Jennifer Midberry thought she might grow up and become an elementary school teacher. Or a social worker of some sort. Then she won a photo contest while being a student at Bucks County Community College. She met a few professional photojournalists who were encouraging and she meandered her way into being a professional shooter herself.
She's managed to build a career that allows her to see the world and tell stories about issues she cares about.
"People open their doors to journalists," Jennifer said. "Being a journalist lets you see things most people wouldn't ordinarily see."
Here are a few things she said that stood out for me:
• You need to take the initiative. When 9/11 happened, she went to New York City and documented the aftermath of the attack, despite not working for a news organization. Because she was there, she was able to sell the images she made. And that lead to her first full-time shooting job.
• "Being a journalist means you get to see everything as it happens," she said. "You get to be on the front lines of history."
• Following 9/11, she was upset about the portrayal of the Islamic community and Muslim-Americans by the media. This made her want to travel to the Middle East and learn more about this culture that was being maligned.
• She does not believe that objectivity can exist in the media. "You're always documenting from a certain perspective," she said. "We have a lot of control over the messages conveyed in photos."
• "The role of the press is to draw attention to social issues," Jennifer said. "We keep government accountable, and we offer different perspectives."
Jennifer offered this advice to those interested in photojournalism:
• Everyone studying photojournalism will develop similar technical skills. It's how you see, compose and visually tell stories that will make you stand out. "Get technically proficient and then forget about it," she said. "Work on developing your style."
• "You can do a lot with very simple equipment," she said.
• You will have assignments involving topics you don't care about (Jennifer doesn't care for sports). So she tried to shoot them in her own style.
• You need to have commitment and drive, and you need to take the initiative if you are going to succeed.
• As a female photojournalist, she tried to use her size and gender to her advantage.
8 months ago