Photojournalism still lives at Metro State

Over the last 2 weeks, I filled in for my mentor and former photojournalism professor, Kenn Bisio, at Metro State College of Denver. It was an entry level class into photojournalism. I think I taught as much as I learned from the students.

Photojournalism is a learning career. Almost everyday I am presented with a new photographic problem that I need to solve. Being in the classroom again was definitely a learning experience. I learned a lot from looking through the PJ 2600 students’ work. I saw the beginnings of great story telling opportunities. I saw the frustration of trying to come up with a unique story idea. “Everything has already been shot,” a student (you know who you are) said last night during a critique. I replied, “yes, but not by you.” And the student who said that will probably have one of the most interesting stories of the class.

I think something that we all learned in class last night was how to feel, how to identify with our subjects and build a relationship that allows us to make great pictures with them. We learned that we need to convey with pictures to our audience what our subjects feel and experience. Some of the students have experienced things personally that I will only ever read about or see in the news. They will be more successful at story telling because of this. When they say, “I know how that feels,” they really will.

We looked at 2 great photo stories. Both were Pulitzer prize winners and both were from photographers that worked at great papers in Colorado. I probably should not have set the bar so high and perhaps it should have been something a little less serious. But the point I was trying to make was that these stories all contained an opening shot, a closing shot and supporting images in between. They also could stand alone without words. The pictures tell the story.

I think one of the most surprising things was how many students were actually in the class and how many students turned in the work. From what I understand there are more journalism majors at Metro State than there ever have been. How is it that a career that is in transition right now, that is so unstable has attracted so many people? It gives me a little bit of hope for the future that the tradition of story telling will prevail from these trying times. I’m not really sure what form that might be but the important part is that it will still be there. People will still crave information, stories will still need to be told and we will still produce that content.

Will I ever teach again? At this point I am not sure. There is a lot I want to accomplish before I can give a definitive answer. It’s a question that will be in the back of my mind. I’m not sure anyone will be able to sit through a critique from me for a while.

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3 thoughts on “Photojournalism still lives at Metro State

    1. I know that your apprehension of “I’m not sure anyone will be able to sit through a critique from me for a while.” has been the thought of anyone in our class. Whether it was clear or not by our constant back and forth in class or by the few comments made at the end about how sad it was for you to be absent next week, you were well received. Many of us had yet to have our work actually critiqued and were hungry for it. You have a way of communicating that is direct yet sincere. You really WANT to see us do it, not trying to cut anyone down. If you do decide to teach you will be great at it. Really. I do not see it as “retiring” as one said at the end of class, but just another form of communication. To teach is to learn, I myself am about to start my career as a teacher and know how excited I am to be challenged creatively and academically. You are one to provoke a desire to do more.

      1. Thanks. I don’t feel that I am “retiring” from working as a photojournalist. I have a lot left to accomplish and a lot left to learn. Photojournalism is not about the photographer. It never has been. Its always about the subject. I feel that I have enough experience and passion for photojournalism that I should pass it on. I am planning on talking to Kenn when he gets back about “sitting in” for the rest of the class. It was a fun experience and one that I wouldn’t mind having again.

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