Thursday, November 19, 2015

How does one capture someone's essence in a single photograph?

    For this assignment, I worked with WDET to take portraits that will accompany a story about minority-owned businesses. I had to contact the business owners myself and arrange a time to take their portraits. Being a student and working over 30 hours each week doesn't leave a lot of room in my schedule to photograph during the day.  

Ayanna Williams
    These owners gave me quite the runaround, so I was thankful my contacts at WDET were understanding and willing to rethink some of their photo requests. On top of not receiving any word back from these owners (especially after attempting to contact them multiple times over multiple days), I felt discouraged and worried I would fail my first real task of real-world photojournalism. But here I am. I got my picture, and my world didn't go up in flaming failure.  

    The only person to actually call me back was Ayanna Williams, the owner of Pedicures and Shoes 2 Go. She was bright, bubbly, and really fun to photograph.  I started by taking Williams to a glorious wall of shoes. Although I successful kept myself out of the mirror on the wall, the picture didn't turn out quite as nicely as I hoped. Next, Williams tried a few different poses sitting by her manicure and pedicure stations and against a red wall with black accent decals. The lighting was better here, but I still wasn't satisfied. Finally, Williams sat on the black leather waiting area chairs and posed with some of her polishes and merchandise. Voila! The lighting hit her smile perfectly, and the shot portrayed her personality and profession!

Ayanna Williams, co-owner of Pedicure and Shoes 2 Go, turned her love of nails and shoes into a business, which is set to open Dec. 1. Williams said she chose to open the pilot store in Detroit because "the city is coming back."

Friday, November 13, 2015

Point, shoot, listen: Let the subject be your guide

Arch Deacon Justin Zigirany Razo, a survivor of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, gave a talk Thursday at Towers Residential Suites about the atrocities that took place as well as the strides the country has made in the 21 years since.
"You cannot forget where you came from," said Razo, "and to genocide we say: 'Never Again.'"
 Arch Deacon Justin Zigirany Razo and his family lived in northern Rwanda before they fled conflict at the start of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. Razo is now the priest of an evangelical church in Kibuye, Rwanda. 
"Through this suffering, I saw the hand of Jesus. I was saved," said Razo. 

A pre-med student works in a nap between lab practicals just outside Wayne State University's Purdy/Kresge Library on Nov. 4.
    Having made the journey across campus through gale force winds and sideways rain, I arrived early to shoot pictures of a talk held in the multi-purpose room of Towers Residential Suites. I tucked away my coat and gear in the corner and began to meter my camera for the room's unforgiving fluorescent lights. I spoke with some of the event sponsors and managed to scope out good places to shoot the event from.  All in all, I had a pretty good idea of what kinds of shots I was going to produce.

    In walks the speaker: Arch Deacon Justin Zigirany Razo.  Razo, a survivor of the Rwandan Genocide, is dedicated to spreading awareness of the atrocities that took place as well as the strides the country has made in the 21 years since the genocide began in 1994.

    When I introduced myself to Razo before the talk started, he gladly suggested we take a few moments to get to know each other. He even insisted that I call him Justin.

    The first thing you notice about Razo is that is a man of small stature with a smile that stretches from ear to ear. I would say his most captivating trait, however, is his extremely genuine aura. From a photojournalist's perspective, I was drawn to his expressiveness: both in his countenance as well as his hand movements.

    Throughout Razo's talk, I moved around the room and varied my shooting angles. I made sure to include audience members in shots as well as shots solely of the speaker. The most important thing I did though,  was listen. I didn't spend the entire talk hastily buzzing around the room and producing distracting amounts of camera clicks. I sat for periods of time and just listened to Razo tell his story. I let his emotions and movements guide my photography so that I would produce pictures that accurately reflected Razo's sincere nature.

    The spot feature proved to be much harder to find. While there were always many people around campus, it was hard to find someone doing something newsworthy. After many days of unsuccessful scouting, I noticed a medical student that was taking a nap outside between classes. I decided to take his picture and approach him when he woke up. I inquired as to why he was so tired, and he simply responded "I'm pre-med."  He said I could identify him by his major and went on to talk about he practicals he had ben studying for. While I don't think this candid photo is especially intriguing, I could see it being used in articles about students experiencing sleep deprivation or students that are overworked. 

    If I had to describe my experience in one word, I would say: reaffirming. I've known for a long time that I would fall in love with photography when I got my hands on a DSLR camera.  So, I am pleased to see that I fall more in love with photojournalism every time I complete an assignment.

    From shooting this specific event, I have learned that photojournalists needs to be consumed by their work. Not in a compulsive way, though. By being patient, curious and open to the subject's message, you will find the inspiration you need to capture beautiful images. 

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