On September 9, 2019, I emailed our school’s publications advisor, Kathryn Campbell, hoping to work with our school’s publications. At the time, I didn’t know how many doors, interests, and hearts that email would open.
My first assignment was a profile of our school’s new head chef. Chef Boese and I sat down in our lunch room and just talked. From his life and family to hopes for collaboration with the students, the feature story offered students a splash of humanity to connect with the chef they so often mindlessly pass by.
In all of my work, I strive for it to mean something. But I never manufacture that meaning. When you spend enough time (sometimes just five minutes) connecting with someone — or something — you’ll find that the meaning was there all along; it’s just my duty to help communicate it effectively and honestly.
After that profile, I picked up many photo assignments, from stock photography-type images of fall flavors to covering our school’s sailing team. But on October 10, 2019, when then-President Donald Trump visited Minneapolis, I discovered my love for political and activism reporting. Canon Rebel T5 in hand (I saved for two years to buy that camera back in middle school), I hit the streets around Target Center to cover the demonstrations that had erupted against POTUS. Then, I headed inside to document the Keep America Great rally. While I produced a photo story for The Rubicon about the events, those images were my gateway to the NSPA/ACP Campaign 2020 Photo Exchange, to which I became a frequent contributor.
Picking up school-based stories along the way, I continued down my political coverage path. In January 2020, I landed a one-on-one interview with Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN5) at her re-election campaign launch in Downtown Minneapolis. We talked about many things, including her unique approach to foreign policy and “rose, bud, and thorn” from her first term. I followed the whole 2020 campaign (presidential and congressional) closely, working with editors to push out relevant, timely articles whenever news broke (including a timeline of the whole Election Week 2020).
At my second Bernie Sanders rally, I ran into a few other journalists from our outlet. There, I shared with them the anatomy of a rally with tips to get some great coverage. While photojournalism might seem competitive — and it is, to an extent — most people are surprised to hear it’s quite collaborative.
Last Spring, I, like many Minnesotans, found myself with the global spotlight in my backyard as our state and world experienced a reinvigorated global reckoning with racial inequality. My duty to share stories and amplify voices thrust me further into the field than I’d been before, and I’ve only gone deeper since. What I found in the field, though, among stories and raw humanity, was a warmly open community of photographers. I can hardly explain how much I’ve learned from all of them — from a mentality shift to striving to understand rather than be understood and first entering a space without a camera to truly connect with people, to the power of small moments, and more.
2020 and 2021 have had no shortage of coverage opportunities, to say the least. As a high school junior and senior, I’ve covered everything from national political campaigns and a global pandemic to social injustice and a domestic terror attack on the U.S. Capitol. I organized the first-ever Governor’s Student Press Summit to get student journalists in the room with the Governor and elected officials to get answers to the questions that matter to kids yet which are often overlooked. And that led to my time as the Photographer for the Governor’s Office. But I’ve also leaned into the small moments within our communities: a beloved teacher departing for a new opportunity, funny marquee signs on local theatres as a positive energy piece, and school sports.
This page can only begin to explain how much photojournalism means to me, and what I feel I’ve been able to contribute through it. But through it all, I strive to share the field and what I’ve learned with my classmates, fellow student journalists, and the photojournalist community at large. From bringing fellow The Rubicon staffers along to a Mike Pence event and collaborating with reporters on related election stories to sharing interviews of community leaders and story tips with staff, I look to bring others along on the journalistic journey.
In the end, my photojournalistic duty isn’t to pit people against each other, but uncover and convey the truth. I serve to speak up for the underdogs when the mob-rule becomes problematic, even if it’s difficult. Even if I’m met with resistance. I do what is right, not what is easy.
So, while I humbly ask for your consideration of my application for Photojournalist of the Year, do know that I will be equally excited for whomever is recognized, even if it’s not me, and with just as much enthusiasm as if it were. What a beautiful thing to celebrate: youth bringing the first draft of history to the next history makers.