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  • "I know you"

    A few weeks ago, while on assignment, I had three individuals approach me. 

    All three individuals knew that I was a photographer for The Virginian-Pilot. Two of them greeted me by name. They’d all recognized me from unrelated assignments throughout the community that they had been at and that I had been covering for the paper. 

    The first time I was approached it put a smile on my face, the second time an even bigger smile. And the third? The third nearly moved me to tears. 

    You see, in years past, when I’ve reached the point where members of the community start to recognize me- it came with a different feeling. It came with the reality after I’d worked hard to get to know the community, that soon it would be time to pack up and start all over again in a new community. 

    This month marks 7 months for me in Norfolk as a full-time staff photographer. As in, more than half a year. It’s longer than I’ve ever been employed at the same paper and longer than I’ve ever lived in the same place in over 3 years, aside from my ten month stint in Columbus.

    Getting to know a community that I can now call my own and having that same community get to know me has been everything. It’s also something that honestly, I hadn’t realized I was missing. 

    I initially started writing this blog post for six months. I was excited for the milestone, but then I realized that I’d hit this milestone before. 

    In years past, the six month post had been my goodbye post. 

    But here, it’s just the beginning. And for that, I’m SO thankful. 

    The last few months have been come with their share of ups and downs. Adjusting to a new city, new job, new routine and new surroundings is hard work- but it’s been a great ride and I’m thankful for the support I’ve had from my friends, family and co-workers. 

    During my internships my time at a paper was mostly focused on growing as a photographer and meeting career goals. While that’s still (obviously) important here, there’s also been a shift toward me. I’ve continued to learn things about myself over the months that I didn’t even know.

    Like that I have an unhealthy obsession with houseplants. Something I would have never known before because when you have to pack your life into your car every six months, you don’t get to have many houseplants.

    Or that I love decorating, thrifting and making my house a home.. (okay, okay..I already knew this, but again, it's something that wasn't possible before moving here)

    I'm learning that as a (mostly) introvert working an extroverted job, that it's OK that sometimes I need my days off to recharge. 

    I've also learned that I enjoy shooting video. Something that previously I hadn’t had the support, encouragement, or resources to explore. 

    Overall, I’m finally realizing that by taking better care of me, I’m able to offer more of myself to others and I’m able to be a better shooter, and a better human being.

    I'm happy.

    So many things about the last seven months have been good for my soul. 

    The last few months have brought a lot of daily work, a few projects, and the start of a long-term story that I look forward to sharing in the future. Here are a few of my favorite images from the last few months. Mostly published and a few outtakes as well. 

    Thanks for looking. 

    kz

  • Growing and Stretching.

    The beginning of this month marked my third month in Norfolk working as a staff photographer at The Virginian-Pilot. In intern time, it would have meant that I was halfway through my time in Norfolk and likely, that it’d already have had my eye on where I was headed next. 

    It’s been nearly five months now since I flew to Norfolk for the first time and met the staff at The Pilot. It’s funny sometimes around the newsroom I’m asked how long I’ve been here and when I reply, I often get responses like “only that long?” or “I feel like you’ve been here forever!” It’s nice to hear because for me, it just solidifies how from my first visit, I just felt like this was exactly where I was supposed to be. While everyone has different approaches when it comes to job hunting, for me I was always clear in my intentions of where I was applying and why. My ultimate goal was to find a paper with photographers’ I respected and a city that I felt I could make a life for myself outside of the paper. I’m SO fortunate that I found exactly that. 

    All of those things being said…moving is hard. Readjusting is hard

    To be completely honest, I think I didn’t realize how much the process would take out of me. How nervous I’d be to pick the right neighborhood, to commit to a lease, how overwhelmed I'd be to plan the logistics of moving all of my belongings half way across the country from St. Louis where they’d been stored for 3+ years, to start a new life in a new city, not knowing anybody. To leave my hometown for good, this time knowing that I wouldn’t be returning at the end of an internship. To open the door to a new (very exciting and equally terrifying) chapter.

