My career has taken me places

Published 11:40pm Thursday, August 22, 2013

By Jay Sowers
The Selma Times-Journal

I had no idea what I wanted to do when I grew up until I sat down in a classroom with photojournalism professor, Ken Heinen.

Ken taught a group of some 25 teenagers about the basics of photography, as well and the power and joy of this profession. He told us about a life that can make a difference, a life that is different every day and full of challenges and blessings. He told us about his experiences photographing the biggest names and stories to pass through Washington D.C. in the last century.

He told us about a life I want.

After a completing a six-month unpaid internship at a newspaper in Columbus, Ohio, (during which I got a second job selling driveway sealing over the phone … yes, that is a job) I was lucky enough to land a fulltime internship at The Lima News, in Lima, Ohio.

Working there, under photo editor Craig Orosz, I learned first hand about the blood, sweat and tears that go in to every photo.

Craig told me about his life behind the lens: a life that moved from town to town, and from one wild story to the next. Craig has hung from under a helicopter to get the photo he needed, and he has documented American life in the biggest cities and the smallest towns.

He told me about a life I want.

In December, while still working for the paper in Lima, I received an email from the editor of a paper in Natchez, Miss., telling me he’d heard I was looking to take the next step in my career.

Seeing the way the staff at The Natchez Democrat valued their relationship with the community around them, reminded me of the real meaning of this work, and its unending importance.

They showed me a life I want.

Just a few short weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to come and work here in Selma, a town I have always wanted to visit.

Coming to Selma is the next logical step for me. Here I can write more stories, keep making photos, help design pages, and, something I never thought I would have the chance to do, write columns like this one.

The chance to write these columns, in my own voice, is something I won’t take lightly. I don’t yet have an idea what I will write about each time I put together a column. I might write about an event I attend or an issue I notice is important to Selma and Dallas County.

One thing I’m sure to write about is the people I meet here.

This work has given me a chance to view so many things up close. I have made photographs of several presidential candidates, and one sitting president, from just inches away. I have covered major sporting events from field level. I have made photos that have been seen around the world.

But the greatest gift this craft has given me is the chance to meet so many great people in so many great parts of the country.

And I am glad I am here in Selma now.

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