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.