My first photo assignment (part 1): Preparation is a key

I was in Colorado for a family matter from Friday, September 21 to Tuesday, September 25. So , practically, I had only Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday, to take at least 200 photos for my first photo assignment in journalist’s toolkit class, which was due that Thursday. I wanted to take photos of Muslim women at UF. Before I leave, I emailed Islam on Campus and also a friend who knew people from that group, hoping that they would put me in touch with some women from their group. I thought I would get some of the women’s emails or phone numbers, could contact them while I was in Colorado, and set an appointment for taking photos on Wednesday. It turned out that I never received any replies. Later I read Paul Bradshaw’s advice to journalism students on how not to rely just on emails, and instead, try to talk to people on the phone. I should’ve found members of Islam on campus phone numbers and talk to them directly before leaving. Although we leave in the information age, emails do not necessarily work!

My flight had a big delay and I got stuck at Orlando airport’s parking for an hour. So I arrived in Gainesville around 11 pm on Tuesday. I had no time for taking any photos or talking to anyone that day. I had to think about a new story. So the next day I decided to take photos of my neighbors, to tell the story of grad students who live at UF family housing. I chose a Turkish family who have a beautiful little girl. The women said she should ask her husband’s permission for letting me take photos from them. And her husband would come home at 7pm, when the light was not good for outdoor photos.

I was losing time and I was not sure if her husband would let me take the photos. So, I contacted an Iranian couple I knew leaving in UF family housing and they let me take photos. I just took random photos from them. I had no clue what my story would be. They don’t have children, and the wife lives in Miami and comes to Gainesville every now and then. So, practically, only the husband lives on campus. I didn’t know how engaging my story could be, taking photos of a student who is most of the time on main campus and usually spends time at home for sleeping or studying. And I knew I couldn’t ask him to DO anything special in family housing to add to the story. I was so nervous for not having a story. To add to all that, most of my photos turned out to be blurry and I realized my camera setting was not on auto.

While I was thinking of calling them and asking them to take more photos, the Turkish couple knocked on my door and kindly let me take photos from them!

I was somehow relived. They were going to have dinner, so I went there to take photos of their dinner, kitchen, and feeding of their little daughter.

They had a Turkish pizza for dinner and they offered me a slice of the pizza. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know if it was ethically right to eat wit them. I was told in my reporting class that we should not accept food or anything else when we are working on a story. But then I thought this is not a publicity thing for them, and they are just being kind. Also, I thought it might be rude to refuse the food. So, I took the pizza home with me, and ate it later. I should confess that the pizza was really delicious! I hope I haven’t crossed any ethical lines with having that pizza!

Turkish woman slicing pizza

When I went home and looked at my photos, I realized all my photos are similar to each other. They were all about a family having dinner. While eating and the nice renovated kitchens of family housing are part of life on that part of campus, it doesn’t tell a substantive story on its own. So I realized that I need to take more photos from them, in different parts of the area, to tell a better story.

Fortunately, we still have more time to take more photos for our first Soundslide package. But I realized that in real world journalism we do not always have that luxury of time. Preparation well ahead of time is part of journalism, and that’s something I should take much more seriously in the future, along with learning to work with the tools.

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