Every job or career is going to have it’s challenges, and we often focus a good amount of our college careers on trying to understand and prepare for some of those challenges.
We are often tested on topics like, “What should I wear on the job? Who should I go to if I have a problem? How do I balance my personal life with my work life? How do I act like I have a clue what I’m doing?”
I felt pretty competent going into my internship that I had been given the knowledge to be able to handle and address the everyday issues of the working world, but recently I found myself in a situation that had never come up in a class or quiz.
I was put on a breaking news team to go photograph the church, congregation and apartment complex that Whitney Heichel attended, was a part of, and lived in. I was outside the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Gresham when members of her congregation started spilling out after their first service since her body had been found.
They weren’t very happy to have media there, they looked uncomfortable and it was clear that it had been an emotional service. I felt like I was an unwelcome reminder of the recent tragedy. Seeing these people so sad, and seeing where this young woman (who was the same age as me) lived her life was really emotional for me and caught me off guard. I tried to remain as professional as possible, but it was really difficult for me.
Photographing her life settings just reminded me of how tragic her death is and how I couldn’t imagine losing any of my friends to those circumstances.
What I took away from this experience is that as a photographer and journalist, I need to learn how to balance my emotions and my duty as a member of the media. The media are the voice of the community and is it our job to document how her her death is affecting her friends, family and congregation.
This was the first emotional story I have had to photograph for my internship, but I’m positive that it will not be the last.