    I never imagined myself as the one who would crave putting down roots and settle but 100% hands down, being in Norfolk and knowing that this is where I’ll be, has been good for my soul. Being able to create a home for myself, invest in the community and build relationships that I don’t have to close the door on entirely too soon, has been good for my soul. 

    When I graduated I knew that I wanted to intern for at least two years. For me I saw it as an opportunity to get to live in several different areas of the country to figure out where I might want to plant some roots, and I also saw it as a valuable way for me to work with multiple different editors and photographers and get experience different size papers. I have no doubts that I made the best decision for me, personally. 

    That said. I was tired and I don’t think I realized it until I got here. How tired I was of packing my belongings into a car, how tired I was of falling in love with a city and having to leave, tired of making connections throughout the community for stories and subjects and having to walk away, tired of the endless goodbyes. 

    10 moves in less than six years. 

    Now for honesty hour.

    When I reflect on the last year, I think in an unhealthy way toward the end of my internship days, I began to look at my photos as a product of my ticket to employment. Regretfully, I got so focused on the end goal, that I think the core of why we do what we do got pushed to the back burner.  It became all to easy to forget why I was there in the first place and what mattered most in my photographs, the people in them. 

    This year during Pictures of the Year International in February, one of the judges made a comment that has resonated with me over the months because I thought it was such a powerful thing to say about someone’s work. When looking at this photographer’s work, he said that he could see that the photographers heart, mind and eye were in their photographs. 

    I think for a while, my mind (and as much as I really hate to admit it possibly at times my heart) fell out of my work. My fears of finding employment, of my paying bills and repaying my student loans…my anxieties about the future pulled me away from what mattered most. 

    Since being in Norfolk and at The Virginian-Pilot in a beautiful way, I’ve been more focused (or reminded) about what is most important about my images…. the people in them and the community we BOTH live in. Thanks to the incredibly talented staff I’m working along side, my vision has continued to grow, and I’m thankful for that. 

    When I interviewed for the position my managing editor said something that’s really stuck with me over the months. She said that they were looking for someone to grow and stretch with them. Their new hire would be entering the newsroom with potential and the paper would help you grow that potential.  And stretch? Well, new people bring new ideas, new perspectives and new challenges and the paper continues to stretch to build on the new ideas and approaches that our industry hands us every day. They will help me grow, I will help them stretch.  I saw it as a beautiful analogy and tie it to my move here to Norfolk as I build a new life for myself here in this new city. We grow and stretch, together. 

    While the three plus year journey to get here was a hell of a ride, my time here is just beginning. These images are just me getting warmed up, and I’m okay with 

    Thanks for looking. 

    -kz

  • Goodbye to 2015

    2015 has been such a defining year for me as a photojournalist. I finished my internship at the Columbus Dispatch, continued pursuing a long-term story that's very near and dear to my heart, and I landed my dream internship at The Valley News. 

     I've made mistakes and learned from them, hit some huge accomplishments, thought entirely too much about the future, type of person I want to be and the life I hope to create for myself.

     I've learned A LOT along the way.

    Here are a few of my favorites from 2015.  Big things are ahead for 2016...more news on that very soon. 

    In 2015 I continued to document Michael and the Brown's journey battling Stage 4 Colon Cancer. Michael's courage and strength continues to amaze me every time I get to visit. I'm continuously inspired by the Brown family's positivity- it's contagious. Happy to call the Brown's friends and for their openness to letting me share their story.

    Prior to some bad news in October, Michael spent most of the year in without any new growth of his cancer and they lived their lives as normal as possible, a vacation to Seaworld, Jaxson started kindergarten, Michael taught his sons how to ride their bikes and Angie how to use the lawn mover. Oh yea, and Michael also ran a half IronMan this year…did I mention he amazes me?  Thankful for this family- they make me a better person and a better photographer.