I got the call while driving a particularly grey stretch of Ohio highway. I spent the rest of the drive trying to fathom what a summer in the city would be like. I had spent the past four years living rurally and although I had grown up outside DC, I anticipated New York to be very different experience.
Growing up, I adamantly claimed to hate New York, but I think that hatred stemmed from a little bit of East Coast jealousy. That ended the second I hauled my oversized duffel bag off the Amtrak. I was giddy for all ten weeks of the internship. Living in the city felt natural; I loved blending into the subway commute every morning and running up flights of stairs to sit out on my teeny fire escape every night.
My fellow interns Gabriella Angotti-Jones and Marian Carrasquero and I took assignments immediately. Marian was sent to an assignment on the border and Gabriella and I covered the Belmont Stakes with freelancers Victor Blue and Hilary Swift, a former intern herself. After a last minute emergency I was tasked with handling the three remote cameras I had set up with staffer Chang Lee the day before and shot the photo that ended up on the cover of the Sports section of the paper, my first published photo for the Times.
The breakneck pace never let up. Our daily schedule consisted of communicating with editors about assignments, navigating the city, photographing, filing photos from the field and getting feedback on our work.
As an avid Instagrammer, I was excited to work on the Summer in the City series, a weekly column with suggestions on how to spend your summer in various boroughs across the city. I shot iPhone video and create boomerangs for the @nytimes IG story and had the opportunity to explore corners of the city where I otherwise might not have traveled, like Brighton Beach and Astoria.
Gabriella and I then photographed NYC Pride, which proved more challenging than we anticipated with the amount of security and roadblocks shutting down all of Lower Manhattan.
While I was pleased with my shots of the day, I remember feeling the full weight of an impending deadline while trying to file at a jam-packed Starbucks along the parade route. The free WiFi was so overburdened that each picture was taking 15 minutes to transfer so I had to grab my laptop and run down the street in search of a stronger connection with only a half hour to spare.
One of the Business Day photo editors, Renee, entrusted me with a story on the closing of Toys 'R' Us, specifically following Cheryl, a Toys ‘R’ Us employee who had been loyal to the company for 33 years. She had met her husband while working at one of their stores and found a family in her co-workers. Watching wholesalers haul out pallets of merchandise from such an iconic store while employees tried to hold back tears was surprisingly difficult. Seeing the workers commitment to each other despite the uncertainty of the future was an amazing thing for me to witness.
My time in New York overlapped with Manhattanhenge - a phenomenon that occurs only once or twice a summer, when the setting sun aligns with Manhattan's grid and appears to descend between buildings. I had been on my way to cover a jazz show for the paper, but stopped to make portraits of the crowd that had gathered to watch. Witnessing New Yorkers all share this simple pleasure was really beautiful.
I made a few trips back home to the DC area while on assignment - photographing the Maryland primaries in Baltimore, a tennis tournament in Rock Creek Park and an educational program in my home school district of Montgomery County.
Every day I got to spend in New York was a gift. I felt awe every morning I walked into the lobby of the building. Interacting with such a supportive staff taught me how to work in collaboration with editors and writers to produce stories that felt full. I saw firsthand how great journalism could look when stories are given the time and attention they deserve.
I left feeling proud of the depth and diversity of work I had produced and excited by all of the people I had met along the way. I was treated to so many new experiences and challenges that have newly defined the work I am doing now. There was still more I wanted to accomplish while I had the ability to work with such a staff, but in all honesty I don’t think I would have ever felt ready to leave. This feeling of unrest serves to re-inspire me to want to finish projects and prove that I am capable of following through.
My only hope is to honor this trust that they put in me and continue to push my work in new directions. Thank you to everyone I had the chance to meet this summer, I am so grateful.