Grateful

There’s not a day that I don’t wake up and feel like pinching myself to make sure the life I’m living is reality.

I get a front row seat, behind-the-scenes view to some of the most extraordinary, interesting, and sometimes heartbreaking instances of life.

I step over a blood-soaked scarf and scattered teeth at the scene of a motorcycle accident.

I’m swept along in a parade of hundreds of people marching in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.

I’m the first to witness an 8-year old’s reaction as she sees her newly decorated bedroom for the first time. I’m also the only one around to hug and console an exhausted volunteer as she faces the stark reality that the little girl that she and countless others just spent the last 12 hours creating a beautiful new bedroom for has an inoperable form of brain cancer.

I’m invited to have a beer with grown adults wearing pointy ears, bright blonde wigs, and wings. And oddly enough, I’m the odd man out because I’m dressed normally.

I converse with police and security officials as they recount the events of the night prior, when a man walked into the ICU waiting room of a hospital, shot and killed his estranged wife and his mother-in-law, and walked back out to his car. I visit the home of those that were killed, knock on the door, and as expected, there’s no answer.

I chase Dancing With the Stars champion, J.R. Martinez, for 3 miles as he rides down the street on the back of a red convertible waving to a crowd of thousands.

And that’s just in the first 3 weeks.

Oh, and I get paid to do this.

I figured out early in life that a 9-5 office job wouldn’t cut it. But I didn’t know what I wanted to do.

That’s when I fell into the Photojournalism program at UGA. Fast forward 2 years, 3 semesters, 100 classes, 3 doughnuts, 1 all-nighter, 1 life-changing weekend in Habersham County, 1 amazing professor that pushed us to be better photojournalists, and approximately a million hours of making photos to when I get the call from the Visuals Editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press offering me….ME….a six-month paid internship at the paper.

Um….Sure, I guess I’ll take a job as a staff photographer at a newspaper with a circulation of around 100,000, covering parts of Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee. That is, if nobody else wants the job.

So here I sit, in my cozy, one-bedroom apartment in the “Scenic City” sipping my 2nd cup of coffee for the day and peering out my window at the lights on the mountains twinkling in the distance. Are you starting to see why I’m pinching myself to make sure this is real?

To get to the point, I’ll use this blog to post my work. I’ll post my leftover photos here, photos that just didn’t make the cut and maybe some that did. It doesn’t mean they’re not good photos. Sometimes it just means the page designers just didn’t have enough room. Or the photos had an amazing moment captured, but they didn’t tell the story that we’re trying to convey to the readers. Or sometimes they simply are …bad photos. I figured this would be an easy, efficient way to document my time here and I would have something to show those back home asking to see what I do on a day-to-day basis.

I realize how blessed I am to be here. I realize how lucky I am to have this job. I am grateful every. single. day. to be surrounded by some of the most amazing and talented photojournalists in the industry. It’s not always easy. I fail daily. But each day, I get better. I learn not just something, but many things. I find a new way to shoot something. I climb to the roof of a building or I drop to the floor of a crowded courthouse. I run through raw sewage, walk 3 miles, or wade knee-deep in a river to get that angle. I do whatever it takes to get a picture that tells a story.

And lucky for me, I’ve got 6 months and 6 amazing mentors to help me grow as a photojournalist.

“If I could tell the story in words, I wouldn’t need to lug around a camera.” – Lewis Hine

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