A combination of giddiness and nerves kept me awake the last nine hours of my trip into Tulsa for the first time. I got in late at night without a chance to unpack before I began work. I was off to a good start the next morning when the HR guy mocked me for not knowing my ZIP code. That was my first clue that there was a lot I had to learn about this state.
For the first month, much of my time was spent shooting high school graduations. I used the repetition and predictability of these events to practice scouting small moments within a hectic environment. While frustrating at the time, starting off the internship this way taught me how to have patience and drive with repetitive and unexciting assignments.
Once graduation season wound down, I was thrown every sort of assignment: food, portraits, lit studio, sports action and features, school board meetings, holidays, spot news, live music.
Here are a smattering of my favorite stand-alones:
My photo editor, John Clanton, is a shining example of what a photo editor should be. His style of direction was to communicate his vision for the assignment and the essential images I needed to collect before I went out to shoot so he wouldn't have to chastise me afterwards if I failed to bring him what he envisioned. This worked supremely well, as I felt comfortable discussing ideas about a shoot with him. And while there were basic shots he expected for each assignment, he left much of this process up to me and trusted me to return with creative shots I had in mind. He gave me a lot of freedom to incorporate my own style into daily work.
Whenever my editor, John Clanton, gave me more open-ended assignments, such as gathering Fourth of July features or all-day coverage from a hard rock music festival, I worked on shooting a diverse range of compositions and moments so the galleries would feel fresh and distinct. I loved the pressure of transmitting from the field throughout the day: it allowed me to develop a natural rhythm of shooting, reflecting on my take and then going out again to shoot with the intention of complementing my previous selects.
freedomfest - 4th of July tulsa, ok
Rocklahoma - may 26 Pryor, ok
John pushed me out of the newsroom when I wasn’t on assignment to orient myself in the city. I gradually relied on Google Maps less and less. While all the newness had initially daunted me, I started developing routines and havens I could temporarily call "mine." "My" coffee shop (The Phoenix), "my" go-to drink at Soundpony (bourbon and ginger beer), "my" daily running route (along the river), "my" order from Lone Wolf (portobello banh mi and kimchi fries). Much of my exploration was informed by fellow TW photogs Ian Maule and Jessie Wardarski, who were an integral part of my time in Tulsa. I am so grateful for them both.
Finally, I was encouraged to work on my own project. On assignment for the World's magazine, I met Jeri Cooper, who off-the-bat inspired me to try to pursue something greater with her. She was so disarmingly charismatic and open and funny, I wished to get to know her. Over the next few months, we talked extensively about the politics of the DeafBlind community, the frustrations she encounters daily and the strategies she has developed to increase her independence. It was an honor to shadow her daily life and work.
This internship taught me what I didn't know I didn't know. Working for Tulsa World I was immersed in all the minutiae of contributing to a daily paper - making tight deadlines, speeding up workflow, IPTC, FTP, VPN, finally actually learning Photo Mechanic, maintaining a proper attitude. I had been exposed to this on a miniature scale at The Post, Ohio's student newspaper, but learning under the pressure of greater consequences cemented these lessons.
I'm learning to live a little lighter, to not put so much sentiment into locations and belongings, as my life for the foreseeable future is nomadic and unpredictable. But Tulsa made an unexpected impression.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to my time in Tulsa. Driving away from the newsroom for the last time brought up emotions I didn't anticipate. I am so thankful that Tulsa (and the Tulsans who live there) took me by surprise.