By Riagan McMahon, Guest Blogger
Riagan McMahon was nominated to participate as a National Youth Correspondent, representing Saratoga Springs High School and New York State, in the Washington Journalism and Media Conference held July 8 through 13. As a National Youth Correspondent, she was recognized as one of the most promising young leaders in journalism and media and joined scholars from across the country to share in this experience.
As part of this elite group, she participated in hands-on learning projects that challenged her to solve problems, as well as dive deep into the creative, practical, and ethical tensions inherent in journalism and media. If she was interested in communications and public relations before the conference, she is downright committed to the field now.
Riagan reached out to Palio for corporate sponsorship and we made a deal: We would gladly sponsor her if she agreed to write about her experiences. In the next series of posts, Riagan shares the insights and moments that most impacted her during the conference. In this post, she discovers the power of photography:
Hello, I am Riagan McMahon blogging about the experiences I was fortunate to have at The Washington Journalism and Media Conference. I am a senior at Saratoga Springs High School and an aspiring communications and public relations major.
The Newseum in Washington, DC, provides visitors with delicately constructed exhibits that exemplify journalism at its best. The exhibits are amazing, and one in particular astounded me. I was drawn to the quote by the late photographer Eddie Adams immediately after entering the Newseum’s Pulitzer Prize Photographs Gallery: “If it makes you laugh, if it makes you cry, if it rips out your heart, that’s a good picture.” It proves just how complex and powerful a photograph can be. The power of a photograph can touch upon each and every emotion we possess and make us feel each one.
The Pulitzer Prize Photographs Gallery touched me, and it’s here that I found the poignant aspect to a career in communications and media. The Newseum Gallery provided award-winning photographs not only as collages, but also with descriptions of the environment of the print and interviews with several of the photographers.
Each of the photos displayed iconic images that documented our history and included the photographer’s explanation of the image. It was powerful. Part of the exhibit included a series of televisions that created a montage of several of the artists sharing what they found extraordinary about the Pulitzer-winning photos.
One photographer, Carol Guzy, shared a message that I hope to take with me as a grounding piece of advice for my future: “I think it’s a gut level connection that people have with photographs, unlike a lot of times stories or even video. There’s something about the still moment, that moment in time that does touch people. It’s very visceral, and I don’t think it’s intellectual a lot of times at all. And, I think that – as a photographer, that’s what you need to strive to do, is try to have the empathy – and one time someone told me empathy is not imagining how you would feel in a particular situation, it’s actually feeling what the other person is feeling.”
Not only is it essential for the person behind the lens to understand the feelings in front of the camera, but to also feel the power in the subject of the photo and go beyond relating to their expression. The skill of capturing a Pulitzer-winning photograph is to feel as if you are inevitably attached to the scene you are capturing.
There were several photographs of war, terror, and misfortunes, but the pictures exhibiting simple joy were the ones that touched me the most. These Pulitzer photos give observers the ability to feel the emotions of the subjects through the lens. “Moments of Life,” taken by photojournalist Brian Lanker, was exceptionally touching. The miracle of childbirth captured on film was what won Lanker the 1973 Pulitzer Prize.
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