From the desk of the photo editor,
When Billy Scheurman hired me as a staff photographer for The Daily Mississippian in the fall of my freshman year, I was shocked. I am now a junior who has served as the photo editor for the majority of those two and a half years. With both deep gratitude and sadness, I have realized it is time for me to move on from The DM, and I want to thank everyone that I have had the pleasure of working with these past years.
I want to thank several people by name. One of the first football games I covered for The Daily Mississippian was a night game against Tulane during the 2021 season. The game was delayed multiple hours due to weather. I mention this specific game because not only did the weather make it memorable, but it was also the first time I worked closely with many of the older photographers who would become my mentors. Joshua McCoy, Rogelio Solis, Thomas Granning, Logan Kirkland, Thomas Wells, Petre Thomas and anyone else I’ve interacted with in a media workroom, you all have had a significant impact on my life.
I would not be here today if I had not found this community of photographers through The Daily Mississippian. When I struggled with severe depression my sophomore year, this community and my work saved my life. I had nothing to get up for every day except the knowledge that I would get to go to work and shoot a football game if I made it to the weekend. Thank you for accepting me and guiding me as I began my photography career. Being told “You’re one of us, and we’ve got your back” by Rogelio after that football game meant more than I can put into words. I had never been told explicitly that I belonged somewhere like that before. I sat in my car at 2 a.m. in the Pavilion parking deck and sobbed for about 15 minutes because I was so overwhelmed.
That was the night that I allowed myself to acknowledge that everything else I was pursuing in college was out of a desire to appear “smart” by the majority of society’s standards. That was the night that I decided to irrevocably place myself on the path of photojournalism, and I felt so clearly the freedom that I had found in this career. I dropped my double major in chemistry to focus on my Chinese language major and building my photography portfolio.
I didn’t realize until a friend pointed this out to me, but I was the only woman photographer who covered the 2021 Egg Bowl. In fact, much of the time, I was the only woman photographer in the media workroom that year — or one of two because Carleigh Holt Harbin worked her ass off for Sports Illustrated at many of those games. The point here is that I’ve never felt, at this university, that I am seen as a female photojournalist; I am just a photojournalist. I didn’t have to prove myself any more or any less to others because of my gender. Yes, the bar is on the floor and not being judged for your gender should be the norm, but I know many female photographers don’t have the same experiences I have been lucky enough to have here.
In the Student Media Center, thank you to Dennis Moore, who let me cry in his office when I had to redesign photo pages last minute and will give harsh critiques that somehow don’t feel too harsh; Jared Senseman, for resetting my passwords too many times and being a cheerful and encouraging presence in the office; and to Steven Miller, for always making sure our gear is in order, always being up for a good conversation, and coining the term “photo boss.”
My final thank you is to professor Michael Fagans. I am not a journalism student. Professor Fagans had no obligation to mentor or advise me, but he did anyway. Thank you, Professor Fagans, for encouraging me when I lost faith in myself (which is frequent), for always being an open door for critique or just a chat and for becoming my de facto advisor and mentor for all things photojournalism.
I guess I’m also supposed to give some advice to the editor(s) and photographers who will come after me. That’s how these types of letters usually go, right? The most important thing, and I cannot emphasize this enough, is to never allow the people you photograph to become an object. Don’t pursue stories because they’re an opportunity to better your own name or add a line to your resume. You, and those you photograph, are humans first. The second you forget that, you lose the most important aspect of being a good photojournalist. Second, arrive early and stay late, that’s when you have the best opportunities to talk to people and scope out the situation. Third, talk to as many people as you can. Ask for people’s names. Know who you are photographing. Fourth, and finally, always take advantage of free food.
Once again, thank you all. My time at The Daily Mississippian has changed the trajectory of my life in ways I never would have believed when I first started working as a staff photographer. I might not wear my heart on my sleeve as I did when I was younger, but a piece of it is in every photo I’ve ever taken. From the late nights to even earlier mornings, it has been a pleasure and an honor to serve as your photo editor.
Live long and prosper,