapers across the Midwest, which framed my approach, ethics and goals in journalism.
For my first assignment I found a food co-op grocery store in town and took pictures of customers shopping for fruits and vegetables. Since it was my first time, the editor had me shadowing another student photographer, Adam Nekola. When Adam saw a photo I made during the assignment, he said it looked like I knew what I was doing. Looking back now, I know he was just being nice, but it gave me the ego boost I needed to think I should pursue photography a bit further.
The event I have covered that left the biggest mark on me was when Occupy Oakland demonstrators broke into City Hall, took the American flag from the council chambers and set it on fire on the steps of the building. I knew this moment meant a colossal shift in what the Occupy protest movement meant to everyone: the protestors, the sceptics and the bystanders.
The assignments that excite me most are the ones where ordinary people do extraordinary things. I think the general population gets far too carried away with celebrities and athletes. I am thrilled when I am assigned to photograph someone who no one has ever read about or thought to care about.
"Show up early. Stay late." I learnt this on my first internship from a fantastic peer of mine, Jonathan Miano. While on assignment photographing the burial of an unknown child, he and I stayed nearly an hour after the service was over. By then all the media and mourners had left. But then the man who originally found the body of the child came by and sat down next to the grave to have his own moment. The gentleman was very welcoming and understood we were there to tell his story. It was a heart-warming episode in a very depressing day.
I respect anyone who puts the well-being of a group of people ahead of themselves. People who volunteer, giving up their own valuable time for the benefit of others are what keep this world moving in a direction not completely controlled by the highest bidder.